If true, the latest rumors on the next-generation Google-branded Nexus Android smartphone could be a device that will be well-integrated with Google’s emerging Google+ social networking service, which is currently in beta. News that Google may be following in HTC’s footsteps in launching a social networking oriented Android smartphone comes from an anonymous source who claims to have obtained his information from a Google employee and has since posted this information to Facebook on the Google+ page.
Integration a smartphone with a social network–given the rise and pervasiveness of social networking sites–is nothing new. Android can automatically pull contacts from Facebook and can integrate with Twitter, and iOS is now providing deep Twitter integration with iOS 5. Palm’s Synergy engine was perhaps the first one of the gate to announce a consolidated synchronization engine for webOS, which has since been acquired by Hewlett-Packard. Additionally, HTC is launching its Cha Cha smartphone as the HTC Status, which is an Android smartphone with a front-facing QWERTY keyboard and design styling reminiscent of the original European edition (not the Sprint version) of the HTC Hero, as the HTC Status on AT&T with a dedicated Facebook button so consumers can quickly view and update their Facebook feeds.
Likewise, it seems that Google will be following the Status route with its new social networking. The rumors would have Google leveraging the brand power of its mobile Android smartphone platform, along with the Nexus brand, in a device that would integrate a ‘G+’ button as one of Android’s navigation button. Currently, on a Nexus smartphone, we have buttons–capacitive touch buttons located just below the display–for search, back, menu, and home, and it’s unclear if Google will augment those four buttons with a Google+ button or if it will replace one of those buttons with a G+ button.
The rumor also posits that the device–perhaps to be called the Nexus Prime–will also be made by HTC, the purveyor of the current ‘Facebook phone’ known as the HTC Status and the HTC Cha Cha.
While anything is possible at this time, there are still three reasons why a Google+ Nexus Prime may not happen:
First, Google’s development and product teams don’t necessarily work together. Given the early stages of Google+ as a social network and platform, it is perhaps still to early to integrate the ‘beta’ product into Android.
Second, the Nexus branding is more geared towards developer. A Google+ phone may be geared towards consumers. Combining the two may be a cause of dissonance. Google had initially defined the Nexus brand as a phone that will help set the tone for Android hardware development. As such, a Google+ smartphone would not do that; it would merely only pre-load the social networking experience onto the device out of the box, and not lead the development cycle in terms of CPU clock speeds and cores, display sizes and technologies, screen resolution, memory and storage, and other factors.
And third, unless Google+ really takes off, a Nexus-branded Google+ phone may be doomed to failure as the strength of any social network is in the number of members. For a Google+ phone to take off, the service will need to add more active members.
The rumor of the Google+ phone made no mention of the Android operating system, though it’s widely believed that the next Nexus will usher in the next generation of Android OS, called Ice Cream Sandwich, which will begin to merge Android Honeycomb with Android Gingerbread and be a universal platform for smartphones and tablets.