Here’s an interesting rumor out of China: iSuppli researcher Kevin Yang posted on Weibo on Wednesday that Huawei will be making a Nexus device this coming fall. The post has since been deleted.
Huawei isn’t a household name in the United States, but it actually makes a good deal of sense that Google would contract with the Chinese electronics giant. Here’s why:
Huawei has promised its American phones will come with stock Android
Speaking to the Verge, Huawei’s consumer boss Richard Yu said that Huawei’s stateside phones will come with “stock Android” instead of Huawei’s version because “American consumers trust Google.”
“If you have a problem you can check with Google,” Yu told the Verge. That sounds a lot like Huawei phones will be able to tap into Google Play support, like the Device Assist app, which is only available for certain devices, such as the Nexus line, usually sold directly by Google.
In fact, given that Huawei seems so fixated on consumer cachet — Yu called Xiaomi a “low-end” brand — breaking into the American market with a device that can be purchased directly from Google seems like a good introduction to savvy consumers.
Huawei already makes expensive phones
Although Nexus devices from years past have been affordably priced, last year’s Nexus 9 tablet and Nexus 6 smartphone were priced at $399 and $649 respectively — as expensive as anything out there.
Huawei, as opposed to rivals like Xiaomi, makes expensive phones. Although it makes affordable devices too, it’s concerned with the high-end of the market. The Ascend Mate 7, Huawei’s flagship, costs as much as 3699 RMB ($590). If Google is still positioning Nexus devices as the best that Android can offer as well as developer devices, Huawei is a good fit.
Huawei is a big company, and would be able to handle a Nexus order — it shipped 75 million smartphones last year. It can certainly deliver premium fit and finish, judging by its new Android Wear smartwatch.
At one point, the Motorola-made Nexus 6 was supposed to come with a fingerprint scanner in the place of the dimple in its back, but it was cut for some reason. There hasn’t been a recently released Motorola phone with a fingerprint scanner, probably because the available technology hasn’t been good enough. (You’d have to go back to the Atrix, which came out in 2011, to find one.)
Aside from Samsung and Apple, Huawei has done more with smartphone-mounted fingerprint scanning than any other smartphone maker. The Ascend Mate 7 has a fingerprint scanner on its back — close to where the Nexus 6 would have had one — and it’s pretty good. It doesn’t require users to swipe their fingers, instead, it only needs a tap, like Samsung’s new scanner and Apple’s Touch ID.
If Google is serious about mobile payments — and given the rumors about Android Pay and its recent purchase of Softcard, it certainly is — then it will need to introduce biometric security to more Android devices. This means that it’s a safe bet that the next Nexus will have a fingerprint scanner, and Huawei has proven it can provide one.
Why it might not happen
Huawei designs its own ARM-based processors, which are named Kirin. Although Android is designed to work on top of all sorts of chips, it’s difficult to imagine that Google’s next developer device would eschew a Qualcomm chip, which has been the go-to supplier for years.
It also seems a bit early for Google to be locking down Nexus suppliers. The first murmurs about Motorola making the Nexus 6 surfaced last July, after Google’s annual developer’s conference.
Also remember that Google was rumored previously to be working on a “Silver” line of devices with Google support and stock Android. Although that plan seems to have been scrapped, there’s still a chance that Huawei’s new device could be one of many Google-directed phones and tablets coming out this fall.