Android One vs Android Silver vs Google Nexus

At Google's June I/O keynote Sundar Pichai introduced Android One, an affordable smartphone solution that will help Google extend Android's reach into new markets, allowing it to connect the next billion users. But Google already has an affordable Nexus line, and rumours are heating up over Android Silver, so what exactly is the difference between Google's three smartphone lines? Also see: 5 most exciting announcements from Google I/O 2014

What is Android One?

Android One is a list of competitive specifications that will allow any OEM to build at low cost affordable smartphones with up-to-date hardware. These devices will run stock Android and receive updates direct from Google, although vendors can add their own apps if they choose.

In removing part of the hardware research and software development Google hopes to encourage smartphone (and therefore Android) uptake in new markets. Android One will launch first in India - a product launch is planned for 15 September - and Google has already teamed up with Karbonn, Spice and Micromax to build affordable Android One handsets.

Pichai spoke of a device from Micromax with a 4.5in screen, dual-SIM slots, an FM radio and SD card support. That phone cost less than $100 to make.

Android One in essence sets a minimum standard for the very cheapest Android devices, ensuring that Google's software is able to run the way it expects it to, and importantly with full access to Google Play.

Apple has long been applauded for its skill in controlling both the hardware and software of its products, and it seems Google has finally taken note. If it wants to create the best experience for consumers then both the hardware and the software must be up to scratch.

What is Android Silver?

Before we talk about Android Silver it's worth noting that Google has not officially confirmed its existence, and that all we know about Android Silver is based on rumours and speculation. Also see: Android Silver: Nexus devices could be history 

Whereas Android One is a set of minimum specifications for the cheapest Android devices, Android Silver is thought to be a set of specifications that the very best Android devices must adhere to in order to get Google's stamp of approval.

The great number of smartphones on the market means choosing a device can be difficult for less tech-savvy consumers. By controlling both the hardware and the software Google will be able to, like Apple, ensure that all devices are up to scratch. With Android One and Android Silver Google could simplify the situation further, helping you choose a great phone whatever your budget.

As with Android One devices, we expect Google will roll out Android updates to approved Silver devices. Android One and Android Silver together should help Google address criticism over Android fragmentation, with only 20.9 percent of users running KitKat as of 12 August (13.6 percent are still running Gingerbread!).

We don't know what Google will demand of manufacturers producing Android Silver devices, although we expect to see at least a full-HD screen, a quad-core processor and 16GB of storage.

What is Google Nexus?

Google Nexus is the product line we know most about, with its Nexus 7 - now a year old - still the best small-screen tablet you can buy, and its Nexus 5 smartphone is still at number four in our list of the 37 best smartphones of 2014. Even the Nexus 10 is an amazing device, although it's been out of stock at Google Play for some time now.

Google Nexus devices are subsidised by Google to encourage uptake of the Android operating system and media sales through its Google Play content store. In purchasing a Nexus device you are able to get a premium device at a mid-range price. Plus, Google guarantees that all new operating system updates will be automatically rolled out to its Nexus devices - no other phone or tablet manufacturer is willing to offer this lifetime guarantee for its products.

Many have speculated that Android One and Android Silver spell the end for Google Nexus. We disagree. Google will this autumn launch its biggest ever mobile OS update in Android L, and it needs a stunning new device to be the vehicle on which to showcase it.

And while it might not update the already very good Nexus 7, rumours about a new Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 8 tablet are spreading like wildfire.

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