Every year that Google announce new Nexus devices, it appears as though there’s a big, long ‘sigh’ that rolls out among the many device partners out there, but that needn’t be the case. Those that look upon the Nexus program as a thorn in their side shouldn’t, and when fans of other devices look at these devices and ask ‘Where are the features?’ they’re missing the point as well. For quite some time now, the Nexus line of devices have been not just a way of getting affordable and unlocked devices into the hands of developers, they’re much more than that.
As we covered extensively in our History of the Nexus, Google tried something bold with the original Nexus One; they wanted to cut the carriers out. This clearly didn’t work all that well for Google, and both the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus that followed it were sold through carriers extensively. Since the Nexus 4 however, Google have succeeded in selling devices directly to their customers and this on its own has opened up a whole new way to sell devices in the US. Just look at the likes of Blu and Alcatel, selling devices outright to users, without the help of carriers and networks at all. Sure, this is a drop in the ocean compared to the millions of devices that Samsung and co hawk on networks like Verizon and AT&T, but it did make the industry and customers think twice, and we’re finally starting to see more of that.
On the software front, the Nexus program keeps manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and Sony on their toes. With each Nexus device since the Nexus 5, Google have launched hardware alongside software, and the knock-on effect is that previous generations get updated extremely quickly afterwards. This might get on the nerves of Galaxy Note and LG G3 owners the world over, but do these companies really want to get upstaged by an Internet giant known primarily for ads and search? Without speedy updates at the top, there would be little incentive for HTC, Motorola et al to update your device in a timely fashion. There’s more work to be done here, there always will be, but if Google didn’t have hardware to show how quickly software updates can happen I believe that flagship devices would languish on older versions of Android in much, much larger numbers. Is it unfair to compare stock Android devices to a Galaxy S6 or LG G4? Perhaps it is, but without an example to follow there would be no such thing as a speedy update.
More recently, we’ve seen Google create hardware trends, and the fingerprint sensors featured in the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P will be the latest example of this. It wasn’t always like this, with the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 Google was simply trying to fit in, matching some specs with other flagship devices and with the Nexus 6, it seemed as if Google was jumping on a bandwagon that Samsung had been championing for years. In the same year the Nexus 6 was announced however, the Nexus 9 was a fresh approach to Android tablets, one that sorely didn’t get very far, but it has made its mark. The Nexus 9 was a great tablet, thanks mostly to its 4:3 aspect ratio, not because it’s the same as the iPad’s, but because browsing the web – the primary use for an Android tablet – was much more enjoyable and portrait use didn’t feel like you were holding a skateboard in your hand. The Galaxy Tab S2 pair from Samsung use a 4:3 aspect ratio now as well, and we’re sure that other manufacturers are considering tablets built from the same blueprint. The Pixel C might become another failed experiment, but not-so-subtly letting their partners know a keyboard might be a good idea in larger tablets might give birth to more Xperia Z4 Tablets.
The fingerprint sensor in both the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P has already spawned new devices from LG with the technology in it. Of course, the V10 will have been planned for some time before the Nexus 5X announcement, but working with Google once again no doubt lit a few lightbulbs during the V10’s development. Android Pay hopefully won’t fall flat like Google Wallet did, but as Apple Pay has shown the public expects better security and authentication than the oldschool alternative. Fingerprint recognition is one way of delivering such security, and with Google showing the way forward, it wouldn’t be surprising to see 2016 launching more devices with fingerprint sensors. Samsung is of course smiling sweetly at all of this, but their competitors have seen no reason to add in the technology; until now.
Google and their Nexus program are not perfect, but they definitely keep pushing things forward for the whole Android platform. Not only do core elements – such as the Google Play Store – absolutely rely on Google, but it makes sense for the developer of the software to issue a little advice to its partners. In the public eye and on store shelves, the Nexus line is how they do it.