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Google's Grand Android Plan 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the are-you-pondering-what-i'm-pondering dept.
CWmike writes with news of a significant change in Google's strategy for Android. According to a Wall Street Journal report, "Google plans to give multiple mobile-device makers early access to new releases of Android and to sell those devices directly to consumers, said people familiar with the matter. That is a shift from Google's previous practice, when it joined with only one hardware maker at a time to produce 'lead devices,' before releasing the software to other device makers. Those lead devices were then sold to consumers through wireless carriers or retailers." JR Raphael adds, "Signs of something big have been brewing in AndroidLand for some time now: First, we've had the increasingly loud buzz about Google's top-secret mission to build an inexpensive Nexus-like tablet. Then, last month, Google opened the door to selling unlocked Nexus devices directly to consumers, eliminating the need for carrier meddling and contract commitments. Now, at long last, we're getting a glimpse at what's likely the final piece of the puzzle."
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Google's Grand Android Plan

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  • by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:29AM (#40015337) Homepage Journal

    "just think if you could switch carriers because you have an unlocked phone"

    well, eh. I do have.

    not much of a grand plan really. I'd reckon most galaxies worldwide were sold unlocked too. US is a bunch of partial payment pussies and changing that is a grand plan I suppose. they should just lobby the government in USA to force network operators to not lock and to use compatible tech and to disclose handset subsidies and real pricing.

    • Argentina sell phones carrier-less in general, and I belive that it's not the only country where this is common. Granted, mobile phone cost quite a bit more, but a mobile phone is yours once you have it, not two years later.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:30AM (#40015347) Homepage Journal
    I thought Google tried selling Nexus devices directly to U.S. end users before and declared it a failure [slashdot.org] after complaints [slashdot.org].
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Now they have live support humans.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:03AM (#40015663)

      I purchased the GSM Galaxy Nexus direct from Google Play last week Monday. It arrived on Wednesday. Due to a small contract dispute with Sprint, which they resolved with admirable customer service skills, I had to wait until Sunday to have it activated. I'm loving it so far, but admittedly am still in the honeymoon phase.

      I went with T-Mobile's web special: 100 minutes talk, unlimited text/data (5gigs 4g speed) for $30/month. For comparison, Sprint wanted to charge me $200 less for the phone, but would not let me keep my plan and the cheapest available was $80/month. Two year contract. So in just five months it will have paid for itself, and I'm off contract and can take this phone anywhere I want on the AT&T and T-Mobile bands to whichever prepaid plan is best for me. Regardless if the phone holds up as well as my last one (Original HTC Touch 4+ years), it was a sound investment and I look forward to continued use.

      TL;DR- Thank you Google for providing me with a great phone, at a reasonable price, that made it possible for me to avoid the butthurt that is "subsudized phones".

    • by kidgenius (704962)
      True, but they were also selling the phone for $599. IF (BIG IF), they can sell the device for $399, then they probably can get more takers.
  • Not convinced (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Theophany (2519296) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:34AM (#40015395)
    I'm not convinced of the likely success of this 'grand plan.' Consumers are used to paying next to no initial outlay for a handset on the understanding that it will be paid for through their carrier agreement and this has been the way for so long now that changing the way consumers view mobile devices and service plans is going to be a mammoth task. Not least for those who cannot justify dropping £400 on a device on the promise of future savings made from not having a fixed-term price plan of 18-24 months.

    Besides which, Google have been selling Nexus phones unlocked, direct to the consumer for ages now. I nearly bought an HTC Nexus direct from Google back when they started the project years ago. All this pomp and ceremony because there will be no more Nexus exclusivity? Big whoop. Part of Android's beauty is that OEM customisations allow consumers to vote with their feet.
    • Consumers are used to paying next to no initial outlay for a handset on the understanding that it will be paid for through their carrier agreement

      Why aren't home users used to paying next to no initial outlay for a home PC on the understanding that it will be paid for through their ISP agreement?

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        The tablet market is alluding to exactly what you describe. Here at least they are sold in the same way as phone contracts, with the phone company effectively being your ISP.

      • Uh, have you been to PC World lately? They've been flogging craptops with that model for fucking years, dude. That was why demand in the market for 3G in the UK exploded.
        • I know next to nothing about the wired home Internet market in Great Britain, but I haven't heard about that model lately in the USA. The last time I heard about ISP-subsidized PCs, it was over a decade ago and called PeoplePC.
          • The Atlantic would explain that then! Yeah, the ISP subsidised PC market has been around in the UK for quite a while now (I remember it really coming to prominence ~2007) and has remained since then. As thegarbz mentioned, this is now shifting from the low-end laptop market to the tablet market (although they seem to coexist at present), so you can walk into most wireless stores and walk out with a carrier-subsidised tablet now and a 24-month plan in your name.
    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Not only that, but at least where I live carriers seem to apply penalties if you bring in your own phone and pre-pay. They bundle all sorts of deals such as free SMS, free social network traffic, excessive usage caps on voice, free voicemail, and other such things for what amounts to essentially paying the same amount as if I brought my own phone with me.

      I remember going from pre-paid to a plan. I used to pay $40 / month, now I pay $43 / month. I went from a dumb phone to a smart phone which will be replace

      • I pay 20 euro a month with loads of freebies. But you don't have that option .
        Your mission if you chose to accept I it is to get the best deal you can . Hopefully you have at least two carriers to choose from.

        Currently most. American cell companies suck because they don't have to compete much only by going with the best deals will you gain better deals further down the line.

        If you don't make them fight for your money they will milk you all they can.

    • Consumers are used to paying next to no initial outlay for a handset on the understanding that it will be paid for through their carrier agreement

      Understanding? Don't think so. Plenty of them think that phone really is free.

    • by Monoman (8745)

      "Part of Android's beauty is that OEM customisations allow consumers to vote with their feet."

      It isn't that easy in the US. Most people get locked into two year contracts. Changing hardware or carriers before the contract ends comes at a price.

    • Consumers are used to paying next to no initial outlay for a handset

      Perhaps the majority would stay there, but I'd be there is a big market for people like me (and my parents, my wife, etc) that would rather buy the phone ourselves and not be beholden to the contract of the provider.

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:39AM (#40015445)

    with apple i can go into one of the 10 Apple stores in the NYC area and have a real life english speaking person look at my device and possibly exchange it on the spot.

    google better not do it's regular retail FAIL where warranty/support is some internet forum where you get an answer in 3 days and have to send your phone somewhere hoping it won't get crapped on

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      I don't see any Google stores. So no, it's not going to be the same.

      • Nor do I see any Apple Retail Stores in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The closest thing in town is an independent Apple Authorized Retailer that sells Macs, and the closest Apple Retail Store is a hundred miles away. So to reach end users not living in a Major City(tm), Google and Apple are on the same playing field, having to sell their wares through electronics chains and independent mobile phone retailers.
    • by fermion (181285)
      This is one of the things I was thinking about. Originally with Android, Google said they were going to just have OEMs build a phone, and they were not going to do it. This evidently did not work, so Google built the phone they said they never would. But Google does not have any customer service, and we have reports of people who have had a problem with their Google account, even one they paid for, getting very bad customer service, so why would I buy a product that no one is going to support. The mobil
      • by Lisias (447563)

        The sad thing is that.... I'm an original Nexus user for years now.

        I'm very satisfied. Yet. =)

        (the thing has annoying glitches, but it does the job right!)

        My main concern now is how in the hell I'll get another, if my one gets broke or stolen. I didn't liked *any* of the current alternatives. All of them are too much expensive, and doesn't give back anything that I already don't have (granted - my needs are not so sophisticated, I don't watch 1080i videos on demand on my phone!).

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:41AM (#40015473)

    Europe is different but here in the US most carriers won't give you a break on the bill. i'm on a family plan and its A LOT cheaper than being on a single line plan so buying contract-free doesn't make sense for me.

    • by Rytr23 (704409)
      This. I think T-Mobile did offer a break on a bring your own plan at one point, but none of the other carriers offer any discount for not using the subsidy. Also, are these "nexus" devices going to be cdma/gsm/evdo/hsdpa+/LTE + 8 Band units? No? What is the benefit of buying one exactly? I still can't switch carriers at will, I would only be able to switch between gsm carriers (Att/tmob) OR cdma carriers(vzw/sprint), and either VZW or Sprint could easily say no to them. It doesn't make much sense t
      • by alen (225700)

        yep

        the AT&T and VZW family plan prices are cheap enough that i don't have any inclination to mess with the prepaid MVNO carriers in the US. and even with those some like to limit which phones they will allow on their network

        and with family data bundle pricing coming this summer i don't see the point of this so called freedom of not having a contract

      • I think T-Mobile did offer a break on a bring your own plan at one point, but none of the other carriers offer any discount for not using the subsidy.

        To compete with Virgin Mobile's $35/mo Beyond Talk plan, more carriers have been offering discounts on month-to-month service where the phone is purchased up front.

  • by neokushan (932374) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:54AM (#40015585)

    I think the real reasoning behind this is that Manufacturers were probably getting somewhat disillusioned with Google's favouritism for the big Nexus device. It's not hard to see why, either - when HTC did the Nexus One, even though the N1 wasn't a huge success, HTC's other phones (particularly the HTC Desire, which is practically the same phone in a different design) garnered them record profits. When Samsung did the Nexus S, their next phone was the Galaxy S II - another runaway success.
    No doubt getting a sneak peek at what's coming allows you to really plan ahead and hit the market with some leading devices. I'm sure LG, Motorola, ZTE and anyone else worth their salt would love a piece of that. Or at the very least, they'd love for Google to stop giving a major competitive advantage to one of their competitors.

  • by MogNuts (97512) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:03AM (#40015671)

    Let's hope that this fixes or mitigates the one flaw of android: no updates.

    Let me precede with this: Android is the superior OS. iOS fanboys and others alike (i'll probably get modded down for this) will argue. But iOS is completely inferior to Android. But this is not to start a flamewar. The one thing where iOS kicks android's ass is updates and compatibility. And notice I said updates: iOS updates and security do not go hand in hand (withness the MYRIAD of exploits for iOS). But again not starting a flamewar here.

    But Android gets no updates! Jesus christ. Just now, like 6 months later, are flagship models just a few months ago getting ICS. Make no mistake, if it was a dumbphone, who cares. But these are minuture computers. They need updates for security sake, if anything. Even though iOS isn't secure and has lots of exploits, at least they're patched in the next version. Android? Good luck. And the problem is that we keep more sensative data on our smartphone than our desktop.

    Also is the compatibility. Close friend just got the official android phone, the galaxy nexus. And know what? Tetris, made by EA, didn't work a few times. And another app too, dropbox I believe. Not apps by little shit devs who don't have the resources to provide bugfixes. The fact that apps aren't compatible with the so-called official android flagship is pathetic.

    I'm ranting because I want Android to fix this. It's a HUGE issue. And I can't vote with my feet because I'll never go back to the iPhone (had a 3GS). It's really like using a toy vs. a real OS*.

    * example: iOS doesn't allow Firefox Mobile. Which is a godsend with its ability for add-ons like Adblock on a mobile phone. Or iOS doesn't have the ability to place files in a filesystem so that another application can use a file, like a movie or PDF I put on the phone.

    • by kthreadd (1558445)

      I agree with you. That three year old 3GS you had, it still receives the latest iOS updates. Very few Android phones even gets half of that, if at all.

      I think it's fair to say that iOS does less, but the things it do it tend to do better.

    • by stewbee (1019450)
      I really think that your ire should be directed to who your cell phone manufacturer is and not with Google, per se.
      http://theunderstatement.com/post/11982112928/android-orphans-visualizing-a-sad-history-of-support [theunderstatement.com]

      And in a way, this makes sense. Companies don't make money on support. Once the product has shipped, they don't want to deal with it since they want to move on to the next "big" thing. This certainly makes Apple the odd ball here. Certainly, Motorola has a history of not providing too much sup
      • by MogNuts (97512)

        Perfect solution for Google: be like MS.

        Sell a vanilla OEM version for like $50 that be completely up to date and fresh with no bloatware. Distribute that money to carriers and manufacturers so they still get a cut so as not have them block/whine. Make it hidden so it doesn't affect all the so-called BS value added the carrier and manuf make. This way only those who really need it will get it.

        MS does this. You can get Windows preinstalled with all the BS and bloatware. Or you can buy the official retail cop

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      That just isn't true in the terms you describe. My old Galaxy S still gets regular updates with feature improvements and any security fixes. Google actively maintains Gingerbread and Samsung actively supplies updates for what is a fairly old model now (Galaxy S 3 hits the shops later this month).

      You are right about it taking a while for ICS to reach the GS2 and other high end phones from last year. That's the price you pay for the freedom to choose a handset and have a fairly open OS... You pays for money a

      • by MogNuts (97512)

        I don't disagree with you on that one. The official google phone is the ONLY one to buy IMHO. Although even that isn't a panacea. My buddy has the Galaxy Nexus on verizon and it's only on 4.0.2, STILL. Wasn't that released aaaalll the way back in January? And that's the standard dev phone that is supposed to always give the current updates. There has been two updates since then!

        Also, it would be nice for other handset makers to deliver updates. While I wouldn't touch it with a 10 ft pole because I hate Sens

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          I'm amazed how people in the US seem to get screwed by carriers. In the UK you could get the Galaxy Nexus unlocked and unmolested free with a contract just by going via one of the many high street retailers who resell carrier plans. They are usually a bit cheaper than going direct to the carrier, as long as you say "no" to all the insurance offers.

          • by MogNuts (97512)

            We get so screwed. Thing is, they offer it so low that for the price of an un-subbed phone, you can buy one now, and buy another in two years. But then we don't get the updates or support. And they don't give a discount (short of t-mobile IIRC) if you buy your own phone outright, so why shell out the full price?

            Now google gave you the option recently (it was done a while back but they pulled it) to buy it directly from them. However, I think (please correct me if I'm wrong) it will only work for t-mo or att

    • by MrMickS (568778)

      I think you're mistaking use requirements with superiority. I don't want to start a flame war, or fan the flames, but technically both iOS and Android have similar capabilties. The examples you give are design choices to make things easier for ordinary people rather than measures of inferiority. This isn't an apology just an observation.

      Consider the placing of files on a filesystem. The number of times I've had to help people find images, movies, other files, on their phone because they didn't know where it

      • by MogNuts (97512)

        Consider the placing of files on a filesystem. The number of times I've had to help people find images, movies, other files, on their phone because they didn't know where it was. Was it on the internal memory, was it on a memory card. It shouldn't matter. They just want to look at the picture, not learn how the filesystem on their phone is organised. Its unnecessary detail. Its a design choice to make things easier to understand.

        You know I've thought about that. I guess you're right about not needed to know where a file was. But the problem is big when you need a .docx file and download it from your email and view it in say Dataviz office or whatever it's called. You can't. You have to set up a convoluted cloud sync or worse transfer it via iTunes (there was an article back on OSNews describing this. It was like 7 steps and using menus buried so deep I wouldn't even find it). Or media. You have a MP3 to play. Why can't I just put a

        • by wfolta (603698)

          Users should be forced to learn a few things. This isn't 1992. This is 2012. If you can't be bothered to learn how to save a file properly, get off the computer.

          I think you have your dates backwards. The whole point is that in 1992, you HAD to learn how to save files and all of the quirky differences between a hard drive and a floppy disk, and the characters you are and are not allowed to use in a filename, and so on. In 2012, people want to just use their device without worrying that there is a filesystem underneath. (Make no mistake, iOS has a full-blown filesystem under the hood.) Not to mention the security concerns involved in letting any app access any file i

          • by MogNuts (97512)

            I think you have your dates backwards. The whole point is that in 1992, you HAD to learn how to save files and all of the quirky differences between a hard drive and a floppy disk, and the characters you are and are not allowed to use in a filename, and so on. In 2012, people want to just use their device without worrying that there is a filesystem underneath. (Make no mistake, iOS has a full-blown filesystem under the hood.) Not to mention the security concerns involved in letting any app access any file it wants. That was DOS in 1992, not a modern, secure OS.

            A few rebuttals. It doesn't matter what year it is, 2012 or not, people always want to not learn something or not do something. People are lazy most of the time. Do you honestly think this statement is sane: "in 2012, people don't want to deal with password protecting their router. they just want to leave it open for anyone to use." Yea, they're lazy, don't want to learn (notice this common theme I'm getting at) and take 1 basic safety precaution (again, common theme: learn a few simple things that they ref

    • by erroneus (253617)

      True. Google is more than aware of this problem. And you can point to the Carriers as the cause of this problem. The problem is the carriers insist on bloatware and in order to ensure that bloatware is installed, they control the releases of the updates. This bloatware, of course, takes a higher level of importance to all other things.

      Another factor influencing the carriers' reluctance to issue updates is the leverage they exert against their customers to influence them to "upgrade" by buying new device

  • by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:19AM (#40015811)

    I thought much of the Android code is GPL'ed. If they distribute early versions of Android to selected developers, wouldn't they also need to give away the Android source code to anyone else who demands it at that time?

    • by limaxray (1292094)
      It's not, it's Apache. Plus, even if you release your code under a GPL, you are under no obligation to only release future version under the same license. Heck, you can release the same version under different licenses if you wanted, ala Qt. If you own the code, you dictate the license, not the other way around.

      Now, they would need to release some GPL'd code that's not theirs, namely the Linux kernel and some utilities, but the bulk of it can be closed forever.
    • Sadly, no - the only thing that's really GPL is the kernel itself. Google has stripped out all of the other "copyleft" (i.e. "share-alike") licensed components that you'd get with a more standard Linux environment and replaced them with stripped-down BSD/Apache dismissively-licensed ("Hey, I'm taking your work and messing with it and squeezing money out of people with it, but not sharing the changes or letting people interoperate, okay?" "Meh, whatever.")* components.

      I've noticed that rooted phones often e

  • Always fighting the last war.

  • They've tried that before. And for most of us who access their shop we are told we can't buy, because we don't live in the right place. They don't have the money, or the brains, to do it all over - and then they fail

  • Yeah, if Jobs was upset by Google Android and all the Samsung devices, now that Google is unleashing "too many manufacturers to sue" upon the world, I can only imagine how this will pan out.

    But more than that, Google is helping the consumer by releasing us from the carriers! It's my wildest dream come true. When the Galaxy S3 comes out, I was planning to buy the international version outright and not get locked into any contracts and expensive data plans which "pay for my subsidized phone" like 3 or 4 tim

  • by Picass0 (147474) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @11:09AM (#40017215) Homepage Journal

    Downside: Once you sell people a phone and they see the whole price they might be more inclined to own it longer. With cell providers currently offering upgrades and freebees to customers most people have a new phone in their hands ever two or three years. If people outright buy an Android they might decide to keep that phone for five or six years. That could lead to a level of stagnation.

    Upside: Thrifty consumers will pick up on this if Google really commits. It could be a game changer for the US cell market and bring about a much needed round of competitive (hopefully somewhat fair) plan pricing.

    • by Githaron (2462596)

      That could lead to a level of stagnation.

      Probably not. There is a market for both low-end and high-end devices. Look at normal computers. There are those that rarely buy a new computer. There are also those that will not go more than a year or two without buying a new one. Within those groups, there are those that buy both high-end and low-end computers. As the manufacturing processes get more refined, the technologies originally created for high-end computers will eventually make it into the low-end computers and new technologies will be created

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