It took several years, but Google more or less copped to a weakness: It doesn’t sell hardware well. And yet, on Tuesday morning at its annual device event, Google is set to unveil the two newest models of its Nexus smartphone line.
One theory for Google’s persistence with Nexus is that it is trying to propel the wireless industry in its preferred direction, using its new Project Fi network alongside a stable of unlocked cellphones. Another angle? Google picks its hardware partners for the Nexus program strategically, and none are more strategic now than Huawei, the Chinese company building the latest Nexus 6p, the new high end in the Nexus phone line. (LG is making the smaller-screened, more affordable model).
Huawei, meanwhile, is itching to expand its handset business in the U.S., something Google’s cachet can help. In return, Google has held talks about returning to China with portions of its business, as first reported in The Information, something the Chinese telecommunications giant can help.
Nexus devices don’t sell in massive numbers. (The other device Google is updating today, Chromecast, likely sells better.) But that’s not their purpose. One goal is to help prove out a new software release on a piece of hardware, giving Android engineers a device with which to experiment. Another is to provide hardware buyers an option to get a device that will always receive the latest version of Android.
Google maintains tight control of the Nexus device software. But for device makers, producing the phone is seen as a bit of a technology coup, especially those making their first Nexus device. Huawei, a big name in devices globally but a bit player in the U.S., is looking to boost its market share and brand name here, with its premium handset and Android Wear smartwatch.
Having a Nexus under its belt — and Google’s marketing assist — could boost its chops, particularly as it sells devices directly for now. Huawei has triedto grab a bigger share in the U.S. for a while, but has largely fallen flat.
Some of its problems stem from political pressure not to use Huawei gear, especially on the network side; other issues appear self-inflicted, such as a legal dispute with T-Mobile. In that case, T-Mobile says that Huawei stole part of the carrier’s phone-testing robot — a charge that Huawei isn’t really denying.
For Google, a tighter bond with Huawei could help ease a potential entry into China, which the company has often considered after pulling its services in 2010. Unlike Xiaomi, another rising handset maker in the country, Huawei has shown little interest in building out its own mobile software arsenal, thereby giving more control of Android to Google.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.