Google is reportedly working on a programme that would give certain Android devices a special "silver" status which would involve giving them additional promotion and various points of sale, as well as access to a special aftersales support channel. The catch is that devices would have to be running stock Android with minimal to no customisation, and manufacturers would have to agree to several other conditions.
Rumours of the programme, currently known as Android Silver and first described by news website Android Police, have picked up steam with fresh reports by TechCrunch and The Information. Both sources describe an expanded lineup of devices much like the current Google-sponsored Nexus series, with a focus on promoting less-popular manufacturers who do not use elaborate customised Android UI skins.
The move is seen as an effort to balance the Android market, which is now heavily skewed in Samsung's favour. It would also help potential customers become familiar with the stock Android experience. Google has made several other moves in the recent past to combat Android fragmentation and rein in the drastic changes Samsung, Sony, HTC and others have made to their Android devices.
The supposed Android Silver program would promote only five devices at any time, and ensure that customers are exposed to conforming products, especially at retail locations such as carrier outlets where Samsung and others typically have huge branded sections and sales staff. Google would presumably commit to a large promotional budget for Android Silver devices.
Google will reportedly seek to control many aspects of such products, including the Android version and number of third-party apps that are preinstalled. Customers would be guided through device setup, especially the creation of a Google account and a demonstration of the Google Play app store. Dedicated staff would be appointed for the Android Silver selection, and additional services could also include migrating data from an older phone at the time of purchase.
Another rumoured component of the Android Silver programme is a dedicated channel for anytime-anywhere customer support, possibly in the form of a Google+ Hangout. Customers would be able to get help directly from a trained Google staffer familiar with the device in question.
Android Police also describes a "Never Lost" service that would help customers locate a lost or stolen phone, wipe it remotely, back up data, get directions to its location, and check its current battery status. Many of these features already exist, but would potentially be brought under a new branding.
A programme such as the proposed Android Silver would definitely give Google a degree of control over the market that is currently dominated by a few companies which have enormous promotional budgets. Google often tweaks the conditions its Android partners must adhere to, such as a recent move to include prominent Android branding on devices' boot screens.
It is unlikely that Samsung, Sony, LG or HTC would apply to participate in such a programme, unless they create special devices for it, which has been the case so far with products sold under Google's Nexus brand and the Google Play Edition effort. TechCrunch suggests that Google could also specifically fund research and development for individual products, especially ones with unique features such as a waterproof coating.
It is not known if or when the Android Silver programme could see the light of day, and in which countries it would apply.