Google (GOOGL -0.15%) has been selling smartphones and tablets under the Nexus brand since 2010. The only Android devices officially offered by Google itself, the line has included hardware designs by HTC, Samsung, LG, and Asus. The devices have served as developer platforms with the least embellished version of the Android operating system, but also found traction with consumers in recent years.
And now, rumor has it that 2014 could be the last hurrah for Google's Nexus brand. Well-respected mobile industry watcher Eldar Murtazin said so in one tantalizing tweet, naming no sources but making a metric ton of sense:
Nexus line by Google is over in 2015 ;) Yes-this line will be replaced by Play Edition (current name, it will be rebranded)— Eldar Murtazin (@eldarmurtazin) January 27, 2014
I can think of at least four reasons why Murtazin should be spot-on with this wildly unofficial announcement:
Google has never given a Nexus assignment to Motorola Mobility, which now is a division of Google itself. It's high time to take ownership of Android hardware, in a way that the Nexus program never really allowed.
Murtazin says that Nexus will be replaced by another Google-blessed brand. I'm assuming this will be an exclusive Motorola affair, and that the new brand will be aimed directly at consumers rather than developers and other industry insiders. The Nexus devices may have been capable, but they were never particularly sexy. Expect this to change with new, bold design choices -- far from the plainspoken simplicity of the Nexus series.
This could be the perfect time to separate Google from the aging Nexus name. Smartphone growth is stagnating, since Android and Apple (AAPL 0.83%) iPhone devices have replaced the dumber "feature phones" as the most popular type of mobile phone. So why not reboot the mobile market with unheard-of features, the aforementioned new designs, and a totally fresh brand name? Don't expect Apple to go this route, given the huge brand value the company has built in the iPhone name, but the more diverse Android side of the mobile market seems more amenable to a branding reboot.
Google likes to play games. The Nexus phones and tablets were arguably named after the Nexus 6 in Philip K. Dick's classic short story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which many readers will recognize as the basis for the hit movie Blade Runner. If so, this year's Nexus 6 smartphone would be an appropriate end to the series, notwithstanding the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. The Nexus tablets took a different course from the start, being named for their size rather than a serial progression, so they don't really count against the Electric Sheep parameters.
In a nutshell, the Nexus brand has played its part and it's time for Google to take on Apple head-to-head with an in-house brand of consumer-oriented smartphones. This happens just as smartphones transition from high end and upscale to bog-standard commodity gear, and I for one can't wait to see what Google -- and Apple! -- have up their sleeves for the next mobile generation.