Why it makes sense that Huawei could make the next Nexus

Here’s an interesting rumor out of China: iSuppli researcher Kevin Yang posted on Weibo on Wednesday that Huawei will be making a Nexus device this coming fall. The post has since been deleted.

Huawei isn’t a household name in the United States, but it actually makes a good deal of sense that Google would contract with the Chinese electronics giant. Here’s why:

Huawei has promised its American phones will come with stock Android

Speaking to the Verge, Huawei’s consumer boss Richard Yu said that Huawei’s stateside phones will come with “stock Android” instead of Huawei’s version because “American consumers trust Google.”

“If you have a problem you can check with Google,” Yu told the Verge. That sounds a lot like Huawei phones will be able to tap into Google Play support, like the Device Assist app, which is only available for certain devices, such as the Nexus line, usually sold directly by Google.

In fact, given that Huawei seems so fixated on consumer cachet — Yu called Xiaomi a “low-end” brand — breaking into the American market with a device that can be purchased directly from Google seems like a good introduction to savvy consumers.

Huawei Mate 7

Huawei Mate 7

Huawei already makes expensive phones

Although Nexus devices from years past have been affordably priced, last year’s Nexus 9 tablet and Nexus 6 smartphone were priced at $399 and $649 respectively — as expensive as anything out there.

Huawei, as opposed to rivals like Xiaomi, makes expensive phones. Although it makes affordable devices too, it’s concerned with the high-end of the market. The Ascend Mate 7, Huawei’s flagship, costs as much as 3699 RMB ($590). If Google is still positioning Nexus devices as the best that Android can offer as well as developer devices, Huawei is a good fit.

Huawei is a big company, and would be able to handle a Nexus order — it shipped 75 million smartphones last year. It can certainly deliver premium fit and finish, judging by its new Android Wear smartwatch.

huawei watch official

Fingerprint scanners

At one point, the Motorola-made Nexus 6 was supposed to come with a fingerprint scanner in the place of the dimple in its back, but it was cut for some reason. There hasn’t been a recently released Motorola phone with a fingerprint scanner, probably because the available technology hasn’t been good enough. (You’d have to go back to the Atrix, which came out in 2011, to find one.)

Huawei-Ascend-Mate-7-fingerprint-01

Aside from Samsung and Apple, Huawei has done more with smartphone-mounted fingerprint scanning than any other smartphone maker. The Ascend Mate 7 has a fingerprint scanner on its back — close to where the Nexus 6 would have had one — and it’s pretty good. It doesn’t require users to swipe their fingers, instead, it only needs a tap, like Samsung’s new scanner and Apple’s Touch ID.

If Google is serious about mobile payments — and given the rumors about Android Pay and its recent purchase of Softcard, it certainly is — then it will need to introduce biometric security to more Android devices. This means that it’s a safe bet that the next Nexus will have a fingerprint scanner, and Huawei has proven it can provide one.

Why it might not happen

Huawei designs its own ARM-based processors, which are named Kirin. Although Android is designed to work on top of all sorts of chips, it’s difficult to imagine that Google’s next developer device would eschew a Qualcomm chip, which has been the go-to supplier for years.

It also seems a bit early for Google to be locking down Nexus suppliers. The first murmurs about Motorola making the Nexus 6 surfaced last July, after Google’s annual developer’s conference.

Also remember that Google was rumored previously to be working on a “Silver” line of devices with Google support and stock Android. Although that plan seems to have been scrapped, there’s still a chance that Huawei’s new device could be one of many Google-directed phones and tablets coming out this fall.

Yep, Google wants to be a mobile carrier — again

It’s a new year, which means we’re all ready for a new round of speculation that Google will become a mobile carrier. Right on cue, The Information’s Amir Efrati published a report saying Google will shortly begin offering its own mobile plans by becoming a mobile virtual network operator – a network-less service provider that buys capacity on another carrier’s infrastructure.

I’m not trying to bust Efrati’s chops – well, maybe a little – as he’s rarely wrong, but this is a story that’s been ‘evolving’ for the better part of the decade. Last year, The Information reported very much the same story with a few details changed. At that time Google was in discussions with [company]Verizon[/company] and [company]Sprint[/company] to use their networks. Today the discussions are with Sprint and [company]T-Mobile[/company] and the effort has a code name, “Nova.”

One other new detail of significance: Efrati reports that Google views this project as an “experiment” aimed at challenging the status quo in the U.S. mobile industry. That’s an interesting thing to note because there’s definitely precedent for Google monkeying around with the industry to get carriers to change their behavior.

In 2008, [company]Google[/company] entered the 700 MHz spectrum auction bidding right alongside Verizon for airwaves that would eventually become the foundation of Big Red’s LTE networks. Google readily admitted it didn’t want to win that spectrum and become a 4G service provider. It just wanted to force the eventual winner beyond a price threshold that would ensure those airwaves would be open to any device or application. The ploy worked.

As I’ve stated on many forums I really doubt Google has any interest in becoming a full-fledged mobile carrier. I’m not saying it’s outside the realm of possibility – Google had done far crazier things, such as Project Loon. I’ve even written posts speculating what a potential “Google Wireless” might look like. And sure, I could definitely see Google trying to temporarily shake things up in the industry, as the Information suggests, with a new approach to the technology and business model of wireless (it’s doing much the same thing with Google Fiber). But in the long-term, selling minutes and gigabytes, climbing towers and fielding phone calls from irate customers is not the kind of utility business Google wants to be in.

Who knows? After years of rumors and speculation, maybe this is what Google Wireless was always meant to be: a virtual carrier selling time on someone else’s network (perhaps with a little added help from hopped-up Wi-Fi hotspots in Google Fiber markets). It’s definitely more feasible then some of the other rumors like Google buying T-Mobile or purchasing its own spectrum.

Or this could just be another red herring. At this point I suspect the tech media wants Google to become a mobile carrier much more than Google does.

 

Analyst predicts 2014 A7 Apple TV, future in set-top boxes

This year has seen many product refreshes for Apple (a aapl) — including the super high-end Mac Pro — but the Apple TV system has been suspiciously absent from the proceedings. But it’s coming soon, if an analyst report spotlighted by 9to5Mac is on target. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that in 2014, Apple TV will use an A7 chip, but that the long-term goal is a set-top box in 2015 or 2016. Both products are reasonably predictable — the A7 upgrade is an easy one to make, and Apple already has patents for a set-top box in place — so it’s worth keeping in mind.