The Next Web  and The Verge  have both published click-bait articles recently that seem to be a targeted campaign against Google’s Nexus phones. They essentially get to their point and claim the Nexus is unnecessary. I (and many others according to the comments) found these articles laughable and unfounded. The argument goes that Android is no longer the underdog that needs the Nexus line to guide it. The ecosystem has gotten big enough to stand on its own according to these authors.
Nexus is Google’s vision for Android
The fact is that Android has gotten big. It even has powerful allies that will trumpet the operating system in place of Google. It is those companies that Google has to stand-up against though and make sure that their vision is seen clearly. The Samsungs of the world profit from Android while making excellent devices. While the ship has gotten bigger, that doesn’t mean Google wants to give up being the rudder.
From the official Google blog post announcing the latest Nexus 6P and 5X, Google justifies the Nexus line:
While we love all the Android devices out there, every year we build Nexus devices to show off the latest and greatest, directly from the people who built Android.
Nexus brings plenty to the table
Nexus phones are not some generic assemblage of components the demonstrate Android. They have their own features as well. Some of these may appeal more to the power users of the community but it is still a voice among the crowd.
Nexus provides timely updates to Android direct from Google. It is the first phone to be updated and often receives updates after other manufacturers have determined a device is end-of-life (this often comes before the common two-year contract is up). The same people poo-pooing the Nexus line will often use Apple’s closed ecosystem and direct manufacturer updates as a reason to go iPhone. Here’s that option for Android and they don’t want it. With exploits like StageFright 2.0, this is a very pressing concern.
Nexus is the stock Android experience. Samsung’s TouchWiz, HTC’s Sense, and other manufacturer’s custom UI for Android once had a place to simplify Android, make it work on their hardware, or saw customization as a selling point. The tides have turned as Android has matured and the stock experience has been much improved. So much that, Motorola is offering the Moto X Pure Edition, which sticks to stock Android. Another case where Nexus makes the argument and the industry adopts it.
The Nexus line is the only compatible phone system to work with Google’s Project Fi, a reasonably priced carrier service in testing from Google that uses WiFi, T-Mobile, or Sprint.
The Nexus line also takes certain features to make them the standard such as a barometer sensor and now a fingerprint reader. As with Project Fi, Google provides the components it needs in Nexus phones for its projects like Android Pay. They might also deserve the blame for phones ditching SD card slots, claiming the cloud as superior.
The Nexus line is about as much as what it has as what it doesn’t have. It provides an unlocked boot loader and avoids gimmicks like second screens and keeps the carrier-forced bloatware like Sprint’s NASCAR app off my device. An unlocked Samsung Galaxy S 6 costs $100 extra.
Nexus gives Google a say in the cost of hardware for Android devices. With both smartphones and tablets, Google is able to produce quality devices at decent prices to compete with its OEM allies to shape the market that consumers will have practical options, in terms of price and hardware.
Manufacturers are given a chance to shine as a Nexus partner. Samsung is a giant in the Android world and this time around, LG and Huawei are getting a boost up onto the center stage. While the Android ecosystem might be maturing, there are still small guys that might have an innovative thought that deserves to be heard.
Why I pre-ordered the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X this weekend
This past weekend, I pre-ordered the Nexus 6P for myself and the Nexus 5X for my wife. I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S3 and my wife has a Galaxy S4. We are both finally out of our contracts with Sprint and after a weekend of particularly bad service, we’re ready to change to Verizon Wireless.
Surveying the market for the latest Android phones, I deduced the search to the Samsung Galaxy S6, the HTC One M9, the LG G4, and the new Nexus phones. I have had the Galaxy S and S3 while my wife has had the S2 and S4. Why switch from Samsung? The S5 and S6 have been disappointing, in my opinion, while costing near the top-of-the-line. I’m also catching Samsung mid-cycle, so it feels silly to not wait until May for the S7. My phone is already getting long in the tooth. App updates bring it to a crawl and you can’t do anything while they are downloading or installing. Heaven forbid the phone starts ring in the middle of updates. I swipe furiously, hoping it will respond and answer the call or that the update will complete before the fourth ring ends.
I went with the Nexus line for a lot of the reasons stated in the previous section – timely Android updates and no carrier bloatware. My S3 is over 3 years old, so any device is going to be an improvement. I went with the 6P because I am a heavy user of my phone for games and apps. The boosted CPU will help with that and the camera features are highly rated. My wife went with the 5X because of the Android updates, the dimensions of the phone, and the cost. It also makes sense for both of us to have USB type C adapters for charging our phones rather than having unique cables to manage and twice as many to remember.
I’m excited for the Nexus phones to arrive and don’t understand the authors suggesting that Google end the Nexus line. As the carriers discontinue subsidies for smartphones, cost and longevity (continued updates) are going to become more important, I believe.
Not linked as the click-bait has received enough traffic, but for the sake of citing my sources: