There is a market for a midrange device (i.e this years midrange tech not just older flagship device that is getting old) that just provides a reasonable stock experience and fast updates. (Sucks that you don't even get Nexus devices prerooted - if you need to mess around splitting boot.img's (And breaking OTA updates) just to get ro.secure=0 then that isn't a premium experience). They had it better when they provided prerooted dev devices without access to paid content. (And they had a physical keyboard and buttons).
ZTE updated the blade fairly officially from 2.1->2.3 it is trivially easy to do if you don't do dodgy hacks and still to the way the dev board maker does stuff.
spec's wise even midrange should be just fine (1GB ram if the manufacturer is incompetent or get away with 512MB if they know what they are doing (Or they just clone the Nexus S))
All smartphones are rubbish for actually being a phone (They are ok at being pda's portable mini computers). Cannot even do a week between charges with super minimal usage.
The dumb phone I use is 6 years old and still works just as well as it always had (Changed the battery twice). Nokia 6230i
I am ok paying top end pricing if something is going to last 6 years if it is going to last less than a year then I am totally not.
I think I would most likely be better off with a 7" 3G tablet instead of a smartphone (At the moment I have a wifi xoom and a 2011 Xperia).
Google are not really all that much more trustworthy than anyone else (Otherwise the Xoom worldwide would have been a Google Experience Device - even advertised on the box that it is one which it totally isn't)
It is not like Apple or even MS where it is forced from the top.
Finally the only thing that makes Android any better is the stuff that is only possible from root apps (WIthout that I might as well be on WP7). If you lose the convenience of the updates just for getting superuser access to your own device then that isn't acceptable either.