Premium 'Android Silver' phones may replace Google's Nexus program

With a new report on the existence of “Android Silver,” it's looking ever more likely that Google will ditch its Nexus smartphone brand and take a slightly different approach to hardware.

Instead of selecting a single phone maker to launch each Nexus phone, Google may work with several phone makers on high-end smartphones running clean versions of Android, according to The Information. Phone makers would face limits on how many non-Google apps they could pre-install, and users could have the option to uninstall any of these apps.

In exchange, Google would pay phone makers for their participation, handle the Android update process and offer its own tech support. Google would also help promote the phones through wireless carriers and retailers.

This isn't the first we've heard of such a program. Earlier this month, Android Police also reported on the possibility of Android Silver, while expressing some doubts about whether the program would actually happen. And in January, Russian blogger Eldar Murtazin claimed that Google would kill the Nexus program in 2015, replacing it with a rebranded Google Play Edition program.

Android Silver does sound like a cross between the Nexus and Google Play Edition programs, allowing for a wider range of devices than the Nexus program, but with an extra level of input, involvement, and promotion from Google. If all these reports are accurate, the question is how much incentive Google can provide to adopt Android Silver, both for phone makers and for consumers.

According to Android Police, Google may include some extra services as part of the program. That could include a loaner phone while users track down lost handsets, a “hangout assistant” for live tech support via video chat and an easy data migration feature for users who are switching from another smartphone. Wireless carriers may also be required to assist in the migration process.

In the past, carriers have been more eager to sell non-stock Android phones, onto which they can add their own services and bloatware. But with the move toward early upgrades and monthly installments instead of subsidies, carriers may be willing to sell more stock Android phones if they don't have to eat the hardware cost.

If these plans come to fruition, the Silver program could launch next year in several countries, including the United States, The Information reports. In other words, don't expect any official word from Google for a while, and do expect at least one more round of Nexus hardware before anything changes.

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