The Nexus program has grown to be synonymous with innovation and major pushes forward for the Android ecosystem. While LG’s Nexus 4 was a fantastic device, it didn’t wow users as much as they were expecting. As a result, Spring of 2013 proved to be a point where a lot users were more anxious for a new Nexus device than they normally were at this time of year. Google undoubtedly recognized this as they did something major. Something they had never done before.
Google took two popular devices, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, and replaced the skinned interfaces with stock, vanilla versions of Android. This could have been as a result of new leadership as Sundar Pichai clearly had a different approach when he took over for Andy Rubin as the head of Android. However, it is more likely that Google realized that the Nexus 4’s specifications were already out of date and could no longer compete with the current flagships’ offerings. Google decided that it was very important to have major devices available that were stock Android as it would keep consumers from automatically associating the Android operating system with the skinned versions.
While this was a great move, it wasn’t exactly what the Android ecosystem was calling for. In reality, users want stock Android devices that got updates directly from Google while maintaining on-contract pricing. Google unfortunately did not follow through. Because Google knew that they could not push out another Nexus device so quickly, they turned to already existing phones to publicize their stock Android experience. Unfortunately, this resulted in two major flaws that went completely against the reputation that previous Google-supported devices built. While this wouldn’t normally be an issue, the fact that Hugo Berra wasn’t too shy about using the term “Nexus” during Google I/O made most users assume that the overall experience would be similar to that of a Nexus device.
The first issue was the price point that these devices were launched at. Every single Nexus device that was released has been extremely affordable and in most cases, were even cheaper than devices with similar specifications. The reason for this increase in price is because both HTC and Samsung believe that TouchWiz and Sense UI are the best possible forms of Android. This means that the only way they would agree to parting ways with the software is if they would be able to make money off the devices’ sales. This unfortunately meant that Google was unable to sell the devices at cost like they did with previous Nexus devices, making the overall pricing the same as other unlocked devices.
The second unfortunate aspect was that the updates would ultimately not come directly from Google. This was perhaps the biggest upset as most users have come to expect a steep price for unlocked devices. However, when Berra used the term “Nexus” it was implied that the updates would be maintained by Google. Again, this can be traced back to the fact that Samsung and HTC still need to have control over the devices, meaning they must test new updates themselves. While users won’t have to deal with typical carrier delays, it is highly unlikely that the devices will receive updates at the same time as Google’s Nexus devices.
So what does this mean for consumers? Google has presented us with two rather odd and confusing devices. As it stands, Google is expecting us to pay twice as much as their current Nexus offering while accepting the fact that the updates will not come from Google. Even worse is the fact that the specifications, while certainly better than the Nexus 4, are certainly not dazzling enough to justify paying twice as much. On top of that, Sundar Pichai has confirmed that they will still be making Nexus devices, with the next one suspected to be out in October. We can expect the next Nexus release to have the same specifications as these two devices and at the very least will be paired with the Nexus pricing that we’ve all grown to love.
The whole situation puts Android in a very awkward spot currently. With Nexus devices and new Motorola devices both being rumored for this fall with stock Android experiences, early adopters of these devices could become very upset when the pricing of these are finally announced.
So what do you think? Have any of you purchased these Google Play Edition devices? If you did, how do you feel about future devices possibly raining on your parade?