Google Exec Hints at Why Nexus One Was Leapfrogged by HTC Incredible, Evo 4G

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-05-26 Print this article Print

Google Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra is a busy man.

Just days of after eviscerating Apple for being a closed company at Google I/O in San Francisco, Gundotra graced the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City for a mobile panel.

Panel host Michael Arrington didn't grill Gundotra on his aggressive stance versus Apple, which is rare for Google execs who usually prefer to let their technology do the talking.

Yet the panel, which I covered here, was still interesting. Gundotra shed some light on why Google's Nexus One ship has sailed from the Webstore.

The backstory: Verizon and and Sprint both declined to offer the Nexus One because they had more advanced devices in the pipeline (HTC Incredible for Verizon, HTC Evo 4G for Sprint). Both are Android 2.1-based like the Nexus One but are more, shall I say progressive, in different ways.

Google then said it would stop selling the Nexus One from its Webstore because, well, no one was buying it there. Turned out people wanted to touch the phones.

Now back to Gundotra, whose comments at Disrupt underscore the fall of the Nexus One:

"In the 20 years that I've been doing software, I've never seen a rate of innovation like we're seeing now. These mobile phones, what's happening to them is staggering. It seems like they're completely leapfrogged within a quarter."

But here's the comment that I believe captures exactly how Google views what happened with the Nexus One, even if this isn't the public company line:

You have a phone you think is world-class and within a quarter the next-generation phone has an HD camera, it's got a faster processor, it's got a bigger screen..."

Now as far as I can tell, the Incredible one uses the same Qualcomm 1GHz processor as the Nexus One, but the Incredible has an 8-megapixel camera and HTC Sense. So does the Evo, which also boasts a bigger screen, at 4.3 inches.

The Nexus One boasts 5 megapixels, has no Sense and a screen size of 3.7 inches, which is commendable, but seems pedestrian next to the Evo.

Taken together, these advancements are why neither Verizon nor Sprint want to sell the Nexus One. They have the Incredible and forthcoming Evo 4G, respectively, to look forward to hawking.

Even more telling is that Gundotra said his current mobile phone is the Incredible, which is interesting to me considering he used Nexus Ones exclusively in demos of Android 2.2 at I/O. He also has aN Evo 4G, which his wife took from him.

What does the future hold for Android smartphones? Gundotra said phones will act like a "personal agent centered around you, that knows where you're at, that gives you contextually-aware information."

That speaks to the human intent searches users will be able to do on Android devices in the future. Apple acquired Siri for such intents technology.

And that's clearly where we're going. I think what happens though is people overestimate what's possible in a year and underestimate what's really going to happen in 5 years.

Accordingly, it will be physically and fiscally impossible for any Android smartphone to sell as well as the current X generation Apple iPhone because Android innovation is happening so darn fast.

Google's model of innovating and iterating early and often certainly holds for Android smartphone software.

Just check out the Android 2.2 features for proof.

Moreover, Android 2.3, AKA Gingerbread, is baking in the oven as I write this.

So the Nexus One isn't a failure so much as a casualty of the success of the next wave of Android smartphones. In a few months, I'm sure we'll be saying the same things about the Incredible and the Evo 4G.

The most successful Android phones will likely ship right before the holidays. Just look how well the Motorola Droid did last November.

And these are just the smartphones. Wait til the Google Android tablets and Google TVs roll out this year. |

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