The last Nexus phone to grace Verizon Wireless in the U.S. was nearly two years ago with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which was announced and launched exclusively for the CDMA carrier in the U.S. until Google began selling the GSM version straight from its Google Play Store and a Sprint version was released a few months later. At the time of announcement, Google made a big deal about partnering with the carrier with the largest LTE data network. However, the phone took nearly two months from announcement to get to Verizon stores and the phone that finally appeared was not the phone Nexus fans were expecting with Google Wallet notably absent and updates to the phone being subject to Verizon testing instead of simply being pushed from Google. The phone also included two Verizon apps, which many considered to be bloatware and inconsistent with a Nexus experience. This led many Verizon Nexus purchasers to question whether or not this version of the Galaxy Nexus was even a Nexus phone at all. Many took the delay, lack of Wallet, lack of updates, and inclusion of bloatware as chinks in the relationship between Google and Verizon and showed Verizon had the upper hand in dictating what this Nexus was going to be instead of Google. Verizon, by nature of CDMA technology and its own desire to control what uses their network, prefers being more closed off and controlling, which goes against Google’s desire to be open and free to provide the experience it wants to deliver. When the next Nexus, LG’s Nexus 4, was announced for GSM only with no CDMA variants to speak of, many saw this as the final piece of evidence to confirm their theory: Google hates Verizon and CDMA. Is this true? All signs clearly point in that direction, but the truth isn’t always so clear if we take a look at the strong relationship between Verizon and Motorola, which is now owned by Google.
There is no doubt that the relationship between Motorola and Verizon is a strong one ever since the two partnered up together to launch the Droid campaign back in October 2009 with the original Droid, which made Android synonymous with the Droid name until Samsung took the crown with its Galaxy line. Ever since the original Droid, Verizon and Motorola continued to release Droid phones with Droid X, Bionic, and the Razr and Razr HD line. This relationship continues to be strong even now that Google has bought Motorola. If rumors are true, Motorola and Verizon are gearing up to release a new line of Droid phones for 2013 with the Droid Mini, Droid Ultra, and Droid Maxx. In addition, Motorola’s Moto X is also destined to be released on Verizon’s network later in August. Given Moto X’s mid-tier specs, many rumors also speculate there will be another Motorola phone with higher specs to be released later in the fall. One could say the relationship between Verizon and Google has never been stronger through their relationship with Motorola with possibly five phones being released this year. So what is the problem between Verizon and Google that precludes the existence of a new Nexus device for Verizon’s networks?
The most logical explanation for the lack of a new Nexus device on Verizon can simply be seen as a business decision on Google’s part. Verizon is definitely the largest carrier in the U.S. but Google is an international company and looking to create a device that will have the most appeal and reach. There is no secret hate between Verizon and Google over the Galaxy Nexus. Put simply, Verizon just does not fit into the way Google currently develops and distributes hardware, which has shifted from being sold through carriers to being sold independently online through Google’s Play Store. The current Nexus strategy has one phone release per year and since only hardcore Android enthusiasts even consider a Nexus phone, the phone’s best chance at maximizing its sales is by catering to the biggest audience. In terms of the world, GSM is that largest audience, which explains why Google’s recent Nexus devices are all for GSM. This doesn’t explain why a Nexus device can’t have a universal radio that supports both GSM and CDMA technology similar to the iPhone and other world phones though. However, I believe the main reason why Google has avoided this is to keep the cost of their devices low and pass on the savings to consumers. The Nexus devices are the most inexpensive devices for what they offer, a 16 GB Nexus 4 being sold for $349 off contract compared to $600+ for other off contract phones. In order to offer the phone at a low price, Google has made some concessions in terms of hardware, including the lack of LTE and a universal radio.
Is all hope lost for Nexus devices on Verizon? The simple answer is no… in the long run. In a few years, Verizon and other CDMA networks will fully adopt LTE for both voice and data. This will eliminate the need for a CDMA radio for voice and 3G data. In fact, Verizon is already looking to release LTE-only phones by late 2014 once Voice Over LTE has fully rolled out. It will only be a matter of time before it makes sense to release a new Nexus device that is compatible with Verizon’s network. Or, perhaps, it’s the other way around: It’s only a matter of time before Verizon’s network has evolved to support a new Nexus device. Of course, there is always a chance that Google will partner with Verizon again to release another Nexus device on the network this year since many Galaxy Nexus purchasers are coming up to the end of their two year contract. It would behoove Verizon and Google to provide these consumers with a worthy upgrade option although many have already moved on to the Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 2, or simply off of Verizon’s network in search of lower prices and better access to devices.
A Nexus device on Verizon isn’t beyond impossible, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see one for another couple of years once LTE networks have advanced and LTE hardware becomes cheaper. The absence of a Nexus device on Verizon is not because Google hates Verizon. In fact, Google’s relationship with Verizon is still strong through their partnership with Motorola. The lack of a Nexus device on Verizon is simply a result of Google’s current Nexus strategy that caters to maximum market penetration and low cost. As for me, I’m still looking for a viable replacement for my Verizon Galaxy Nexus. I’m not quite willing to jump to a new network yet since I am enjoying the perks of unlimited data. Perhaps I will jump the gun and try a skinned phone again. The HTC One and Moto X are my top choices right now, but I may try to hold out even longer since neither quite fit the bill. Are any of you on Verizon and waiting for a new Nexus device? Or perhaps you already updated to a newer phone? Were you on Verizon and chose to jump ship? If so, what phone did you go with? Chime in in the comments below or on Google+ here!