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Android Headliner: Nexus 6, A Smartphone Gone Too Soon?

December 10, 2015 - Written By John Anon

This week saw some interesting news come through and especially for those who are a fan of the Nexus range. This was of course, Google’s Nexus 6 or the ‘Nexus 6 by Motorola’ if you prefer. This was the first device to come in Nexus form as part of a collaboration with Motorola and was also the biggest Nexus smartphone to ever come through. A monumental device if you like. One which very quickly became adopted as one of the stand out devices of the 2014/2015 season.

However, this week brought with it reports that Google has now removed the Nexus 6 from the Google Store. Effectively, discontinuing the phone. Of course, you can still currently pick it up from the likes of Amazon, although, in the grand scheme of things, it is probably now best to think of this device as one which has come to the end of its main cycle. Which is quite disappointing when you think about it. Yes, we in the smartphone world (probably more than any other industry) have become used to the quick cycling of product generations and with each year that passes, we do expect a new and updated device to come through. In the case of the Nexus range, this is the Nexus 6P and 5X which were both recently released. However, expecting a device to be released on a yearly basis is one thing, but do we expect a device to be removed from sales every year? Surely, that is a whole different story!

Nexus 6 google store unavailable

One of the benefits of newer and more updated devices coming through, is that the older generation device is likely to come down in price. In terms of the Nexus 6, this is of particular importance as it was a high priced smartphone to begin with. A device which on being announced, immediately attracted attention and debate (in equal measure) due to its not-so-modest $650 price tag. So in terms of the Nexus 6, a drop in price would always have been seen as a good thing and in fact, the recent release of the two en vogue Nexus devices did exactly that. It saw the bottom fall out of the price of the Nexus 6, with a variety of different sales occurring literally everywhere over the last few months. Those who were lucky enough even managed to pick up a Nexus 6 for a rock bottom price of $199 during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period. A price which is extraordinary for a device like the Nexus 6. Although, looking back, that was a very clear indicator that the Nexus 6 was indeed nearing the end.

While it is clear that manufacturers do want us to buy their latest devices (and they really do), should it be the case that a company like Google decides to stop selling the previous model? While it is accepted that manufacturers will eventually pave the way for more modern devices, should that paving not be in a more prolonged and natural state. Remember, we are not talking about the launching of a new device, but instead, the retiring of older ones. Those who follow the Nexus news will be aware that this issue is a little bit different with Nexus devices as their shelf life is finite due to Google’s use of third-party manufacturers. The Nexus 6 came from Motorola and a year later the Nexus 6P came from Huawei while the Nexus 5X came from LG. So it stands to reason that neither Huawei or LG would want a competitor’s Nexus device still on the market when their offerings are available. Much the same as with whoever will be making the next Nexus device(s) next year. But it does not change the issue – is one year really enough for a smartphone like the Nexus 6 to be launched, become available to buy, hit rock bottom in terms of price and filter back out of the market again? A rock star lifestyle for a rock star device, maybe!

Of course, if it is a spec issue and the device is simply outdated already, then that is more than understandable (and a little expected) that the device should be removed from the virtual store shelves. Although, I doubt anyone would currently view the Nexus 6 as ‘out of date’. This is a device which comes with a QHD display on a whopping 5.9-inch screen. Inside, it is a smartphone which comes equipped with 3GB RAM and powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 Quad-core processor. In terms of cameras, the Nexus 6 comes loaded with a 13-megapixel rear camera which is coupled with a 2-megapixel front facing camera. A 3,220 mAh battery powers everything, while you have the choice of choosing the storage level with both a 32GB and 64GB variant on offer. Not forgetting of course, the Nexus 6 can right now be updated to the very latest version of Android, Marshmallow. Also keeping in mind that this is an NFC-enabled device which can make use of Android Pay. Which is more than can be said for the newer and therefore better, OnePlus 2.

So it does seem difficult to view the Nexus 6 as a device which is already out of date. Yes, the front facing camera could be a little better, the battery could probably be a little bigger and especially when considering the size and resolution of the screen and yes, maybe the processor could be updated too. But if they were updated, this would place the Nexus 6 with all the most up to date specs. The difference between the Nexus 6 specs and the specs of now, is so small in reality that there is virtually no step in between. You have the specs of now and then the specs of the Nexus 6. So although not ultra modern, surely the Nexus 6 is more than modern enough to remain on the market? And surely is a bargain at a reduced price compared to the newer and more fashionable Nexus devices.

Again, it is perfectly understandable that as a new device comes out, the old one has to make way, but if that logic is so strictly transposed over (one device in, one device out), then its starts to raise the question of how soon is too soon? Sony is a company who has become notorious for increasing their cycles (or recycles, depending on who you ask) of smartphones and now typically seem to be aiming for a bi-annual release of their Xperia Z range of devices. A criticism which has been raised and leveled at Sony many times before. With that in mind, does that mean that the older Sony smartphone should only be in the shops for six months? That does seem a little on the short side for the life cycle of a smartphone, but using the same logic, this is what is quickly becoming the definition of the lifespan of a smartphone – the arrival of the next. So it is difficult to see any change in this system coming anytime soon. Sony might slow down their cycles, but the general trend of ‘quick cycles’ seems to be one which is here to stay.

Sony Marshmallow AOSP

So no matter what way you look at it, the removal of the Nexus 6 from the Google Store, was the sign of a smartphone that is simply gone too soon. Spec wise, this is still a relevant smartphone and one which towers (literally) over any mid-range or mid-priced device hitting the market today. In fact, with it already running Marshmallow and the features like increased battery life and more optimized performance, one could argue, it is currently better than a majority of the heavily-skinned premium devices that have more recently arrived. What would have been nice for a smartphone of this caliber, was to see it adopt a more mid-range pricing now that the Huawei Nexus 6P is here. A device which remains available on the Google Store and priced to match the fact that it is a lesser product when compared to the newer and therefore, greater Nexus 6P. But then again, that is what the LG Nexus 5X was all about, right? In that case, did Google simply remove the Nexus 6, because they did not know where to place it anymore? If so, it was an even more unfortunate and unfitting exit for a smartphone such as this.