Long live the Nexus, at least that’s the message that Google tweeted on October 4 shortly after the newGoogle Pixel and Google Pixel XL devices were launched. In its entirety, Google Nexus tweeted: “As Nexus users, you’ve played an integral role in this journey for Google. We’re excited about Pixel, and want you to know that we’ll continue to support Nexus (customer support, software updates, etc.) & @googlenexus will continue to be a place for Nexus convos.” The writing is on the wall for the Nexus family after a total of eight smartphones and four tablets and for some audiences at least, Google Nexus’ tweet points towards Google abandoning the Nexus line. We can pick the Tweet apart by observing that it says “software updates” rather than “Android 7.1 Nougat” and how the tense suggests that the Nexus devices are being shuffled off the centre stage.
Yes, Nexus devices are being superseded (if not replaced) by the Pixel family. They are, but the same criticism could be leveled at last year’s Nexus device(s) when a new model is released. Google keep Nexus devices updated for two years and maintain the software for another year after this. The 2014 Google Nexus 6 may not receive the update to Android 7.1, whereas we expect the 2015 Google Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P models to benefit from the update. There are many potential reasons for this shift at Google, such as how the company will go about naming devices going forwards: did company executives consider a Google Nexus 5X2 or Google Nexus 6PS before deciding to change direction?
The shift from Nexus to Pixel does mix things up because Google appears to be gunning for the iPhone but the biggest casualties are likely to be other flagship Android devices, at least in the short term. Yes, the Pixel is currently expensive but so too was the HTC 10, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, the LG G5 and the Moto Z when launched. Prices will probably drop in time. Google is pitching the Pixel family to pick up where the Nexus stopped, and let’s not forget that the Nexus family of smartphones has never been a massive consumer success. The Nexus brand was not about this – even the popular Nexus 4 and Nexus 5, which were successful models in their own right thanks to a blend of power and low cost – but instead the handsets are designed to show the rest of the industry the direction Google wanted to see Android heading. Unfortunately, when only a very small minority of customers picked the Nexus device, even with a device as gifted as theGoogle Nexus 6P. It’s easy for a manufacturer to ignore some or all of Google’s Nexus nudges.
The Google Pixel appears to be Google making a push into being a serious handset manufacturer. The device combines a great camera with high end silicon inside, wrapped up in a gorgeous metal chassis with an AMOLED panel and a number of color options. It’s competitive and it’s expensive compared with some previous Nexus models, but has fewer compromises. Previous Nexus devices have in one way or another been compromised in a way that the average consumer notices. It might have been battery life, storage (that lack of a microSD card), build quality but until the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P it was definitely in the camera department. For the Android fan, this hasn’t so much mattered because of the promise of speedy software updates and a clean, fast user interface. However, Android fans only make up a small number of the smartphone-buying population.
The new Pixel family overcomes these limitations, at least on paper. We’ll have to see how the device stacks up in the hand. It’s going to be offered by market leading carriers across the world and be available via the Google Play Store. It has Google’s weight behind it, but it will need to be backed up by lots and lots of advertising if it is to make a dent in the iPhone’s heartland, which is exactly where the Google Pixel is priced. Have Google ignored the Android fans in producing the Pixel? No; there’s more than enough Google goodness in the Pixel family to keep Android fans happy, but there should also be more than enough appeal for more mainstream customers to take the fight to the Apple iPhone.