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Some Thoughts on Google Selling Multiple Lead Devices to Avoid Carriers

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The big news of the day (other than Tim now joining me at Google I/O), is the WSJ report that talks of Google including multiple partners in their “Nexus” or lead device program. Their goal is to sell unsubsidized phones (full retail) directly through the Google Play Store to partially remove carriers from the situation. Now, people that buy these phones would obviously have to purchase a plan from a carrier, but there wouldn’t be contracts and you would be free to use your phone on the carrier of your choice, assuming their network supports it.

After this news broke, I asked for you to react in the comments. While reading through those reactions, I noticed some of the same points or questions being made over and over and wanted to attempt to address them here. Jump below to see what we’re thinking over here at DL. 

Would anyone pay for full priced phones?

This is the big one. People like getting deals, or better yet, they like buying phones at $200 rather than at $649. Subsidies by carriers allow this to happen, but what I would bring up is the idea that we all need to fundamentally rethink the way we value smartphones. People buy computers every couple of years for $600-$2000, yet they hesitate to spend more than $200 on a smartphone. Why is that? Good question, especially knowing that you use your smartphone a whole heck of a lot more than a computer. Why would you be willing to spend more on a computer, TV, or other electronic and not the piece of equipment that you spend your entire day with?

You also have to look at what Google is doing in the Play Store right now with the Galaxy Nexus. You can pick one up today for $399, which is only $100 more than what Verizon sold you the same phone for on contract (well, up until last week’s price drop to $199). I wouldn’t be surprised if Google tried to do this with all 5 of the devices that they plan to sell this Fall. This company isn’t stupid, people. They know that $600 phones aren’t flying off the shelves unless they are subsidized. But if they place them in the middle somewhere, and sell them to you as “contract free,” it could work.

And speaking of contracts, carriers are giving you this supposed $450 discount in order to lock up your business for a full 2 years. If you buy off contract, there is no locking up. You are free to roam to whichever carrier has the better deal, better service, and better product, whenever you please, assuming your phone has the radios to support that network.

So again, I understand the idea that people want things to be cheap, but if Google meets us half way and we start training ourselves to put more worth into a smartphone as the most used tool in our daily lives, this is magic in the making.

What would carriers think?

This I don’t think anyone knows. Google tried this approach with the Nexus One and failed miserably, so I can’t imagine they are all shaking in their boots. However, if you create multiple devices at reasonable unsubsidized prices, this could piss off some carriers. They make their money by locking you into contracts for 2 years at a time. If they lose that power and people start wandering around by themselves with freedom, how would they react?

This is just me throwing out random ideas, but what is to stop them from changing up their structure to make it more expensive for those who purchase phones directly to connect to their network? I don’t know if it’s legal or possible, but what would happen if we had three types of smartphone plans:  contract, off-contract, and prepaid? Right now, you can take an unlocked phone into AT&T and get the same price plan (minutes and data) without signing a contract (month-to-month) as someone that signed up for one.

Will Verizon ever get another Nexus device?

This is a tough one to answer. If we look at the direct sell model that Google is contemplating, I almost can’t imagine that they will or could in this sense. Unlocked phones and Verizon haven’t been used in the same sentence ever to my knowledge, mostly thanks to their CDMA network which isn’t accessed using SIM cards. Plus, since GSM tends to be the global standard these days, and one that Google supports officially through AOSP, it would be surprising to see anything with a CDMA radio in it available in the Play Store. We could still see carrier-tied Nexus devices, however, this just seems like Google has had enough with them and is moving back into their own phone selling business.

Now with that said, Verizon wants to have LTE everywhere that they have 3G by the end of 2013 or so. If that were to be the case, it would seem like an LTE-only phone would be an option. At that point, we would simply have to hope for an unlocked LTE-only device that included Verizon’s 700MHz frequency for quick SIM card swappage. Why is it that I feel like they won’t let that happen either?

What other thoughts are you having?

  • http://www.ashevilletechnologyservices.com Dan Brown

    This just really sounds like a big FU to all Verizon customers. …not defending vzw at all, they’re a huge pain in the ass, but seriously. VZW have at least 50% of US customers, and this site’s major focus group. …and we likely won’t benefit from this!!! Dammit.

  • Greyhame

    I would love to see this, but being that I’m a VZW customer, I don’t have much hope. I wonder if Google would ever get into a licensed contact with the owners of CDMA technology (Qualcomm I believe). That would at least be one way to stick it to big red.

  • http://twitter.com/strifejester Justin Ellenbecker

    I spend about $500 or more every 2 years upgrading my PC. I spend a lot more time on my phone lately than my PC I can see me shifting that expense to phones instead.

  • http://twitter.com/fritzo2162 DougZ

    I can’t imagine carriers liking this at all. It completely ruins their locked subscriber model, but in the end that model needs to be scrapped so true competition can take place.

  • rockstar323

    A few years back I remember reading something about Verizon saying they would allow manufactures to sell unlocked phones on their network but VZW has to approve the device before they’ll allow it. I don’t know if they only have to go through the initial approval or if they would have to get approval for ever software update too. So it still may be a possibility that Google may be able to sell another Verizon compatible Nexus through the play store. I’m pretty sure the LTE phones are authenticated via the sim card instead of the ESN like on CDMA only phones. I tried finding the story, ran on Gizmodo I think, but I can’t find it. The only device I know of that got approved was an aircard.

    • WickedToby741

      When Verizon goes all LTE, then you will be able to use unlocked devices on the network, but CDMA hobbles the whole experience right now. CDMA requires the carrier to be an integral part of the update process, which dismantles the whole philosophy here. LTE is a SIM based technology though, so once CDMA is dead and gone on Verizon, there will be hope.

      • rockstar323

        My point was that I can take my sim out of my nexus put it in another Verizon device, boot it up and go without having to do an ESN swap through the carrier. So I assume the SIM in the new 4G phones is what authenticates the phone with the network and not the ESN like on non-4G phones. If Verizon certifies a device to run on their network that isn’t sold by them all you would need is a LTE sim. Just put it in and go. Even when they go all LTE, phones will have to have multi band radios in them like current GSM phones since Verizon and at&t use different frequencies.

        • PC_Tool

          “My point was that I can take my sim out of my nexus put it in another
          Verizon device, boot it up and go without having to do an ESN swap
          through the carrier”

          If you’re lucky…

          The Nexus has a “short” LTE SIM. I know for a fact that at least the Spectrum has a “tall” LTE SIM. To swap numbers from the Nexus to the Spectrum required new SIM cards for both. (corporate stores do this for free, many non-corporate stores charge for this)

  • TimXer

    I dont quite buy a new computer or tv every 2 years..maybe 4-5
    Absolutely believe carriers will make theirs. If google sells enough phones carriers will hike the plans or an “activation” fee

  • droidman101

    Another note:
    Exynos is in aosp. Will all these phones be using it?
    Will there be a “cheap,” “middle, “high-end,” “cheap slider,” and “high-end slider.” Or will they all be high-end touchscreen only?

  • 1ofdakoolkidz

    I think this is great for GSM folks, but if you are on Verizon or Sprint your beat. CDMA carriers are not going to allow phones on there network without extensive testing, and some form of control, which defeats the purpose. Unless Google goes all the way and creates some sort of network of there own it won’t work, at least not here in the States.

  • http://www.thinkgeeks4u.com Hiral Patel

    Well might as well remove VZW unless dragons come by to life thru an miracle deal.

  • http://twitter.com/trophynuts Jeremy

    who cares. If Samsung is making it then i’ll pass. Also i bet you VZW won’t be included on this deal.

  • bkosh84

    You think all this discussion started because Verizon screwing up the Galaxy Nexus release/support so badly?

    • yarrellray

      Yes Verizon SCREWING UP the Galaxy Nexus as well as At&t talking all that garbage at CTIA about google being the reason for slow updates. The straw has broken the camels back. Time for crappy Verizon and butt kissing At&t to be taught a lesson.

      • squiddy20

        Oh? And how do you propose this “lesson” be taught, hmm? What, you really think you and few other Verizon customers leaving for T-Mobile or some other carrier will really concern Verizon? Please, Verizon Wireless has about 108 MILLION customers (as of the end of 2011). At most, about two hundred or so people would pay the $300+ ETF and leave for another carrier. Now, the few hundred or so that leave vs. the millions of other people who won’t, and you talk about “teaching them a lesson”? Haha okay. Go right on ahead there Richard. You’ll really “teach them” how stupid you are.

        • http://twitter.com/havens1515 Randroid

          That’s exactly why this would teach them a lesson. There is no ETF if there is no contract. Therefore, people wouldn’t be as hesitant to leave their carrier. This would be a GREAT way to teach the carriers a lesson in customer satisfaction.

          • squiddy20

            Richard is talking about leaving Verizon. Verizon has contracts. Therefore, Verizon has an ETF. The only way you can be off contract on Verizon is if your contract has expired since the 2 years have been fulfilled.

          • http://twitter.com/havens1515 Randroid

            Wow, you guys really are missing the point here. Verizon might have a contract, but:

            1) if this happens, you could move around the other carriers freely, and that alone might draw some people away from Verizon when their contract is up
            2) It might eventually FORCE Verizon to create a non-contract plan if they want to keep some of their customers.

            and one last, unrelated, possible benefit:

            3) It might actually cause the carriers to all use compatible radios in the future, so that phones can easily be moved from carrier to carrier, like they do in the rest of the world.

            The phones NOT being sold by carriers can lead to nothing but positive things. (At least, as far as I can see.) Computers aren’t sold by ISPs, so why should phones be sold by carriers?

  • poeddroiduser

    What if this is the first phase of a Google Wifi/Voip network?

  • Flat_Stanley

    What we need are UNSUBSIDIZED plans first. And not just from TMobile.

  • WickedToby741

    The reason the Nexus One failed was the price. It was just too much for most people to swallow. At $399 for the GSM Galaxy Nexus, it seems Google has taken note of what Amazon has been able to do with the Fire and apply it to smartphones. Google also has a more lucrative content than they did with the Nexus One, so they don’t need to make as much on the phone sale. It also helps that consumers have warmed up to the idea of more expensive phones as well with Verizon charging $299 out of the gate for all of their top devices.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roy.harrigan Roy Harrigan

    Customers can’t take their phones and go to whatever network they choose because the phones aren’t compatible. One you decided to leave a carrier your phone would become worthless.

  • Austin

    What’s gonna happen to the price of smartphones? If google charges up to 400$ for nexuses that the carriers will most likely follow the as,e pattern

  • Follower

    you talk carriers, I think carriers are problems only in US. even here in middle east (third world) we dont have this problems. the world is not only US. Anyway, here are my thoughts:
    1. Late updates: some nexus s users get ICS 5+ months late, and that with only two nexus. Now imagine it with 5 nexus! the updates will be as late as OEM updates!
    2. No more one developer device.
    3. forgive my mistakes. not native spaker :)

  • me

    I thought 4G phones on Verizon can be switched by swapping the SIM card. Of course, OEMs still have to make a Verizon specific Nexus phone.

  • kevinc

    the only way this works kellex, is if the unlocked phones get a discounted monthly rate with US carriers due to no subsidy, just like it is in Europe and the rest of the world.

    Tmobile does this, sprint seems like they’d be on board, but good luck convincing verizon or att

    • mike

      This

    • WickedToby741

      T-Mobile is the key here. This is the sort of thing T-Mobile desperately wants to work because it could provide hope for a rebound for them. T-Mobile is really the only nationwide viable no contract option. You can count Sprint and Verizon out from the start because CDMA doesn’t work for this philosophy because it brings the carrier into the equation. AT&T gets ruled out because despite being GSM, their no contract options match their contract options. T-Mobile uses GSM technology and offers a discounted rate, and thus it is the main focus of this whole philosophy. If this works and T-Mobile can capitalize on it, T-Mobile could regain it’s footing and aggressively fight Verizon and AT&T again and Verizon and AT&T may have to rethink their no contract strategies if this were to work.

    • JB

      There’s also the prepaids. I have an iphone 4 on straight talk getting unlimited everything for $45/month using ATT towers. I don’t know that I’ll drop $400 on a phone when I can pick up used ones on ebay for $200 or so (especially with google going anti-removable storage on all the nexus devices). My 32+32gb Lenovo K1 tablet is almost full and I don’t think my next phone will be limited to 16 -32gb (especially with modern android games topping 1gb each).

  • Shutech

    To answer your first point of why we value our Laptops and computers differently than a smart phone has IMO and pretty obviously has to do with the price Vs fragility of an Item.

    I have had several Laptops and they all have lasted 4-5+ plus years in fact I am typing this on a 10 year old laptop. With weak hinges, a screen that skitzoids a little bit when I move it but it still works and I can live with its troubles because I don’t have to carry it around with me all day weakening more till the point it breaks.

    Phones are another thing their size makes theme easier to drop, easier to loose and given that most of the fronts are glass easier to break.

    Given that a person has the ability to take their phone everywhere they end up being in your pocket, purse and other environments that will eventually help accelerate their demise. Quite different than your laptop.

    With my phone in my pocket I have unloaded 750 bales of hay, jumped into a pool, crawled under a car to see what is wrong with it, taken up a spontaneous contact sport game, Worked in 80, 90 degree heat till every piece of clothing and everything on me has hone pocket”been drenched in sweat, and have ran into many pieces of furniture with my “Phone Pocket” some of these have lead to new phones the next day.

    None of this is practical or even able to do with any other style device.

    Therefore I don’t have a problem paying big bucks for a product I can protect where as a phone as an everyday essential now I do hesitate to pay big dollars for something that has not obtained the level of ruggedness that makes me comfortable paying top dollar for something I know I am going to test its frailty almost on a daily basis.

    Make a phone more rugged, more easily repaired, modularized for repair and replacement components easily to obtain and install then I will consider a phone on par with something like a laptop.

    Washing my 3 month old razer and the only thing to survive is the flash card and having to dish out $650 for a new one leaves very bad tastes in ones mouth.

    Where as paying $100 dollars to easliy buy anew LCD for my laptop is much easier to swallow.

    • 2001400ex

      Check out the Casio gzone. I have a buddy who works construction work one and, while it won’t match up with a gnex, it is a great compromise.

    • Liderc

      How about not being an idiot and take care of your phone lol.

      Sorry, I had to.

      You washed your 3 month old Razr, I mean, I wouldn’t even admit to doing something so stupid.

  • Jigga_Z

    I have to agree with most people on the whole GSM vs CDMA. I might speculate that Motorola might offer a CDMA Nexus device, seeing as Verizon <3s Moto. Even though there's no official special relationship, if any carrier was to make a CDMA Nexus, it seems logical that it would be Motorola.

  • http://twitter.com/crickert Chris Rickert

    Can you image if our cable or satellite companies told us what brand and model TV we had to use with their service. I don’t think that would fly in the face of the average consumer very well. It would be great if wireless providers look in the mirror and accept the fact they are becoming tel/data pipes. I’m pretty sure they will still make money if they sell their services without all the restrictions. Carriers have proven over and over again (esp my carrier Verizon) that they have horrible judgement when it comes to providing hardware options that they feel are best for the consumer. Imagine walking into Buy More to purchase a TV and they ask, ok, “What service are you on, Dish, DirectTV or Comcast – ok follow me to the Comcast tv’s”. The folks behind the handset negotiations at Verizon are so out of touch with reality it is not even funny.

    • 2001400ex

      Have you tried using your Comcast box to get a direct tv signal lately? I am guessing it won’t work.

    • 1ofdakoolkidz

      The problem is, your assuming that they actually care about you! They don’t care about tech nerds or technology enthusiast they care about money, Verizon has the most subscribers so what does this tell you? The average Joe doesn’t care about the newest hottest hardware, they care about 1. what their friends have 2. how much it cost, 3. Does it look cool and they capitalize on it all the way to the bank

    • RoninX

      I am on Verizon, have great coverage, and love my Droid 4, but the one thing that would make me switch is the opportunity to get an LTE Nexus with a physical keyboard…

  • TrivialTweeter

    “what would happen if we had three types of smartphone plans: contract,
    off-contract, and prepaid?”

    That is exactly what T-Mobile used to offer when they had the Even More and
    Even More Plus Plans. I bought my Nexus S for full price, but was able to sign
    with a no-contract Even More Plus plan that cost $20 less per month than the
    identical (contract) Even More plan. That’s a savings of $480 over the 2 years I
    would have been locked into a contract. i believe the Nexus S was $549 at launch
    when I purchased it, and was selling for $199(?) on contract. If you add the
    $480 in savings to the subsidized price of $199, you’ll see you save money
    (~$130 over the 2yr. term) when shelling out the extra bucks for the device up
    front.

    T-Mobile got rid of these plans a while back. It’s too bad, since I thought
    they were great. Wish all carriers would offer similarly priced plans.

  • sk3litor

    I. think people are skeptical because they still see it as a phone with internet capabilities instead of a handheld computer with the ability to make phone calls, so they think “$600 dollars for a phone? That’s rediculous!” I personally am down for this. I think these devices are amazing. Consider the alternative, a GPS, an iPod, a cell phone, a gameing device, a small computer. All of these individually would run well beyond $600. These devices are brilliant so I would have no problem. Paying full retail

    • MicroNix

      I’ve been ready for an outright purchase of a phone independent of the carrier. No more bootloader locks, no more carrier bloat, no more BS stories about why it doesn’t get updated. Charge ~$400 for the phone, charge me $15/major update (as long as they are on time with the releases from Google) and let’s have the gov’t step in and tell the carriers that since they are not subsidizing these phones, that they need to *reduce* the plan costs for those purchasing their own devices. As long as Google has top tier phones (and here’s the make or break factor) for *every* carrier in the Play store, they’ll gain footing. Not one device for one sorry carrier….no wonder why it flopped the first time!

  • Admin

    Love the article, brings good points to the future insight of smart phones and carrier take down.

    However I do not see this being effective unless el Goog plans a huge AD campaign and opens ANDROID stores in more cities so people can buy them on site and choose a carrier or their choice.

  • johhny

    The problem for me is that you are paying more than just for bandwidth with a phone plan…

    You are paying off a phone that was bought subsidized also, I do not want to pay twice!

    • jkh746

      You’re right! Instead of a fee for having an off contract phone – we should be asking for a discount in the amount equal to the monthly equipment (phone) subsidy. Roughly $450/24 months = $18/month.

  • bionicchimp

    Ugh really we want moto not Samsung doesn’t mean we want Samsung and moto it means cut out Samsung and make a moto nexus

  • DanWazz

    Interesting thoughts. I highly doubt Verizon will let people bring their own phones in their network. Look what they are doing to the Nexus. Its their phone and they won’t push an update because they ‘re “testing” it. I highly doubt they’ll let an unlocked phone on it.

  • ERIFNOMI

    LTE only phone won’t do any good. LTE is only used for data at this point. Voice and texts need to fall back to “CDMA”

    • mdeamicis

      verizon is dropping all cdma services in a couple years.

      • 2001400ex

        No Verizon is going to VLte in a couple years. There will still be a need for older radios to be able to connect to the older towers in remote areas. Believe it or not, I still frequently connect to 1x as my only option.

      • ERIFNOMI

        I’d like to see a link if you have one. There is a hell of a lot of work to do to achieve that. They would have to have LTE advanced everywhere they have service to be able to drop all 3GPP2 tech otherwise you wouldn’t be able to fall back on anything to make calls. Unless, of course, they made deals to roam on ATT’s GSM network for fallback, but I wouldn’t hold my breathe.

      • ERIFNOMI

        I’d like to see a link if you have one. They better have some crazy tower construction/upgrading in mind as well as a plan to replace everyone’s phone if they want to abandon their network.

  • http://techonblogger.ward.pro/ TechRumblings

    If this can gain traction it will be awesome for the consumer and strike at the heart of Apple who relies on the subsidies to sell their phones for above market prices. If all iPhone sales were subject to natural market forces (no subsidies) they would not sell for the retail prices they claim the phones are worth. For example, if there were suddenly no mortgages and everyone had to pay cash for houses – what would happen to housing prices… down down down…. Same with the removal of subsidies from the equation of mobile phone buying…

  • tB

    I’m all for this! Screw CDMA anyways, it’s all garbage.. maybe thats why its only here in the states, we need a uniformed format thats not controlled buy the carrier, but the manufacturer. And 2 button presses? are you referring to when you can delete an app from your tray? cause its still in the phone, whether you see it or not. I believe the Evo3D was the first to do this same useless thing, yes?

  • sillyrabbittricks4kids

    Why doesn’t Google just buy some towers and with affordable prices we all will switch to them

    • droidman101

      Why don’t they just buy sprint or T-Mobile?

      • iNfAMOUS70702

        The cost to run a cell phone network is ridiculously expensive..hell even apple and it’s billions would have trouble maintaining its own network…google is in the ad business…that was their main objective with android so I don’t ever see them doing this

        • droidman101

          I meant it as “It’d probably be easier for Google to buy Sprint or T-Mobile than that.”

    • JaySee08

      : I always wished Google would buy up Sprint… I mean, they ARE buddy buddy these days. Google should do it & invest on making their network a force to be reckoned with..

  • mikeGsays

    Why do we buy phones for $200 and not $649? Simple, the general population dunks them in toilets while drunk dialing, smashes them from being hasty answering the phone, tosses them around like toys. Make the phones go up in price (I’ve paid $750 for international HTC devices that would seem ancient by today’s standards in the past), their durability go up, use waterproofing techniques that companies like HzO have developed, and we’ll be good for the money! I hate waiting on a new device because some carrier tells me I can’t upgrade – I can, and I will, and until then, you can keep your contract!

    • http://twitter.com/wbpartridge Blake Partridge

      And then with a $200 phone you have ~12 months left on a contact and no phone? No then you buy a phone for $650. If it’s handset protection ‘insurance’ then get that third party (e.g. square trade). You’re paying $650 one way or the other.

      • mikeGsays

        I’m not sure you understand my point – I have SquareTrade on every expensive electronic device I own, and they love me for it! With the insurance, they’ve repaired or replaced anything I throw at them, so it’s beneficial for me to have it in case of such emergencies with these fragile devices.

        One day we’re going to look back and laugh at phones that weren’t waterproof, scratchproof, and shatterproof…. but until then, SquareTrade it up

  • Trevor

    This is how it should be for consumers. It’s enough that we’re paying the carriers every month for our voice/text/data plans, we should at least have the option of using any phone we want, whether purchased directly from the carrier or not. This way, the carriers would have to wow us with their networks and deals on plans rather than with their subsidized phones.

    Also, I would love to live in a world where Verizon was 100% 4G LTE and there was an increasing number of unlocked LTE 700 MHz phones being produced. I really miss the ease of phone-swapping on AT&T.

  • br_hermon

    I have question your argument on the pricing though. While you do make some good points, I thubk the opposite could be just as true. Look at thr price of tablets. In order to sell they are pushing for $149 – $249. Yeah there are higher priced ones, but lower priced models are starting to really put out some competative specs. So it begs to question if Google is in fact pushing for a $149 tablet why in the world should I pay $399 $500 or even $600 for a phone? I can buy a laptop than do considerbly more for much less. Now yes, 149 tablets arent high end specs, and throwing laptops into the mix borderlines on comparing apples to oranges, but my point is this: tablets and greater yet, phones are still too high priced in regards to other tech on the market. They are a premium priced product due to the cutting edge technology. In the end I’d have to argue that prices need to come down rather than go up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10602828 Mike Hilal

    I dont care that verizon limits nexus updates, because I root/rom (kind of the point of having the pure google device). I cant wait for them to go LTE only because that will open up verizon to getting Exynos processors (and their monster GPUs).

  • I just don’t see it

    I don’t foresee this having much of an impact if any on the US market. Carriers aren’t going to get rid of that control. I’m sure AT&T wishes they had the same type of control that Verizon and Sprint have in regards to what phones are used on their network, but because of the tech they use, they don’t. Internationally, this might be big news. It doesn’t mean much here. In fact, at the end of the day, this might help Windows Phone more than anything.

  • jathak

    This is very interesting. I can’t wait to see what they do with this.
    Here would be my ideal plan:
    -Sell 4 devices made by any combination of carriers
    -a high end phone for $400-$500
    -a mid range phone for $300-$400
    -a low end phone for $200-$300
    -an Android “iPod Touch” for $200-300 with specs in line with the mid range phone
    -All devices would be contract free
    -All devices would get the latest version of Android within a month of release for at least a year for the low end, and two years for the mid range and high end
    -All phones would either support both GSM and CDMA or have two models of each device

    As an added bonus, they could add subsidies for people who use paid Google services, such as making purchases on Google Play (e.g. 10% of every purchase goes to subsidize your next device) or having a paid Google Drive account.

    Not sure how economically feasible this is, but it would be pretty cool.

  • Bionic

    $400 is the most i can afford/want to pay. And if the “play store” were to have deals say 6 months later because the devices were “aging” that would be great.

    Im really curious to see how this all will play out. The thought of a vanilla Motorola Droid Razr Maxx excites me to near hard on.

    And dont you guys realize that Best Buy and other stores will likely get in on this? Maybe Best buy will have a “play store” section in their mobile department and maybe their prices will be better?

    There are many possibilities!!

    • sc4fpse

      Agreed. $400 is about the most I would pay for a device that I would ideally like to replace in no more than 2 years.

      • http://www.getintonursing.com/ Jon

        I’m willing to loose $200 a year on hardware. For example, if I could buy a phone for $400 and sell it a year later for $200, this would be doable to keep a fairly updated phone each year. As it is right now, I am upgrading once every 6 months :).

        • Josh Groff

          I upgrade whenever something catches my eye, roughly every 3-6 months. I usually lose out on about $20-50 each time.

          If you wait till a device is ~3 months old, the hype wears off and you can snag some sick deals on eBay or swappa.

    • LiterofCola

      Thats true, never thought of that.

    • NorCalGuy

      That with a little buy back program…. new phone ever couple months

      • Josh Groff

        Buy back < swappa.

    • http://twitter.com/JohnnyACE562 GRAND MASTER SEN$Ei {{-_-}}™

      These are the beginnings of a Google Store. {{-_-}}

    • bcorrell34

      You’re curious to see how this will all “play” out. No pun intended!!!

  • Stewie

    “but there wouldn’t be contracts and you would be free to use your phone on the carrier of your choice, assuming their network supports it.”
    BS.
    The carriers will just change to say to get service with an unlocked phone that you didn’t purchase thru them will now require a contract … end of line there ….

  • Michael_NM

    I don’t think we need to fundamentally change the way we value smartphones. I think carriers need to fundamentally change the way they value customers.

    Also, if Amazon can sell Kindle Fires for $200, Google can sell Nexuses, Nexi… Nexus phones for $200. If Google can’t monetize us with their operating system and all of the apps, offers, etc. and Amazon can, Google needs to rethink the Android game.

    • jathak

      Not $200, but $300-$350 is definitely a possibility. Kindle Fires can be sold for $200 because they don’t have top of the line hardware or cellular radios. Even if Google takes a loss on hardware, $200 would still be too low for a top of the line phone. However, if Google sold a range of phones, they could have a low end phone with lower specs for for $250-ish and a higher end phone for $350-ish.

      • http://twitter.com/EricErk Eric

        The Nexuses “Nexi” Don’t have top of the line hardware xD Ti Omap 4460 Thats B.S. sorry… My touchpad has a better chip then the nexus same chip thats in the sgs2 this isn’t top of the line this is BULL…

        • Tyler Cameron

          No… Snapdragon S3 < TI OMAP 4460…

          • Josh Groff

            ^ This

            However, S4 > OMAP 4460. I’m so excited to see how fast mobile tech is catching up to laptops/netbooks. :)

      • Palmer Nyako

        no more low end android phones.
        one of the reasons android has a bad rep.

        • kevinc

          low end phones are the reason android has such wide use.

          • Asmodai

            There are enough generations of Android SmartPhones out there that the “low end” can be comprised of last cycles “high end”. Phones should not be designed to be “low end” at launch.

    • kevinc

      “Also, if Amazon can sell Kindle Fires for $200, Google can sell Nexuses, Nexi… Nexus phones for $200.”

      Actually, you’re wrong. The Fire doesn’t have top of the line hardware, cellular radio, or GPS functionality, its main purpose is a delivery vehicle for paid amazon content…books, music, vids, cloud storage, and apps.

      In order for Google to do something similar, they’d have to lock down their Fire tablets like amazon does and force paid content on people. a stock android phone would never work because it wouldn’t encourage people to use paid google services. most people get buy using the free services.

    • AlexKCMO

      I couldn’t agree more. If you remember, the iPhone started off
      unsubsidized, and people lined up to buy it. Once AT&T saw the
      money, they started subsidizing (2 months later I think?).

      My big problem is “upgrade fever”. About once a year, I get upgrade fever and feel like I need an upgrade. Honestly, I think my DX was the first phone where I didn’t have upgrade fever, but ultimately I upgraded because of 4G and travel I do for work. Tethering sucks over 3G compared to 4G.

      Anyway, if I knew my phone would be supported to at least 2 iterations of Android (ICS -> JB -> KLP), then I’d be much more likely to avoid this and be happy spending 400 – 600 on a Nexus/Play device.

      It would be a much more justifiable purchase if that purchase included a dock for a keyboard, mouse, monitor and speakers and came with to Ubuntu for Android.

  • http://twitter.com/TheyCallMeBT B T

    Even though I’m on Verizon and probably won’t benefit, I think this is great news. I do like your idea about an LTE-only model. But I think it would be 2014 before that could even start being planned. It would need 700/ 800 and 1700/ 1900 MHz for North America and then 800, 1800, 2600 MHz for Europe (that’s six total)– according to Wikipedia. Verizon talked up their open handset alliance deal, but have we seen a single shred of truth to that since then?

    I’ve been reading reports that Apple is looking at going down a similar route with its devices. Possibly even becoming its own service provider by making deals with the various US service providers so that iPhones, etc. could connect to whichever tower was best (CDMA, GSM, LTE). I’m sure Google and Apple both have been working on their separate plans for a while, and I don’t know which started first, and that doesn’t matter any way. But it looks like they both want to take more power into their own hands and away from the phone service providers. There’s little hope of any new company coming along and offering cell service that competes with the mostly duopoly in the US. But, these new plans bring in a new form of competition, which I very much welcome.

  • moelsen8

    all for it. f the carriers.

    • kevinc

      hah, you can’t be serious. how does this “f the carriers?”

      if you analyze the economics of this, you’re actually doing the carriers an economic favor since they no longer have to subsidize a phone for you, and yet you still pay the high monthly fee that those with subsidized phones pay.

      • WickedToby741

        “f the carriers” because you’re no longer locked in for 2 years. Leaving is as simple as saying “no thanks” when the next month comes and jumping to the next option. “f the carriers” also because you’d no longer be reliant on them for upgrades, just the manufacturer and Google. “f the carriers” because without control over customers with contracts and without control over devices, carriers are edging closer and closer to the dumb pipes they want so desperately not to be.

        • iNfAMOUS70702

          Granted your phone has the proper radios to run on multiple networks…you’re screwed if you’re with a CDMA carrier

      • http://www.facebook.com/steven.bobulsky Steve Bobulsky

        The longer term economics of this is that the carriers will have to fight for your business. It’s not really a terribly competitive market now; this changes things. Big time.

        • http://twitter.com/havens1515 Randroid

          I agree. If I get pissed off at Verizon tomorrow, and my phone supports the AT&T, Sprint, or whatever other network, I could just say “F U Verizon!” and head over to one of those carriers for a while, instead of being stuck with Big V for the rest of my 2 year sentence. With the way it’s setup right now, I could only do that if I want to pay a HUGE early termination fee.

          If Verizon wants to keep my business month-to-month, they have to be a better carrier. If they want to keep my business every two year period, they generally just need to make sure I’m happy at the end of my 2-years. At least happy enough to sign another contract or, at the very least, happy enough not to leave.

          Keeping customers happy every month takes a lot more work than keeping them happy at the end of 2 years. This could turn ALL of the carriers into more consumer friendly companies.

  • br_hermon

    I agree with you about carriers responding. By Google doing this carriers will lose money. Yes well be able to add Nexus phones to our network but those carriers will have the capabilities to know if were using an “off network” nexus phone. I can EASILY see, dare I say, predict. that carriers will create a new “fee” nexus users will fall victim to. Theyll tell us that because we are using a phone not designed specifically for their network that there are additional steps that need to be taken when activating it resulting in this extra charge, or some BS ljke that. I hate to think that way but if history tells us anything, I’d put odds on something like this happening. Heres hoping I’m wrong.

    • hkklife

      Yes, the “network certification fee” or the “network quality assurance fee”
      Something along the lines (but worse) of Sprint’s $10 “4G” fee in 2010 that very quickly spread to everything else in the lineup.

  • http://www.DavidPat.com David Pat

    Carriers can’t stop devices being activated on their network. It’s why International phones work on US carriers.

  • evilkokonut

    If this is true I am leaving verizon and my unlimited data for the t-mobile/walmart $30 prepaid plan as soon as these drop

    • Bionic

      I think thats over reacting a little. Have you read the reviews on that plan? The coverage drops, a lot of dropped calls, and if you travel into the boonies you lose signal a lot.

      • evilkokonut

        It is the same coverage that the regular t-mobile plans have. My gf has t-mobile, which isn’t as good as verizon, but for the price its decent. I would also consider the $45 straight talk plan that runs on at&t networks for unlimited everything

  • hkklife

    Sprint has bigger problems than trying to play along with Google and their Nexus plans. Verizon (and especially AT&T) will do anything and everything to make life difficult for those users who elect to bring their own devices.
    I say that T-Mobile seize the day to try to right their sinking ship:
    -Make their network compatible with AT&T’s bands ASAP
    -Roll out their HSPA+ 42 network as fast as possible, using the $ acquired from AT&T in the settlement.
    -“Partner” with Google for an handful of exclusive plans: the $30 100 min, unlimited text, unlimited data plan, maybe a $50 unlimited voice/text/5GB throttled data plan and then a $70 or so unlimited everything NO throttling, no caps, no overages etc power-user plan.
    T-Mob has always been a rather Android-friendly carrier but with limited resources to offer the latest handsets and OS updates. So this move makes sense on SO many levels. Let T-Mob be the first “wireless pipe provider” and not a reseller of handsets and overpriced hardware. They need to cut their domestic retail operations down to the bone, reduce overhead and put every damn $ possible into their network.
    Just think…..an unlocked vanilla Jellybean device running on a rejuvenated T-Mobile with no throttling or caps. Wow. This isn’t going to be the move to break the backs of the carriers (only Apple has the clout and cash to do that) but it’s a huge step in the right direction.
    I’d switch from VZW in a heartbeat if I could do the above scenario, especially if my predictions of the end of grandfathered unlimited data on Big Red come true in the next ~6-8 months.

    • Jacob121791

      How awesome would this scenario be!!! I’d switch to an unlimited T-Mobile off contract if they got their network in shape….

    • Mchl496

      Good thing your predictions will not come true. To end the grandfathering clause for unlimited data means you run the risk of losing people to the 1 network that still has it. Most people who are grandfathered in are tech users and the average joe who were around in the unlimited days. Would a tech user leave their roost at VZ if they end their competitive advantage to other carriers? yes. VZ’s customer service ratings are slowly dipping and so I could not see them doing more to lower themselves when they are not in first any more.
      I would easily buy from google if OEM made devices like the HTC One X, and not midrange devices.

      • WickedToby741

        An HTC One device with Nvidia silicon could be in the mix as a Nexus device if this comes to fruition. The reason I think it could end up being powered by Tegra 3 is because we’re likely only looking at HSPA+ devices and not LTE. Just imagine a Tegra 3 powered HTC One X with a slight redesign, maybe with a throwback design to the Nexus One, running stock Android straight from Google.

        Then there’s always the possibility of a Razr Nexus and so many other possibilities. Transformer Nexus (or Nexus Prime), Galaxy Nexus Tab, Nexus One X, and whoever else wants to join the party. This has the potential to be awesome.

        • Omar

          a nexus will never have a nVidia SoC until nVidia fully open sources their documentation and releases manuals for their chips. for now all nVidia drivers are proprietary and tegra devices are not hacker friendly, does goes against eberything the Nexus line stands fore.

        • ERIFNOMI

          The One X already has a T3 in the rest of the world.

        • angermeans

          Let’s hope it doesn’t have the garbage that is the tegra 3 (or whatever is next in line). NVIDIA is way to overrated. When Qualcomm is making a great chip like the s4 run just as good as a quad core and on a smaller footprint which brings much better battery life then there is a problem. This happened last year as well. NVIDIA launches the first dual and quad core and the main players come later but have much better chips. I personally can care less about a quad core chip if it means losing LTE. LTE is used much more than an under performing quad core processor ever will. HSPA + doesn’t cut it and as more and more people get smartphones the speed and reliability goes down. There is a reason that all companies are scrambling to get LTE out the door it is the much better quality. HSPA+ was just a stopgap to compete and nothing more. Loosing LTE for two more cores is ridiculous

          • angermeans

            All of the next gen chips arm A15 next gen processors are dual core and completely tear up these quad core chips that will be in phones in the next couple months. Even the exynos in the over seas gs3 is just the same dual core exynos that came with the gs2 but on a larger dye and two of them. This is just a stopgap to compete until their exynos dual core a15 launches which will be a true beast and huge jump in performance. Don’t buy into the marketing bs that these OEMs feed you to sell phones. The real jump in innovation should be here by late this year or early next.

      • hkklife

        Well, Nostradamus, still think my predictions aren’t gonna come true?
        The end of grandfathered unlimited was the final and ultimate in a long line of insults by VZW over the past year that includes the end of 1yr contracts, the end of NE2, online bill pay fees, and the $30 upgrade fee. I blame the iPhone effect for the majority of these onerous, customer-unfriendly moves, though much of it was inevitable as VZW scrambles to please the shareholders and mimic AT&T’s every move.
        So soon all that’ll be left in VZW’s favor is the superb network coverage and, to a lesser extent, the fact that everyone and their brother that I talk to are also on VZW.

        • angermeans

          And that stellar network will continue to grow people. A small number of people even use large amounts of data. It is a shame but Verizon knows we will have to put up or shut up to use LTE and every company in America will make these changes as well. The only reason sprint hasn’t is they don’t even have LTE and they need everything they can get to compete but that will change.

      • angermeans

        Yeah winning the JD power award every quarter last year despite the many unpopular decisions they made is really Verizon losing its customer service, right? People will stay simply for the much better service. No I don’t think Verizon should take advantage of this but Verizon customer service is much better than any other American wireless provider. They show this every year. Yes some wil be upset (as am I) but most will take it and enjoy their service. No company has anything near the network Verizon does and 4g LTE is widening the gap even further. You have to understand that everyone wants unlimited data but only a handful use more than 2gb per month and most will be found on sites like this and most of them are tethering or using their phones for much more than the average consumer will ever use. They have to protect the integrity of their network or there will be no network and they will suffer the same that AT&T and sprint are suffering now. Droves of people are getting smartphones every day and that won’t change anytime soon. Spectrum is not a renewable resource as much as we would love it to be, and when 5% of their customer base is using more than half of all the spectrum every month they have to do something as more will complain of horrible service than losing unlimited data. You can’t think on our terms as we make up a very small number of users. Most need Facebook and words with friends and they are ok. Most don’t watch Netflix on a small screen but once in a blue moon.

    • Apostrafee

      Sprint will be bankrupt in a year you are correct, and after the At&t T-Mobile thing failed TMO has a ton of money to mess with. Not only that but Deutsche Telekom is fully ready to back them. So I agree! Let them give it a try.

    • http://twitter.com/Justinwrites Justin True Anderson

      I don’t know that I call 20 bloatware apps android friendly. You *have to root TMob phones just to gain the full resources of the dang handset.

    • iNfAMOUS70702

      I bought an unlocked iPhone 4S and now an unlocked one x on AT&T and have gotten zero problems at all..dunno what you mean by them making life difficult cuz I brought my own handsets

  • http://twitter.com/slickbmw B Wood

    It’s because of your early post ranting on VZW and the Galaxy Nexus :)…I’m in huge support of this if true

    • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

      It was nice timing. :P

      • Leroy1983

        I read your rant and it was funny. I don’t use android at all, don’t like it but I’m a fan of technology. But I don’t see this working regular consumers don’t think of nexus as a brand name & even the subsidized nexus on Verizon aren’t huge sellers. So help me understand how this helps google & how it hurts carriers because I dont see it

      • WickedToby741

        You have to wonder if the leak was almost timed. Here we are, exactly five months after the launch of the GNex on Verizon and it’s still waiting to receive a major update, many blogs are running disappointed opinion articles reflecting on the Verizon GNex, and then just mysteriously, we get a report from the WSJ that Google may be coming to the rescue? It almost seems like Google anticipated this and sent a message to us saying “Soon, there will be relief.”

  • BrianLipp

    Thought 1: Great that more OEMs will get a change to make a Nexus, because honestly, I dont like Samsung phones at all (Moto or Asus Nexus please!)
    Thought 2: If they only appear as unlocked, GSM phones, then i wont give a rats ass (but, hey, its great for other people). Im on a family plan with unlimited 3G/LTE, so i dont plan on leaving that any time soon (barring some unforseen occurrence). If for Verizon to have a Nexus it needs to have some “bloatware” on it, so be it (hey guys it can all be DISABLED with like 2 button presses). I just hope both sides (Google and Verizon) are each willing to give in a little to let it happen

  • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa
    • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

      I figured you would make your own post for this story! :)

      • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

        I figured you guys had something coming in the pipeline over here. :) I’m just glad I was able to sneak a post on my break at work.

        • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

          Ron! :P

          • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

            Feel free to add my thoughts on this post if you want. :) Not sure I added much beyond what you wrote.