Android Silver: everything you need to know about Google’s upcoming range of premium smartphones

UPDATE: LG is set to make the first Android Silver handset, expected in 2015

Google’s Nexus range is reportedly on the way out and will be replaced by “Android Silver”. Silver won’t be a range as such, but more a set of hardware and software standards set by Google – if a device meets those standards, it’ll be considered an Android Silver device and can be sold as such. Here's everything we know – or think we know – so far about Google's next range of devices.

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The idea is to deliver a premium Android experience

Unlike the rigidly-controlled iOS, Android is a highly fractured platform – hardware ranges from low to high-powered and build quality ranges from cheaply put together to highly engineered, there are several different versions of the operating system knocking around, and on top of that many manufacturers are laying their own Android UI (Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense are examples) on top of the stock Google version.

Android Silver will be a “seal of quality” that signifies premium hardware, premium build quality, a more unified Android UI, fewer pre-installed non-Google apps, and timely delivery of OS updates. It’s Google’s way of keeping a measure of control over Android, and of telling consumers: “If you buy this tablet or smartphone, you’re getting a top notch, uncluttered Android experience”.

It won’t be a one-manufacturer, one-device approach

With Nexus devices, Google has work with one manufacturer per year, per device: one phone, one small tablet, one large tablet. But Silver is different: as long as they’re willing to follow’s Google’s rules, pretty much any manufacturer can take part, which will mean dozens of different Silver devices being produced per year.

That’s a good thing for the consumer, as it means there should be a wide choice of reasonably-priced high performance Android devices year after year. LG and Motorola are strongly tipped to be working on Silver devices already which, given both companies' strong ties with Google, makes a lot of sense.

Updated 19/05/14: Prolific leaker @evleaks claims that LG will be the first out of the gate with an Android Silver device, which will feature a Qualcomm MSM8994 processor (reportedly the 64-bit Snapdragon 810). It's set to appear on the Sprint network in the US, though whether it's an exclusive has yet to be revealed. 

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More after the break...

Manufacturers will get incentives to make Android Silver devices

You might ask why Samsung, HTC or any number of well-regarded brands would want to tie themselves into Google’s standards for Android. Well, if a company decides to make an Android Silver device, Google will help out with development and marketing costs and ensure software updates are delivered quickly. Silver phones will also be displayed in special kiosks in shops.

So there are good reasons for a manufacturer to make Silver devices – but of course that doesn’t mean all of a manufacturer’s Android phones have to conform to Silver, and we’re sure some manufacturers – Samsung springs to mind – will prefer to go it entirely alone rather than toeing the Silver line. In fact, rumour has it Samsung’s increasing market share in the Android space has been a chief driving force behind Google implementing the Silver programme: Google wants to wrest control of its OS from Samsung.

But I liked Nexus!

Us too, man… us too. Android Silver might mean the death of the Nexus range, but Google probably isn’t going to stop ensuring the availability of affordable, well-made, high-end Android phones. The company still wants to tempt users away from iOS and Windows Phone, and the best way to do that is to ensure there are cheap but powerful Android devices around. Android Silver might even mean there are more of them, in fact.

It probably isn’t coming this year

While Google hasn’t announced a launch date for the first series of Android Silver phones and tablets (in fact, it hasn’t even confirmed the existence of Android Silver at all), it’s likely that we’ll see one last lot of Nexus-branded devices first. So that points to 2015 as the jumping-off point for Silver.

We’ll be updating this story as more information on Android Silver emerges, so stay tuned.

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