7.08.2016

Google’s Nexus Program

From Developers’ Device to Hero Phone

Nexus One (left) and Nexus 6P (right)

The Google Nexus program has come a long way in six years. Since the first device, the HTC Nexus One, released in 2010, much has changed with the search giant’s sans-bloatware smartphone offerings. 

While these devices stay true to the original goal of introducing the next version of Android: 
  • Nexus One debuted 2.1 Eclair
  • Nexus S gave us 2.3 Gingerbread
  • Galaxy Nexus brought 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Nexus 4 unveiled 4.2 Jelly Bean
  • Nexus 5 was the first to have 4.4 KitKat
  • Nexus 6 introduced 5.0 Lollipop
  • Nexus 5X and 6P show off 6.0 Marshmallow
There has been a noticeable shift since the Nexus 6 arrived on the scene. That phone was the first Nexus phone to offer a truly premium experience (a Nexus tablet called the 9 was released around the same time, touting an NVIDIA processor and iPad-level screen resolution). This was reflected in its cost.

“The Nexus 6 was the first Nexus phone to offer a truly premium experience.”

Unlike its predecessors, which stayed under the $400 mark unlocked, the Nexus 6 went for $650 when it was released in autumn 2014. Such a stark departure from its previous strategy (the Nexus 5 retailed for nearly half the 6’s price at just $350) marked a substantial change in the way Google views these devices.

Instead of a merely being a testing ground for the latest version of their OS, Google now seeks to be big dog of the Android yard, by far the largest by sheer market share, instead of a sidelined trainer. The Nexus 6P was a clear response to the iPhone 6 Plus and outshone it in numerous ways including screen-to-bezel ratio, screen resolution and, arguably, build quality. (The latter virtue having only been achieved twice prior with Samsung’s 2015 flagships: the S6 and Note 5.)

“Google now seeks to be the big dog of the Android yard.”

The Nexus 5 and earlier Nexus handsets carved out a respectable niche in the Android world and since Google’s revenues stem primarily from serving ads, there wasn’t pressure to come out with a killer product. That being said, Google has long since grown weary of Android fragmentation and scooping up the lion’s share of sales could solve this problem to an extent the Google Play Edition and Android One concepts failed to. 

The Nexus 6 was a failed start because of its price point and borrowed design from the Moto G (which suits the G well, but many tech reviews felt it scaled poorly to the 6-inch Nexus). The 6P remedied these caveats by slimming down from 5.96 inches to a more comfortable 5.7 form factor. It also stars at $250 less than the Nexus 6 at $499. 

Consumers and reviewers alike have been kinder to the 6P than the phablet that came before it and Google is expected to announce its successor this fall, months after LG and Samsung released their 2016 flagships and in conjunction with the release of the iPhone 7 Plus.