A rumor is circling the Internet this afternoon, alleging that Google is working with carriers to provide an “Android Silver” program. The scope of the purported plan is to set aside floorspace in stores for a kiosk, wherein the carriers would house what amounts to Google Play Edition devices. Store personnel would also have to be specially trained to sell these devices.
For all intents and purposes, it’s as if Google wants to create an Apple Store experience inside of carrier stores. The information notes that there would be a MayDay type service in which customers could get 24/7 video chat access to a Google representative, and store personnel would help customers set up their device. To further round out the overarching goals with this one, users could get an immediate, emergency replacement device right form the store if their were lost or stolen, or you know -- just broken.
The case for this program is solid. Android needs (and has been getting) some branding help of late, with Google putting a “Powered by Android” tag on the bottom of the boot animation on many devices. Making Android a household name would detract from the runaway success many skinned devices like those from Samsung have. From the stance of an Android purist, this is highly desirable.
There are also a lot of reasons this seems far-fetched. Store real-estate is likely not going to be easy to come by, with Apple and Samsung both vying for space on the sales floor. There is also Google’s tenuous history with carriers, especially the largest one in Verizon. The Silver program is also said to be for devices “running the latest version of Android with little or no customizations”. Basically, Google wants GPE or Nexus devices in-store. The slides suggest Google would pick out the "five best Android devices from top OEMs". Not only does that insist that pure Android (or close to it) is somehow the best, it insists that Google is playing favorites amongst their partners.
It sounds great, but do you think stores will want to specially train staff to sell these devices? If you go into an AT&T store at 8:30pm, and no “Silver Staff” are there, are you out of luck on that One (M8) GPE you want? The idea of getting a near stock Android device in-store is nice, but conceptually wrong, as Google has kept a fairly hands-off approach on most carrier retail with regard to smartphones. Other red flags like “sales incentives” raise eyebrows, and the “silver robot” sounds like a secondary mascot for this program -- which is kind of a terrible idea, color coding mascots like that.
To their credit, the source of this rumor is equally doubtful. It sounds too good to be true, and we know what that means. Based on slides from late 2013, there is absolutely no indication this is even being discussed with carriers. It oculd have been some sort of marketing exercise, or completely faked. We won’t know until we bump into an Android Silver kiosk in a carrier store, and we just don’t think that will happen.