Monday, 24 March 2014

How Google *Pwned* Samsung & HTC (aka Why Nexus is still #1)

By now everyone has heard that Google has sold off Motorola Mobility and what a loss it was. I strongly disagreed with that and this Forbes article says a lot of what I felt. Google needed Motorola Mobility for its strategy to *pwn* other vendors who greedily thought they could exert their unique brand of is 'enhancement' further fragmenting Android is.

  • Google Nexus 5 #4, LG G2 #9
  • HTC One Google Ed. #2, HTC One #3
  • Samsung S4 Google Ed. #6, Samsung S4 #7
  • Moto X #5 (ahead of all ODM except HTC)
(As of Feb 2014 - Business Insider RANKED)

You can see this with the latest Android device rankings. Every Google Edition of nearly every ODM device is better that the original (HTC One and Samsung S4) and the Nexus 4/5 are way better that any LG offering, yet are also made by LG. Add to that the announcement that the new flagship Samsung S5 will be more Nexus/Google experience like, you can see that Google has exerted it's will over its android ODM (original device manufacturers). 

I had always wondered why Motorola devices weren't more innovative. Sure questions on 'fair play' concerns from Samsung, HTC, LG, etc was a factor but I don't think it was the main driver. I *think* Google was trying to make a point on the RIGHT way for ODMs to add value to androids with minimal OS changes and subtle hardware tweaks. All this allows for more equivalency/democracy amongst Android, (think number portability in North America years ago and carriers) making it easier for consumers to switch between makers within the android ecosystem. 

Moto X and G were like Nexus devices in disguise! This way Google could use LG as the nexus vendor for nexus 4 and 5 and basically get almost 4x Nexus phones (adding in the 2x Moto phones) in the last few years!

I was always curious as to why Google didn't try to build off the initial success of the Moto Xoom, the first Honeycomb 3.0 Android tablet. Both the Moto X and G are both Superphone format devics. If I had to guess the reason it would be either:

  • 'A' -  was happy with what it got from ASUS (why not? For the price the Nexus 7 is pretty much the best 7" tablet out there!)
  • 'B' -  thought that the larger market phone market (what Google calls "SuperPhones") fragmentation was more important to fix first.
Likely a little of both 'A' and 'B', but maybe more 'B' as money is still in "Superphones" and not really tablets. The margins are much higher still for cellular devices vs. WiFi-only. (See Cellphone Economics posting I had a while back.)

Don't believe me that ODMs don't want to make it easy to move to another Android phone manufacturer? See the photo below. Samumg and HTC intentionally make thier back button on different sides of the phone.

(S4 back button RIGHT from

(HTC ONE back button LEFT from
Notice that the back buttons are intentional opposite. Compound that with two very different icons, one with a curved back arrow (Samsung S4) and another more like a square bracket (HTC ONE). Keen observers will also note that HTC ONE has no 'middle' button. Menus are all done by Context Action Bars (as suggested by Google Android Dev site a few years back). The Home Button on S4 is really the middle non-labelled button, yet again different from HTC and others.

I wish Google could have made this a 'Hardware' standard too. Not a problem with Apple's iPhone 5s vs. 5c! *Apple fan-boys cheer* Both because there is no back button (and no labels on iPhone5s) and that there is only 1x hardware manufacturer.

Hope that helps,
Wayne Pau

P. s. Nokia and Motorola used to do this too with pick-up and hang ups buttons which was worse! It totally annoys 1st time users who muscle memory jets them to go back a screen, only to have app close and go to the homescreen.

*** UPDATE *** Looks like Lenovo is also going the patent route, buying a number of patents from UP. Read more here. So you can clearly see that Google by keeping the patents from Motorola Mobility clearly knew what they were doing!

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