Earlier this week, Google announced the Nexus 9 (alongside the new Nexus 6 and the new Nexus Player) to little fanfare through a simple, to the point press release. The Nexus website was updated to show off their latest tablet, which is the product of collaboration between HTC and Google, and everything that the Nexus 9 was supposed to be according to the leaks and rumors, came true on Wednesday. Today, you can pre-order the Nexus 9 on both Amazon and Google Play, with prices starting at $399 for the 16GB WiFi model. Compared to last year's Nexus 7 which launched for $229 for the same configuration, is this year's model too expensive?
I'm personally still on the fence when it comes to purchasing a new Nexus 9 or not, and it's not because I don't think it's neccessarily worth the increase in price, but more because I don't really want to spend that sort of money on a tablet I might not use all that much. I'm a UK resident so that means that $399 has become £319 and when you convert £319 back to the US Dollar you get a price of roughly $510. Now, I know that things aren't as simple as converting the currencies back and forth, but let's just say the Nexus 9 is pricey here in the UK, okay? I'm a guy that already has too many gadgets, with a smartwatch, two tablets as it is (a G Pad 8.3 and a TouchPad), a Kindle which I love, a Chromebook and lots of other stuff. Do I really need one more piece of tech? Contrary to common belief, us technology writers aren't obsessed with owning everything.
The extra that this year's Nexus tablet costs is obviously down to the vastly improved processor under the hood, a 64-bit Tegra K1 against a Snapdragon S4 Pro is like comparing a crop duster to a fighter jet. Besides, I'm willing to bet that the HTC-built Nexus 9 (mostly thanks to the aluminum frame) will be better built than the 2013 Nexus 7. So sure, I can see where that extra money is going and I guess we need to remember that Google is marketing the Nexus 9 as a tablet that can do pretty much everything rather than the Nexus 7 which was basically good for consuming content and browsing the web. To answer the question I asked with today's title I'm going to say that no, I don't think the Nexus 9 is too expensive. I do however, feel that Android Lollipop needs to go a long way to convincing people Android on tablets is worth paying more for, and investing more time in.
I've been disappointed with how Google has approached Android on tablets since the Android 4.2 update we saw launch with the Nexus 10; it basically reduced tablets to giant phones, again. Call me crazy, but the UI that was introduced in Android 3.0 Honeycomb felt like it belonged more on a large display than the stretched three-button phone UI designed for devices we put in our pockets. I'm not saying the experience on Android tablets is horrible, but there's a reason why larger phones (just like the Nexus 6, would you look at that) are becoming more and more popular. A smartphone can pull double-duty compared to a tablet and the experience is pretty much the same. Of course there's value in having a very similar experience across device sizes, but all you need to do is take a look at what the iPad and the Surface Pro 3 can offer and it's clear that Google has some catching up to do.
I'm excited for Android Lollipop and I really do hope that there are some changes that we haven't seen yet that will make the overall experience on a larger display both more advantageous than just using a larger phone and more productive for those looking to do more than watch videos and play games. Is the Nexus 9 too expensive? No, a price like this will mean it can be compared to Apple's latest iPads without 'ifs', 'buts' and 'yes, but you see it's a lot cheaper'. It's not too expensive when you weight up the hardware, the build quality and the features compared to previous iterations, but Android 5.0 needs to convince me that it's worth such a price tag.