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Android this week: $399 Galaxy Nexus; Metro UI vs Android; Kindle Fire rules

Next week the talk of the Android(s goog) world is likely to be Samsung’s new Galaxy S III, but this week kicked off with a $399 Galaxy Nexus. The GSM handset — which works on both T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s(s t) voice and data networks — is now available directly from Google. The company added a new Devices tab to the Google Play website where people can purchase the Android 4.0 smartphone.

Google attempted direct smartphone sales in January of 2010 with its Nexus One phone, but the effort wasn’t a raging success in the U.S. where carriers have the upper hand. The operators pay a large portion of the device cost directly to the handset maker and then make up the difference (and more) in lengthy voice and data plan contracts. Google has no wireless service to offer, so at that time, the $529 Nexus One was typically bought by geeks such as myself. (I still have the phone and I certainly got my money’s worth out of it.)

At $399, the Galaxy Nexus might gain a little more traction with mainstream consumers, but it’s likely that the same geeks interested in the prior model are the bigger audience. The phone appeals because of it’s dual-network capability, pure Android 4.0 experience and — perhaps most importantly — isn’t controlled by the carriers. Google will push software updates direct to the GSM Galaxy Nexus, meaning they’ll be sent quicker as there is no carrier testing or customization involved. The phone also includes Google Wallet pre-installed; notable as Verizon’s(s vz)(s vod) Galaxy Nexus handset doesn’t support the service.

While folks debate if the Nexus is a good deal at $399, another debate is rising: Will Microsoft(s msft) be successful with its Metro UI? The answer to that question could affect Android device sales in the future. Microsoft is following Apple’s(s aapl) lead with a more consistent user experience between traditional and mobile computing.

Apple is bringing iOS elements and mobile data into Mac OS X while Microsoft is using the Metro UI — first seen on Windows Phone — to Windows 8. That could create a halo-like effect for Windows users who turn to Windows Phone in lieu of Android. Google still has an opportunity to merge systems of its own: ChromeOS is still maturing and Google could work to do some merging between it and Android. I’ll be looking to Google’s I/O developer conference next month to look for clues that might suggest just such a strategy.

Speaking of strategy, Amazon’s(s amzn) seems to be working well when it comes to Android. The Kindle Fire is reportedly outselling all other Android tablets combined. That’s an amazing feat for a device that’s roughly 6 months old.

The data hit this week from ComScore, with Amazon accounting for an estimated 54.4 percent of all Android tablet sales in the U.S. Part of the reason has to be the low $199 cost, while another is the lack of a monthly data plan needed, since the Kindle Fire is a Wi-Fi only device. And the range of easy-to-access content is a another likely factor. It may not be a pure tablet to some, but for many, the Kindle Fire is the only Android tablet they need.

10 Responses to “Android this week: $399 Galaxy Nexus; Metro UI vs Android; Kindle Fire rules”

  1. Intovable

    Why would “OS loyalty” be important? I choose whatever current OS best fits my needs. Survival of the fittest, reward innovation. Or does your iPhone run on CPM?

  2. AngryBeards

    “Microsoft is following Apple’s lead with a more consistent user experience between traditional and mobile computing.”

    Ahhh, Kevin… I remember when you quit your day job to blog full time with JKOTR. We were all holding our breaths, hoping that you’d make it. Who knew that you could make a living blogging but do such a TERRIBLE JOB OF THE WORK?

    The modern desktop operating system experience has evolved and equilibrated to some moderate level of skeuomorphism, and both Microsoft and Apple’s DESKTOP products are roughly equivalent in this. In contrast, iOS is almost COMPLETELY invested in skeuomorphic user experience for the purpose of “story telling”, whereas the Metro UI in Windows 8 (as a reflection of the underlying Metro design language) is not only TOTALLY ANTITHETICAL to skeuomorphism but also intentionally deprecates suggestive visual cues in favor of promoting content.

    In other words, iOS and Mac OS X are NOT AT ALL consistent (being vastly differentiated in their adherence to skeuomorphic philosophy) whereas Microsoft is integrating its anti-skeuomorphic mobile operating system alongside its traditional desktop experience. Simply put, Mac OS and iOS are totally different and incompatible user experiences, whereas Windows 8 will provide in its mobile products a PROPER subset of the desktop user experience. Thus, not only did Apple not lead in the way that you suggested, but Microsoft is actually doing something perhaps providing something more useful than mere “consistency”.

    Those of us ethical types who value truth, integrity, and the protection of the uneducated consumers don’t say anything until we know what we’re talking about. Apparently, you can’t afford to do that because you’re being paid to write, but not write well or know what you’re talking about it.

    • Maximilian Harris

      Have you seen the plans for Mountain Lion, announced like 4 months ago? Just saying it looks like Apple IS trying to merge OSX and iOS.

  3. Current Nexus One owner myself and I just ordered the Google Nexus on Thursday. The extra $100 is worth it just so I don’t have to deal with the carrier added software that can’t be installed. It just gets in the way. Also, Google has been good about updates to my Nexus One. I have another AT&T (company owned) phone, the is still running FROYO since AT&T hasn’t bothered to push out an update. Also, if you are doing any Android development, the Google phone is the way to go.

  4. “consider any other touch screen phone that’s not an iphone a ‘droid’.”

    Uh, that pretty much would be the DEFINITION of a lack of OS loyalty!…

  5. i won a small cell phone store. although my customers like fast phones with big screens, great media experience, apps, etc. they are not at all geeks and not really know much terminology when it comes to phone OS’s

    a funny thing has been happening:

    people are calls their new windows phones ‘androids’ or ‘droids.;

    the term ‘droid’ has come to mean large touch screen smartphone with apps and media capabilities. i have even heard people talk about their new ‘microsoft droid’

    i main thing i take out of this is that there is little to no OS loyalty among android users, and they wil switch to another platform in a heartbeat.

    • trob6969

      “Android users have little to no OS loyalty”?! That’s what you get from customers referring to other phones as ‘droids’? Not at all. The people saying that are those who simply don’t know much about smartphones and due to Android’s growing popularity, consider any other touch screen phone that’s not an iphone a ‘droid’. It has nothing to do with a lack of OS loyalty.