back to article Google forges a Silver bullet for Android, aims it at Samsung's heart

The rumours are true: Google is working on a new brand called Silver to seize back control of the Android platform. Details of the thing have been corroborated by multiple sources – and it looks like a declaration of war on Samsung and wannabe top-tier gadget manufacturers. Along the same lines as its Nexus range, Google will …

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  1. Semtex451 Silver badge

    So can we expect a load of WinPho 8 Sammys etc?

    Maybe some good will come of it.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      I miss the days, when Samsung and htc both offered basically the same hardware with either Android, WinMo or WP installed. Now that WP is free and Google are trying to clamp down on the market, we might see those days again, probably WP, Tizen and Android as choices. Although I expect the WP model will probably not look as stylish as the Tizen model. ;-)

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Although I expect the WP model will probably not look as stylish as the Tizen model. ;-)

        Nah. Samsung won't need to do that. You can tell it's Tizen when your eyes are shut...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Although I expect the WP model will probably not look as stylish as the Tizen model. ;-)"

        But at least it will probably be faster, more stable and far more secure....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RIP Samsung.

      1. Vector

        God I'm old

        Every time I see WP, I think "Word Perfect."

  2. fixit_f

    While a lot of this sounds bad from a competition perspective.....

    ...manufacturers and operators have only themselves to blame. Vanilla android works very nicely, most of the "customisations" and UI tweaks that people like HTC and Samsung (and also, don't forget, individual network operators) are adding are implemented badly - annoying and gimmicky at best, battery/storage sapping at worst. Additionally, as mentioned in the article, the customisations need to be tweaked and tested with every new release which slows getting them out of the door. Google will try to sell this as an attempt to make android "cleaner" and a lot of people will swallow this viewpoint - even though (this being Google) it's blatantly a piece of dick swinging aimed at getting control of the platform and the harvested user data back.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: While a lot of this sounds bad from a competition perspective.....

      To be fair to Google, I suspect it's both. Obviously they want all that lovely data and control - and they must be alarmed by the number of forks and Samsung trying to replicate all their apps. But also they should be really worried about malware. Maybe it won't happen, but I think there's a huge risk that some headline-grabbing outbreak of nasty will sweep through Android, like a hot knife through XP, before SP1. Microsoft are still reaping the PR damage they gained from things like Melissa and the I Love You bug.

      I wonder if Google have been quietly trying to get the manufacturers to cooperate on updates for the last while. And this is the response.

      One of the major problems the manufacturers have is how crap they are at cooperating. And writing software... I suspect this is why Google are going this route. It also means they'll struggle to tell Google to get stuffed, because they're always more worried about each other. They failed to cooperate on mobile payments, Symbian, keeping MS out in the Pocket PC days.

      It does make me wonder though. Why didn't Google keep Motorola? They only sold it a couple of months ago. And now they're making a play to control hardware, software and updating. Maybe they think that the manufacturers will bend over and take it for Silver, but owning Motorola as well would have been just too much?

      It's a shame both sides can't lose. Google are an enormous, increasingly worrying, global-data-hoover. But the manufacturers have never really given a crap about their customers. They'd always rather miss off a feature to keep a network happy, or fill their products with un-usable crapware that they then never bother to update. I mean why issue security patches to your customers, when you can just sell them a shiny new handset?

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Absolutely

      I have a Galaxy SII just like my daughter. The difference is that mine is tied to a different operator.

      My phone is running 4.1.2, hers is still on 2.x something. Mine has had a system update twice in two years, hers has had none.

      "The handhelds must run Google's flavour of Android – the open-source-ish OS it bought in 2005 – rather than customised, bloatware-ridden versions cooked up by some hardware makers."

      That in itself is going to be the beginning of the end for customized versions. Everyone knows about the latest functions made available in the latest version of Android. Most people look at their phone and can only dream about the day it will finally trickle down to them. It is nothing short of infuriating to know that your hardware CAN support it, but it's your operator that is not.

      Operators are not going to get any pity on this front. Not that they get much anyways. They've been milking us for long enough.

      1. ItsNotMe

        Re: Absolutely

        But the carriers have little financial incentive to continually push out updates/upgrades to the Android OS.

        Why? Because they would much rather sell you a new phone every year or two, as opposed to you keeping your current phone, and having the OS updated for many years.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Absolutely

          ItsNotMe,

          I don't mind the manufacturers not updating the software. I think they should (Apple manage OK), but I can understand that they don't. However:

          1. There is absolutely no fucking excuse for not issuing security patches. Particularly as they're written by someone else. And double particularly now they're pushing mobile payments on their phones. And in fact, patches in general. If they can't manage to make that work with the bloatware they shove on the handsets, then they need to get better software teams, or stopping filling their phones with crap.

          2. Not updating the software also doesn't wash when they so frequently issue new models on out-of-date versions. Google have been givning them more notice of their software devlopment for at least a couple of years now. If Cyanogen can get their latest version out in a couple of weeks, the manufacturers have no excuse.

          Now Samsung have the Galaxy 5 linked to PayPal and pay-by-bonk I hope they get sued to buggery if they fail to issue patches in a timely manner.

          1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

            Re: Absolutely

            To be honest the Sammy stuff in my Note is ok. The bugs I see are in the stock Google mail app, and are still there in the latest, latest version. Also the newest, newest version of Android doesn't get me anything new that I want. On the contrary, it's the forced updates to Play services that you cannot deny or roll-back that are FKing over my phone and also killing the battery. Perhaps a pure Sammy Tizen phone would suit me better?

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Absolutely

            "1. There is absolutely no fucking excuse for not issuing security patches. "

            Since those patches are to fix a manufacturing defect, that ought to be covered by the warranty.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Absolutely

          "But the carriers have little financial incentive to continually push out updates/upgrades to the Android OS."

          I think the carriers are fast becoming irrelevant, thanks to phones like the Motorola G, Nexus 5 and Nokia 520. We're (slowly) getting to the point where most people simply buy the phone outright, and then get the best SIM only contract (or pre pay deal) they can.

      2. Nate Amsden Silver badge

        Re: Absolutely

        Not me. I am a new android user since late december. I use a galaxy note 3 on ATT with android 4.3.

        I know nothing of the next version of android other than it exists.

        My phone works perfectly fine now other than bloatware from BOTH google and samsung and I suppose Att too. Id love to get rid of all google services as I do not and will not use them(same for samsung). They just clutter up things. Im constantly hitting some button on the screen when in the task closing app that fires up google search or samsung S voice. If I want google search I open firefox and run a search.

        Id appreciate back ported security patches but dont force me to upgrade for some new feature I dont care about. Dont break what is working. Things are fragile enough as it is.

      3. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Absolutely

        "I have a Galaxy SII just like my daughter. "

        Well, the Galaxy doesn't look much like a human, so I assume your daughter looks like a phone?

      4. Bill the Sys Admin

        Re: Absolutely

        @Pascal Monett

        100% agree. The stuff HTC and Samsung add on are nothing but bloat. the nexus lines are the best imo just now. Hopefully this will allow more like them.

    3. Mark .

      Re: While a lot of this sounds bad from a competition perspective.....

      To be fair, although vanilla Android is nice, Samsung's UI seems fine too, and it's as much a matter of opinion or what you're used to. Vanilla Android does lack a lot of things (e.g., video calling, didn't have a notepad/text editor for years) which although you can easily get an application for, I can see manufacturers wanting to add their own.

      Let's not forget things like Google trying to get rid of SD cards - some customisations are definitely a good thing. (A shame - the idea of "Silver" sounds promising to me, but if they're all lacking sd cards with too small internal storage, I'm not interested.)

      It does mean the releases lag core Android, but does this mean people wait longer for any given feature? A Touchwiz user has to wait longer to get a new feature added to core Android, but a Nexus user may have to wait longer for a new feature that Samsung add as standard.

      Samsung have a lot more phones to test than Google when it comes to updates - but if Google switch to a model where there are lots of devices under the "Silver" brand, they've then got to test all of those devices (Nexus users may be happy being beta testers for the latest Android version, but this won't work so well on a wider set of consumers...)

      It's annoying when network operators block updates of phones. Arguably they shouldn't have that control at all, though given that buggy updates can cause havoc for *other* users, as happened when an iphone update was pushed out, I can see their point. Ideally people should vote with their wallets - if my network didn't allow updates through, I'd go elsewhere.

  3. IHateWearingATie

    Dear god noooo

    What the hell are they doing? This may be good for google, but it's likely to be rubbish for consumers as it drives away other manufacturers from the premium segment. One of the reasons I switched to Android from iOS was the much wider range of phones on offer - want a big screen? There's a phone for that. Want an SD card slot and removable battery? Yup, there's a phone for that. Want a cheaper phone that does the job almost as well? Yup, there's a bunch of them.

    In the long term this can only reduce the number of manufacturers and variety of handsets. If I only wanted a small number of handset choices, I'd have stayed with iOS!!

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Dear god noooo

      Having been caught out twice by hardware being dead-ended by the manufacturer and having to resort to the likes of Cyanogen to get security and feature updates, I sort of welcome it.

      It is also one of the reasons that I buy unlocked phones, with no carrier crud. The up-front price is a bit higher, but what updates are made available, I get quicker. That said, the carrier locked SGS3 my employer provides me has been rooted and is running Cyanogen to get it up to KitKat - the official update over the carrier only arrived a few weeks ago, so I might drop an original ROM back on it.

      For my private phone, I have a Nokia Lumia 1020 running 8.1 officially, provided from Microsoft...

      Silver might get me to give Android another chance - I couldn't have a Nexus as a company phone, because it wasn't available carrier subsidised...

      Are Microsoft and Google switching roles? Is Google becoming the big-bad corporate entity and Microsoft the one that plays fair? There's a turn up for the books.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dear god noooo

        "Is Google becoming the big-bad corporate entity and Microsoft the one that plays fair?"

        Welcome to 2014!

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Is Google becoming the big-bad corporate entity and Microsoft the one that plays fair?

        Let me reassure you : Google is simply becoming as bad as Microsoft, in its journey to become worse than Microsoft.

        The only reason Microsoft is where it is is because before smartphones, there was only the PC for getting mail and going to the Web.

        Now there is phones and phablets and the PC is going back to being used only by content creators and professionals, so Microsoft is on its way out and Google is taking its place.

        The king is dead, long live the king !

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is Google becoming the big-bad corporate entity and Microsoft the one that plays fair?

          "Microsoft is on its way out"

          No, just a bit late to the party. Microsoft have a fully integrated top top to bottom suite all using the same kernel, and with some of the best tools and supporting applications. And are the only vendor with a fully featured touch / gesture enabled platform across all tiers. They won't be disappearing any time soon...

    2. SuccessCase

      Definition of closed:

      mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android-silver.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git

      fatal: Authentication failed

    3. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Dear god noooo

      Enough hyperventilation. The only way Google will "[drive] away other manufacturers from the premium segment" is by offering a product that more people want to buy. That is something where Samsung, in particular but not alone, has a lot of experience and success. Google is not the epitome of evil and in the cell phone industry is a latecomer and relative pipsqueak. It is likely to find a niche, but whether at a profit is uncertain and it is unlikely they can dominate.

    4. Pookietoo

      Re: What the hell are they doing?

      So far Apple has been happy to restrict its anti-competitive legal action mostly to Samsung - maybe this is a cunning plan to align multiple manufacturers / resellers in a concerted attack against iThings.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Undaunted

    "Today they must be weighing their options – and the daunting cost of creating a joint competing brand to Google's Silver"

    Seems to me that with Firefox, Tizen, Sailfish and Ubuntu (and indeed BB), there's a whole bag full of nearly-market ready mobile operating systems out there. Those that can offer Android compatibility manage to avoid the "no-apps, no sale" hurdle, and even if Google puts a walled garden round the Play store, if the software's the same there's nothing to stop developers selling via more than one market place.

    If Google go down that route, then they might find that Samsung, HTC or whoever's "Tizen Privacy phone" attracts a lot of attention, and Google cook their own goose. I can't believe that my personal data is worth sufficient that they could gold plate "Silver" to the point where I'd be willing to be locked in a walled garden. If I wanted that, I'd buy an iPhone, and laugh at Google's security and privacy issues.

    Is this the ultimate "me too" - Google want to be Apple? Sorry Larry, you're no Steve Jobs.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Undaunted

      And don't forget Sammy and htc are already WP8 partners, even if they have been neglecting it of late, which they now get for free.

      Google might be shooting itself in the foot, or it might bring some semblance of order to the market. Fragmentation is a big problem at the moment - especially when it comes to getting security updates, waiting 18 months for a spring from 3.1 to 3.4 is one thing, but 18 months with no security updates? People would crucify Microsoft if they didn't patch Windows for 18 months after a zero day exploit hat been found.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Undaunted

        "And don't forget Sammy and htc are already WP8 partners, even if they have been neglecting it of late, which they now get for free."

        And how a manufacturer can differentiate their offerings using WP8?

        1. h3

          Re: Undaunted

          They shouldn't want to. Just deal with making the best hardware. With the all the possible options. (Two types of physical keyboard / sdcard slots / Reasonable battery life / nice headphone amp / fancy camera). Loads of things you can do all in hardware. Just making sure it is well made and has good call quality seems to be difficult for anybody other than Motorola / Nokia (With the odd HTC that is quite good).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Stop

            Re: Undaunted

            "They shouldn't want to. Just deal with making the best hardware. With the all the possible options."

            Right, looking at the pace of what hardware that WP is able to support, the manufacturers would seem like they were making a race of snails...it was well know fact that Nokia had to wait for Microsoft to release some tech because the good people of Redmond are fast in producing code (not). Nokia in the meantime changed a bit the look and feel of their release of WP, go figure.

            "good call quality seems to be difficult for anybody other than Motorola / Nokia"

            Nothing to do with how the cellphone companies handle the voice in 4G and how the specifications were made...

    2. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: Undaunted

      Don't forget Jolla.

      1. NB

        Re: Undaunted

        Sailfish is Jolla's OS iirc.

  5. Cookieninja

    Foolish move for Google, this will provide all the struggling mobile operating systems with a route back into the game. Executives at Microsoft, Blackberry, Jolla and what remains of Nokia must be feeling *very* optimistic now.

    Maybe Samsung knew this, and that is why they finally launched a Tizen mobile ?

  6. Zolko

    The time for Tizen has come, then.

    Samsung has been preparing for that, as have Nokia (with the X series) and Amazon (for the Kindle). Come in Sailfish, Tizen, CyanogenMod, FirefoxOS, and fight. The premium over Google ? less spying.

    Google has already lost, thanks to Snowden and NSA.

    1. dogged

      Re: The time for Tizen has come, then.

      A Blackphone looks more and more tempting every day.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: The time for Tizen has come, then.

      Google has already lost, thanks to Snowden and NSA.

      I don't believe you.

      It seems to me that most people simply don't care. Plus Apple, MS and Google are all US based - who are the top 3 smartphone OS vendors.

      Also there's another problem. Microsoft's mobile phone OS has been pretty good for several years now. And it can't get out of mid-single figures marketshare. And because of that can't get enough apps. And because of the lack of apps, can't grow marketshare easily.

      And quite a lot of that marketshare may have been nicked from the free-falling Blackberry as well.

      It's hard to break into the smartphone market now. It's much more of an established market than 5, or even 2, years ago. And I don't think it's possible to just wade in and grab a big chunk of sales. Even for Samsung who could try and transition to Tizen and say to customers, 'but you've got the same apps'. That might work at the almost zero-profit low end, but on the high value 100% profit phones? I don't believe it for a second.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The time for Tizen has come, then.

        "Even for Samsung who could try and transition to Tizen and say to customers, 'but you've got the same apps'."

        Bada didnt happened a to long ago, but looks like almost everyone forgot it no? And the sales were not bad either. But who will gone burn money a second time just that Samsung can play a new OS again? Tell that to former Bada phones owners. I'm tired of the all Nokia affair now, but they had the thing, MeeGo, their loyal customers would wait for the apps to show up now matter it would take. But in the end, they treated that fan base like shite, like they did for so many times, releasing some phones over and over jusr with a different shell. You know, I start to think that the whole Elop operation happened because the Nokians allowed it. They just wanted the money and move on.

  7. David 138

    Yay

    The android OS is MUCH better without the modifications handset maker do. But I hope they can still make custom camera apps because androids stock one aint great.

  8. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    If this is not just an Orlowskasm

    Samsung has Tizen ready now in case they ever want to part company with Google. Nokia/Microsoft have Meego if they want an OS with better reviews than the iPhone. Most of the other manufacturers have been working with (and sometime distributed) Maemo/Moblin. If they want something more Androidish, they can license CyanogenMod. There are plenty of other choices like Jolla's Sailfish, Firefox OS and Ubuntu Touch.

    The big selling point of free software is that if one maintainer goes in a direction people do not like then there will be a fork of three that goes in a better direction.

    PS: Why is Android landfill? Nokia/Microsoft sell phones at the bottom end of the market at a substantial loss. If anything deserves the name, it should be landfill Surface.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

      I think you mean open source software. Windows Phone 8 is also free, but very much controlled by Microsoft and you can't fork it, if you don't like the direction they are going.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

      PS: Why is Android landfill? Nokia/Microsoft sell phones at the bottom end of the market at a substantial loss.

      I think this may be a bit unfair now. But it's a nice phrase, and it was definitely true before. Cheap Android phones were almost universally slow, and horrible to use. A few were OK, some were truly un-usable (fit for nout but landfill). Windows Phone was much less of a resource-hog, and could maintain a pretty decent speed on worse hardware. Plus it doesn't multi-taks as much, so craply programed apps couldn't run the phone into the ground, unlike Android.

      I think things have changed because Google have worked on efficiency, and there are some really good cheap SOC's now. It looks like the reason Nokia went Android is because MS only approve a limited subset of chips, and so cheap Win Pho can now be outcompteted by cheap Android running on lower-cost silicon.

    3. jaywin

      Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

      > PS: Why is Android landfill? Nokia/Microsoft sell phones at the bottom end of the market at a substantial loss. If anything deserves the name, it should be landfill Surface.

      Android isn't landfill, but a large proportion of Android phones are that cheap it's easier and cheaper to go buy a new one and send your existing one to the dump if you hit any problems with it. It's nothing to do with the quality of the OS or (lack of) profit margins on the phone, it's simply saying that Android created and captured the market for "disposable" smart phones, which still makes up a significant amount of their user base.

      You may not like surface, but if you'd spent £900 on one, I doubt you'd be chucking if for a brand new one at your cost if the battery went a bit iffy.

      1. h3

        Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

        Thing is my tablet (Motorola Xoom) which works flawlessly with the Google Play Services that is part of the rom and works also quite well (But not as well) with all of them up to version 3.2.x needs to be replaced for the sole reason that Google force feeds version 4 which is completely unoptimised for my tablet (It lags to hell the second that is installed everything on it). It works better with the play store and play services firewalled even with it trying to update constantly. Everything it adds is precisely stuff I have no interest in or that works less well (or tries to trick me into joining Google - or track where I am going even though I have actively removed Google Now / Google Talk). For what I use it for it works fine. (I am really against Google being able to decide at some point in the future to break my device like this which is why I won't get another).

        The other option is just to switch back to the last AOSP Xoom Rom and use Amazon. (Basically all of my paid apps are with Amazon anyway because I trust them more).

        (I have a set of apps that all work wonderfully but hardly any of them are up to date. Probably some have security issues but I like Youtube that doesn't sign in and Google maps v6).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If this is not just an Orlowskasm

      Maemo was Nokia's. Moblin was Intel's. Meego was an amalgamation of the two. This was forked into the Mer project, which now forms the basis of the Sailfish OS. Meego has never had '...better reviews than the iPhone.', at least not in the way that you are insinuating.

      The major flaw of 'free' software (if it's GPL'ed, it's not free) is the potential for a high level of fragmentation that can occurs because everyone is pulling in differing directions.

  9. JDX Gold badge

    Don't Google already design and sell premium Android phones/tablets? So isn't this essentially the same... which hasn't exactly hurt Samsung so far! Unless they block OEMs from using Android, which doesn't appear to be the idea.

    Anyone?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: JDX

      My understanding is that, yes, it's an extension of the Nexus idea - just this time, Google really means it.

      C.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Don't Google already design and sell premium Android phones/tablets?"

      Not as such. The Nexus devices were more "reference" designs than an intention to take on the high end market where the OEMs were slugging it out. Nexus 5 is without doubt a damn good phone, but it isn't slugging it out with the S5, iPhone 5S, HTC One etc. Where the Nexus brand has been pitched is at sensible, rational, cost conscious consumers, where Google evidently want to take their hardware brand is into the profitable, sunlit uplands of the premium phone sector, where "rational", "sensible" and "cost conscious" are just words in a marketing dweeb's bad dream.

      I suspect that the experience with Nexus and Motorola has made Google think "Jeez, this smartphone making is just assembly of other people's IC and screens, with distribution and marketing on top. We can do all that, and in fact we can pay somebody else to do the assembly, at whatever passes for minimum wage in China!"

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Yes, Silver is much broader, it's the creation of a new branded premium Android platform, rather than one-off reference designs.

        Silver phones are assured updates, etc. Pretty much an invitation to either play nice, or fork off.

        1. Law

          "this time, Google really means it"

          Dunno why, but that actually made me chuckle evilly.

          They were also running out of numbers on the Nexus line for phones...

        2. Levente Szileszky

          So I guess time has come for BB to make a silent comeback during 2H if they can release a nice high-end HW-based phone...

  10. Andy 73

    To some extent, the manufacturers have brought this on themselves. Many of them have treated the smartphone market as an exercise in throwing boxes over the wall and forgetting about them - slow updates to already out of date OS installs, very flakey 'own brand' apps that are poor relations to the sort of thing you see on iPhones and modern, stock Android and so on. This doesn't have to be the end of Samsung - they already want to differentiate themselves on user experience - but it will clear out some of the low end players who damage the reputation of the platform. That's going to happen anyway as the smartphone market matures.

    It might also help if they apply the same logic to the App market and discard some of the dross that still turns up when you search for something useful. The Silver brand might be a smart way to step away from that legacy shovelware without admitting that the Play Store (just like iTunes) plays host to a vast number of shoddy rip-off apps.

    With Google playing to the budget market with the excellent Moto-G, I don't think the consumer is going to loose out really.

  11. James 51 Silver badge

    If they aren't water/dust proof with a micro sd slot and a removeable battery there might still be room for other handsets at the top/middle/bottom.

  12. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Rooting for Silver

    Isn't this the "experience" that most people who root their Android phones are doing it for?

    Dumping the bloat-ware and getting up-to-date versions. I guess the differentiation will now come from things like hardware features: cameras, 3D on screens, number of cores and amount of memory and maybe even some "killer" accessories that no other manufacturers will have.

    They may even play the security card and demonstrate a widening gap between themselves and the (explicit or covert) entities that monitor and collect data from Android phones.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Rooting for Silver

      I'll give you an upvote Pete, although most are updating to the likes of Cyanogen Mod, because they don't have a lot of choice, if they want to keep their device up to date.

      I didn't dislike the TouchWiz on my Galaxy, but being stuck on 4.1 with no security updates had me breaking out the Cyanogen.

  13. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    I could see this coming

    I use the Google Nexus phones and have done for a while because the don't have all the bloatware and "customized applications" that you get stuck with when you use a phone from Sammy, Apple or any of the phone companies. Yes, I know Google monitors everything but I use it simple as a tool and I don't want the experience that I had with Verizon where ever application had a built in cost - "E-mail sir? Certainly, that will be another $4.25 a month for that service."

    All the phone vendors are corrupt in one way or another but at least with Google you know it up front.

  14. saif

    Well it stops people forking around, going where they shouldn't, unless they are Google

    Makes sense to me. Seems it is the only way to get a unified, unfragmented platform experience, with hardware manufacturers differentiating with strengths of the hardware, and software developers having a consistent API to work with. Having a core that updates across all devices rather than at the manufacturers' or service providers' whim would be useful. Of course you might have some concerns about privacy...

  15. Mark Rigby-Jones

    "and there will be plenty of help advertising the devices.”

    For some reason my brain translated this as "and there will be plenty of advertising on the devices.” With Google involved, I can’t imagine why...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too extreme views

    Manufacturers treating the OS as their own for bloat/customisation/cr*pware

    Google going protectionist to protect the OS and its security/reputation etc

    No middle ground suggest genuinely innovative customisations will be overly suppressed, and there have been a few of these.

    If the approach is really that draconion the cure could be as bad as the problem it resolves.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Too extreme views

      How 'innovatively customised' can you make e-mail, txting and browsing? If you want that, there are dozens of GUI wrappers and data integrating apps in the Google app stopre. There are also many data transfer/sync apps as well, all at a low price. The only customisation I wanted (and got) for my Nexus was the Nova Launcher and its start screen, which I was happy to pay for.

  17. Peter 48

    storm in a tea-cup

    So basically Google are slightly expanding the nexus concept and rebranding it. How on earth will this affect Samsung or HTC? It will simply add another Brand into the top tier range of phones to compete with what the current top brands are producing. Good for everyone in the long run. If people don't like the modifications that Sammy and HTC etc make they now have another choice. The thing is, the vast majority of users couldn't give a toss about a "pure" Android experience and will still end up going where ever the marketing dollars are spent which is with Samsung and Apple.

    1. M Gale

      Re: storm in a tea-cup

      The thing is, the vast majority of users couldn't give a toss about a "pure" Android experience and will still end up going where ever the marketing dollars are spent which is with Samsung and Apple.

      They'll start giving a toss in 2-3 years, when their cheapo no-name is still running the same ROM, and a Silver or Nexus device has just gotten the very latest Android version (with some new suitably widely-advertised feature) as an OTA update.

      1. Lamont Cranston

        Re: storm in a tea-cup (@ M Gale)

        I'd contend that a great many people neither know, nor care, which version of Android their device is running. After 2-3 years, their contract renews, and they get a new handset from their network operator.

        Conversely, the subset of the population that posts on these forums, is probably very interested. Pop the Silver brand on a low end Galaxy, and ask me to pony up a few extra quid in return for a less shit phone - I'd be interested!

  18. Steve Todd

    It looks like the Nexus program

    But with more than one phone model at a time. They're not stopping the likes of Samsung or HTC putting their own skins on the system, but if they want to be involved in the Silver program then handsets that are part of it get clean Android builds.

  19. Ami Ganguli

    Well, the manufacturers could actually try adding value

    Here's a novel concept. Instead of trying to differentiate themselves merely through branding, the manufacturers could actually attempt to add real value to their products.

    Put another way: if your business is getting Foxconn to build a generic phones and putting Google software on it, then you don't deserve massive margins. If, on top of that, you actually degrade the performance of the phone with your "branding", then you're destroying value and deserve to lose money.

    There's plenty of room for a company like Samsung to do original R&D and push the limits of what a phone can be. Give me a lighter phone with a better display and longer battery life than your competitors and you'll deserve some extra margin. Better yet, come up with a new form of awesomenesss that I can't even imagine.

  20. Mage Silver badge

    What will happen next?

    A fork of Android. Isn't there already a phone with cynogen or whatever it's called preloaded?

    What Google control is Playstore and Android Apps. I don't believe they have lost control of them.

    Any non-Google Android can only succeed if it has the important basic applications at good quality.

  21. Arctic fox
    Headmaster

    Well, it was only a matter of time......

    ..........when Google would conclude that the tail was wagging the dog from their point of view.

    "Today they must be weighing their options – and the daunting cost of creating a joint competing brand to Google's Silver."

    In practice it is only Samsung that could do this (i.e. Fork Android and go it alone.). They are probably the only Android OEM with brand name recognition on the scale that would be necessary to take that step. Their "skin" (Touchwiz) is sufficiently "dense" that the visual change for the ordinary consumer would probably not be in any way "jarring" but there is, of course, a fly in that particular brand of ointment. If I may be permitted to quote/paraphrase a exhortation used by one of Bill Clinton's election advisers, "it's the apps, stupid". Indeed, Google Play is Mountain View's not so secret weapon when it comes to maintaining a firm grip on Sammy's organs of generation. As long as you do not have that kind of facility (Amazon was able to do it with its "Fire" range but Amazon has software and content coming out of its ears) you are stuffed.

    On a side note, if The Demon Spawn of Redmond, AKA M$ or Windoze (or whatever tired and unimaginative insults you can come up with) had announced plans to do this to their OEMs (or if they were to do so in future), what do you imagine would have been/will be posted on a thread like this one....hmm?

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Well, it was only a matter of time......

      I think you are probably correct with that prediction. Perhaps if Amazon, Samsung and Uncle Tom Cobbley could create a joint 'store', or at least a wholesale operation that served a bunch set of branded alternative Stores, then developers would only be to happy to sign up - provided it could demonstrate scale.

      Samsung alone ships > 100m Androids pa.

      1. dogged

        Re: Well, it was only a matter of time......

        Or maybe they could find somebody else to do the forking and host the appstore for them. Microsoft are (hilariously) in a position where they have both of these available.

        1. Getriebe

          Re: Well, it was only a matter of time......

          @dogged my thoughts also. And should Amaz, Sams, et al create another store they can hook into that.

          Irony much

    2. dogged

      Re: Well, it was only a matter of time......

      > On a side note, if The Demon Spawn of Redmond, AKA M$ or Windoze (or whatever tired and unimaginative insults you can come up with) had announced plans to do this to their OEMs (or if they were to do so in future), what do you imagine would have been/will be posted on a thread like this one....hmm?

      Disclaimer - I own and very much like a Lumia 920 running WP8.1

      However.. MS already do this. They (now) own Nokia. WP is not open and cannot be forked. The WP "experience" is pretty much the same on every WP device. In the pc/tablet space, they have the Signature program which sells machines with stock installs and no crapware.

      Google are late to this party.

    3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Well, it was only a matter of time......

      I'd much rather that "touchwiz" was an optional, uninstallable skin that could be installed (vendor locked) or uninstalled as desired. Same for the other manufacturer's launchers as well. If I never see another bit of "carrier" content again I'll be happy as well, I remember too many phones utterly ruined by the total trash that the networks put onto devices while simultaneously removing anything useful that competes.

      On a side note, if The Demon Spawn of Redmond, AKA M$ or Windoze (or whatever tired and unimaginative insults you can come up with) had announced plans to do this to their OEMs (or if they were to do so in future), what do you imagine would have been/will be posted on a thread like this one....hmm?

      To be honest, this Google plan doesn't sound very different to how MS currently operate with Windows Phone, so they'd be hard pushed to make such an announcement.

      While it is an extension of the Nexus devices, which in my opinion appear to be there to keep the other manufacturers on their toes, I'm not sure if this is going too far.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Well, it was only a matter of time......

        TouchWiz is more than just a home screen. Especially at the high end, it has a lot of other things under the hood that influence the UI. It's also where carriers tend to insert their custom programs so that rooting and using an AOSP-based ROM means you lose their functionality (thus why I'm back on TouchWiz on my S4--only way to get T-Mobile's Visual Voicemail and WiFi Calling).

        1. scarshapedstar

          Re: Well, it was only a matter of time......

          Yes, it's not just an ugly homescreen, it's also crippleware. Whee!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear!

    It looks like the notorious inablity of certain East Asian manufacturers to code is finally coming back to bite them in the ass!

  23. Steve Evans

    Much whining...

    Except does it actually stop Sammy or HTC making their next new phones?

    No.

    Will it give them stiffer competition, and possibly a bit of motivation to get updates out to their users a bit faster when Silver phones appear?

    Hopefully.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like the word play with "sliver" next to "silver" ... Makes me think that I'll start calling this the "Google Slither" ...

  25. John Styles

    Four legs good, two legs bad, four legs good, two legs bad. Baaaaaaa.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google and FOSS

    And when people tried to point out ages ago that Google were being control freaks and not sticking with the spirit of FOSS

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/googles-iron-grip-on-android-controlling-open-source-by-any-means-necessary/

    All the Fandroids could say was that it was Apple Fanbois or Windows Shills saying it

  27. Jess

    Can't they all just make their customisations into an app that is loaded onto vanilla android?

    Then there would be no issues, and anyone who didn't like it could uninstall.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      or uninstalled from the same

      see above.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      No. Because the customizations depend on under-the-hood Android features that CHANGE from version to version. Take the notification bar. KitKat (v4.4) changed the code up there (for efficiency reasons), in the process breaking every notification customization to date.

      So you see, they can't just make it a bolt-on because the bolt holes don't match each time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Or, as the rest of us call it, fragmentation.

  28. Roland6 Silver badge

    Silver = the gphone ?

    Reading the android police article, it would seem that Google's real target is the carriers, as per Apple with the iPhone.

    Google wants (and needs?) top end phones that run stock Android. As some have pointed out the Nexus range was more of a reference implementation than a high-end user experience. So the first thing seems to be to encourage players like Samsung & HTC to offer both their customised version of Android and stock Android on their high-end phones.

    Google can take these phones to the carriers and demand, like Apple, that they jump through hoops if they want the privilege of stocking these phones.

    I suspect the long-term game is to encourage the phone vendors (and networks) to only use stock Android. In some respects I see parallels with MS and the move from Win3 to Win95, with Win3 various third-parties successfully replaced Program Manager (easy to do as it was a separate exe), with Win95, Program Manager was fully integrated and so couldn't be replaced, thereby permitting MS to totally dictate the Windows user experience.

  29. genericallyloud

    Google left a huge hole here

    All Samsung has to do is stamp "Android Gold" on their packaging. They don't even have to do any marketing. It'll sit next to another phone that's only "Android Silver". Duh. Obvious choice.

  30. M Gale

    "There's more and more resemblance to Microsoft in the way it controls the PC experience every day. Best of luck [in the premium space], Google have won."

    So what you're saying is that if I grab copies of Windows and splatter them everywhere, buggering about with the source, the UI and default apps and not even asking Microsoft about it nor giving them a penny, the worst they are going to do is... refuse me the right to put a "Designed for Windows 95" sticker on the box?

    Don't be silly.

  31. goldcd

    Good.

    Maybe I'm alone here, but I've never bought a vendor's Android phone for their wonderful departure from the stock Android experience.

    I *like* the wide choice of hardware, designs, features (and therefore price-points) - but wish the damn software was aligned. Not even just that I don't like the 'tweaks', it's that these are then what delays the roll-out of the updates I actually do want.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm struggling with the nonsense in some of these comments!

    Android = As is Modified by Manufacturers and Service Providers.

    Android Nexus = Exists Already.

    Android Silver = New Nexus-Like Range of Phones.

    Nothing is being removed!

    Hopefully we'll get "Galaxy X" and "Galaxy X Silver" Variants of the same phone.

    I for one Celebrate this, for too long have I been limited to a single pure Nexus Phone.

    I have several friends who have reimaged their Sammy phones to get rid of slowness and bloatware, after they see how quick my Nexus is at the same tasks. I'm sure they too will welcome this new range too.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      It's not so much that anything's being removed but that Google's setting a VERY high bar for premium phones for the foreseeable future. Especially now in a more-security-conscious environment, getting first dibs on updates (and perhaps a guarantee on updates for as long as the phone can handle it as well) is going to be a selling point. It's going to make the likes of Samsung wonder if it's worth it to keep differentiating themselves anymore since not just their custom UIs but also their differentiating hardware means they can't just accept new versions of Android as easily as Google. EVERYTHING that's unique to them has to be tested and probably recoded with each new version. That's why there's a delay with manufacturers even for their carrier-free models. Since Google makes the final call on what makes a Silver phone, and as the article says, the specs are going to be very strict, which means there'll be no room for differentiation. And for the non-Google brands, differentiation is necessary for them to stand out. Otherwise, Google's brand will be what stands out, not theirs (Quick Quiz: Who actually makes the various Nexus devices for Google? See what I mean?)

  33. Bloodbeastterror

    "Animal Farm"?

    "Animal Farm... referring to the book by Orwell."

    Should I be insulted? Or should I feign astonishing ignorance and ask "Orwell...?"

    No, I think I'll go for "insulted". :-)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want an EU alternative to these US developed phone operating systems, I don't like being tied to google, apple or Microsoft...

    1. John Styles

      We had one of them

      Alas poor Symbian, we hardly knew ye.

  35. Tom 7 Silver badge

    If these are coming in around the $100 mark

    and you can get a cracking computer with phone attached for that nowadays. And if the specs are all open so they can be rooted safely then I wholeheartedly welcome it with CF-Auto-Root and a variety of other OS installs that dont sniff your underwear.

  36. Stuart Halliday

    Google is trying to do the right thing.

    Software and 3rd party developers would enjoy a far superior and cheaper platform. Users would be able to pick up any Tablet and just use it.

    Hardware Tablet developers would just have to concentrate on hardware design and not be bogged down by software fluff that may impress a corporate CEO but means nothing to their customers.

    Let's get back to hardware reliability and leave the software fixing to the people who care about fixing that.

    Surely everyone benefits?

  37. GaryDMN

    Google doesn't own Android, its open source

    Google has no control and hardly sells any real products, just services. Samsung and other that control 99% of the Android device market, have the resources to roll their own.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Google doesn't own Android, its open source

      But it's the SERVICES that make Android worth it. Without access to the Google Play Services and everything attached to it, what's the point? Last I checked, the only trusted supplier an Android device will accept (the one that's still allowed when "Allow Untrusted Sources" is unchecked) is Google Play. For the average Joe, Google Play is as important to the Android experience as the OS, and nothing we do will change that (Remember, you can't fix stupid).

  38. scarshapedstar

    Welp

    Maybe if the other OEMs didn't spend so much time licking carrier balls and churning out flawed phones with bootlocked straitjackets to hold in all the crapware and UI crippling, they wouldn't have to worry about Google saying "here's how you build a good phone, see?"

  39. Daniel Palmer

    Seems logical to me

    - Google has "ideal baseline standard" Nexus series of devices

    - People want a premium range of devices that have the features of the top end Samsung stuff but the same support directly from Google as the Nexus series

    - So Google creates Nexus++ and calls it Silver.

    Seems pretty simple to me. What isn't so clear is how el reg goes from those 3 basic points to:

    "Google wants Samsung to die. Google is playing out 1984! Android still not really open source".

    I'm not sure why Google would want Samsung to die. I'm sure that if Samsung want to join the Silver plan and produce hardware that ships Google's firmware Google would be very very pleased. That might even be the intention of doing this Silver thing in the first place.. I'm also not sure why people seem to bring up 1984 when trying to accuse Google of being evil. It's as if people have only ever read (maybe not even read, just heard about and skimmed the main plot from wikipedia) one book. Finally, you can go and download AOSP and it's all licensed with an open source license. There is no open source license that says you must give everyone access to your live git repo and also supply the source to all of your other programs (unless you link a GPL library..) as far as I know. I'm not even sure why that had to be brought up again in this story. Has anyone at the register actually tried to checkout the AOSP source?

  40. justwebware

    I have a Xoom 2 stuck forever on Ice Cream Sandwich. At least until I can work out how to put Ubuntu on it.

  41. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    how do you forge a silver bullet?

    Spray paint a lead one?

  42. br14a

    Simple enough. All Samsung has to do is license BlackBerry 10. Or buy the company.

    They get true differentiation from Android (i.e. a secure device) while maintaining the ability to run 99% of Android apps. And as it happens, in my subjective opinion, a cleaner and more usable UI.

  43. Roland6 Silver badge

    Shows Google has learnt from Apple; But has Microsoft?

    Jsut experiencing a slightly different twist on this.

    Whilst Google are keen to get vanilla Android on to top end third-party phones and for carriers to also not mess around with it, so that effectively they will have a set of phones that can truely be compared head to head with the iPhone and its ecosystem. Hence totally understandable, I find Microsoft's position and motives quite baffling.

    We've just had a load of stuff through from a local school about their new student computer/tablet scheme that is part of Microsoft's Shaping the Future program and is endorsed and supported by Toshiba. So it would seem a good opportunity (for MS and Toshiba) to showcase products?

    Well the MS endorsed tablet is a Toshiba WT-8 running Windows 8.1 Pro. Both it's specifications and reviews indicate that the user experience will be decidedly underwhelming and potentially worse than running Windows 7 on a Netbook, in part because they are expecting children to use a tablet and on-screen keyboard to access Office and other educational applications, which naturally are all desktop-oriented... I suspect the experience will be sufficient to get most school kids to want anything other than a Windows device. Which as I say I find baffling, unless MS is looking to exit the consumer market, like it helped Nokia to exit the mobile phone market...

  44. ATeal
    Thumb Up

    Good for Google

    Before you judge me hear me out.

    TOUCHWHIZZ sucks, Before my S4 I had a HTC Desire HD - it came with 2.2 and it wasn't some horrible mangled crippled 2.2, it had some HTCness to it, but it resembled Android.

    Naturally after a while I wanted Cyanogenmod because.... I'm not an idiot, updates, it was rooted anyway (droidwall FTW) why not change to Cyanogenmod.

    I never went back. I then get my S4 and unbox the lovely thing, pissed but happy, I'd glare at the full HD screens on my wall, then look at the same amount of pixels in such a tiny form factor.

    Touchwhizz made me almost cry, it was SLOWER than the HTC, and nasty and it whistled when I got a text and I just... hated it. Samsung, seriously if you read this STOP, please STOP! No one has ever gone "Oh no, I don't want that phone, I want the Samsung UI" EVER!

    Anyway, it's pretty hard to convert appletards to an S phone with THAT HORRIBLE crippled andoid on it. I do enjoy getting them to put Cyanogenmod and the appreciation I get for it though, but it'd be nice not to have to.

    "Try Linux but not ubuntu!" (Linux Mint MATE)

    "Try an S-phone, but not Touchwhizz!" (Cyanogenmod)

    Actually I think it was JellyTime for the DesireHD, anyway good stuff!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good for Google

      it's pretty hard to convert appletards

      And you call us a cult?

      OT, isn't this a tacit admission that Apple got it right and that fragmentation is actually an issue?

  45. Brainman

    Get S-Pen etc into native Android

    I want to see current propriety hardware such as the Samsung S-Pen stylus and some of the more esoteric sensors included into canonical Android so we can get better software support.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get S-Pen etc into native Android

      Forget it. Can you say "Trade Secrets"?

  46. Timpatco
    Linux

    Since Android (like iOS) is built on Unix it is perfectly feasible for Samsung to make or commission their own "Samdroid" and sideline Google altogether.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Trick is, when Android itself updates to, say, Licorice (just taking a stab here), then you get the fork problem. Samdroid would either have to look up the changes and see if it's possible to merge them in or go without. And remember, not being Silver, Samsung will be in the back of the line for those new features.

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