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How Google screwed it up with Nexus

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Nexus 4

Is it time to say goodbye to Google's Nexus tablet and smartphone range? TrustedReviews' Jon Mundy looks at why the brand that brought us the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 is having a bit of a rough time at the moment

In recent days Google's Nexus brand has taken something of a battering.

First came the news from Google that there had been a "decline in Nexus" during the company's recent quarter. Put simply, the current Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet aren't selling as well as their predecessors.

Then more recently came the news that Google had discontinued its popular Nexus 7 tablet, leaving only that underperforming Nexus 9 to offer tablet fans a large-scale stock Android tablet experience.

So what exactly is wrong with the Nexus brand?

Forgetting its roots

The biggest problem with the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 - and hence the Nexus brand - is that Google appears to have lost sight of what it used to stand for.

The range has never been about being the absolute best or most advanced. It's been about offering capable hardware that highlighted the best of the latest Android OS - but at a relatively affordable up-front cost.

This emphasis on high performance for a low price only got more pronounced with the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 in recent years, effectively pre-empting the current trend for high quality devices at near-cost price emanating from China.

With that in mind, the launch of the Nexus 6 towards the end of 2014 can be seen as a miscalculation on Google's part. Here was a phone that was bigger, more premium, and more powerful than the Nexus 5 - yet it was also double the price.

Suddenly, Google was asking you to decide between its flagship phone and the best that Apple, Samsung, and HTC had to offer on price as well as features. With that, Google lost a large part of what made its Nexus brand special.

Nexus 7

No Nexus 5 successor

There's a lot of love out there for the Nexus 5. It sold in respectable, if not outstanding numbers, but given Google's lack of network relationships at the time, it was never going to sell like iPhone-shaped hotcakes.

Some people love the Nexus 6 too, but it's not a Nexus 5 successor. Not really.

The Nexus 5 was a solid, unassuming, quietly accomplished phone. It wasn't too big or too small. It had its own style, but it felt neither in your face nor derivative. It had a custom-built feel to it, even though it was based on the LG G2.

What's more, it came with a handful of stand-out features. There was a 5-inch 1080p display, an OIS camera, and wireless charging that all proved to be quite forward-thinking - all at that low price we mentioned before.

Nexus 5

The Nexus 6 meets very few of those criteria. It's huge and unwieldy, alienating anyone who doesn't want a 6-inch monstrosity in their pocket (steady). It's very obviously just a super-sized Moto X, with the kind of ostentatious design that divides opinion.

Indeed, there have been claims that the Nexus 6 as we know it was a last minute swap-in - a repurposed Motorola handset that got the nod at the eleventh hour due to Google's indecision over the future of the Nexus brand. It certainly feels like it.

Perhaps most importantly, the Nexus 6 is expensive. £500 expensive.

We don't have anything against the Nexus 6, but it should have been launched alongside a true Nexus 5 replacement. Even a warmed over Nexus 5, perhaps featuring a better camera and bigger battery would have sufficed - particularly if the price was kept low.

As things stand, the Nexus range looks top-heavy, and a sizeable proportion of Nexus fans have been left alienated through the lack of choice.

Nexus 9

A tablet that's tough to swallow

It's a similar problem with the Nexus 9 tablet. It's a much better made device than the Nexus 7 that went before it, but Google has lost sight of that crucial value factor once again.

At £319, the Nexus 9 is the same price as an iPad mini 3. This is even more of a problem than with the Nexus 6, as while a case can be made for Android against iOS in the smartphone market, only the most blinkered Android fan would claim that any Android tablet is better than a current iPad.

Android still doesn't feel particularly at home on tablet, so the notion of a premium Android tablet is an inherently flawed one.

The Nexus 7 has sold well in its two iterations because it offered a decent tablet experience for a knock-down sub-£200 price. It was bought by people who couldn't afford or simply didn't want to spend upwards of £400 on an iPad.

Now not only has Google erased that singular price advantage with the Nexus 9, it's even removed the ability to buy the old Nexus 7.

What next?

If recent rumours are to be believed, Google is not quite ready to give up on the Nexus brand just yet. LG and Huawei are tipped to take over hardware duties from Motorola and HTC.

If Google does extend the life of the flailing brand that once delivered us the brilliant Nexus 7 and Nexus 4, then we sincerely hope it learns from its mistakes and remembers what made it so great in the first place.

What do you think has gone wrong with its Nexus brand? Let us know in the comments section below.

shnatiw

April 27, 2015, 7:27 pm

The Nexus brand will continue. Just needs to decide what area of the market it is trying to target. And maybe a bit of a design overhaul. Barebones Android doesn't have to mean a basic look. I think Huawei would be an excellent partner hardware wise as their flagship phones offer exceptional value for money, which is what made the first four generations of Nexus phones so popular. However, an alliance between Google and Huawei would probably be vetoed by the US government. They wouldn't want Huawei having access to Google's technology and data. As they practically accused them of being under the nefarious influence of the Chinese government.

Sussex Wolf

April 27, 2015, 7:55 pm

As a Nexus 4 and 5 user, and having bought Nexus 7's for my kids, I'm a big fan for the reasons described in the article. I considered a Nexus 9 when replacing my older iPad, but went for the latest IPad Air because of the app support. I have also ignored the Nexus 6 for the simple reason it's too big. If Google come along with a true replacement for the Nexus 5 - that is something around a 5" screen, with a good, solid design, modern internals and a competitive price, then I'll be back for more. To me, it looks like Google's flirtation with Motorola left them using that brand to meet the original Nexus niche, and they need to return with a new hardware partner. Google need outlets for phones running stock Android so customers can see how good it is, and push back on unnecessary customisation and fragmentation by the likes of Samsung.

Steve Crook

April 27, 2015, 9:38 pm

For my purposes the Nexus 9 and 6 are just too big. 5" for a phone and 7" for a tablet hit the sweet spot for me.

Bare Android is good enough. I want some decent hardware, the prospect of a few OS updates to follow and at a price that's not going to make me curse when the updates finally dry up.

AHYL88

April 27, 2015, 10:59 pm

I don't think the Nexus brand is dead, but Google has a lot of problems to fix!

They have to look back at the past success of the Nexus 4, 5 and 7 and just work from there, going back to basics with the powerful but affordable hardware the Nexus 4, 5 and 7 offered. Maybe even remake them, but improved with today's hardware and components; I thought it was such a stupid decision to drop both the 5 and 7, despite how hot-selling and popular they were (while still very capable today).

Getting rid of the numbering scheme for the phones would be one of the fixes; I found it ridiculous to give the Nexus 6 a screen that's near enough six inches in size to also fit in with the name. It's far too big when the other phones' screen size norm of 5.2 to 5.5 inches is already very big and can only just fit into a pocket. And it's gonna be awkward when the seventh Nexus phone comes out (can't be called the Nexus 7 as a tablet was called that). Why not just simply call it the Nexus Phone, with the year designation or the first letter of the software version it started with?

Alex Walsh

April 28, 2015, 8:25 am

I'd be happy with an updated Nexus 4. It was the perfect size, all the needed to do was bump the screen res and update the innards. Hardly rocket science. I upgraded my 4 to a 5 for what seemed like good reasons but see no reason whatsoever to get a 6.

Mikey

April 28, 2015, 8:26 am

Couldn't have said it better myself. It's a shame as the Nexus was my next phone, until greed consumed google. I suspect it may have been their long term strategy, like so many companies to dangle a carrot and then bump the price but you could see that strategy had failure written all over it. Simply not possible to usurp brands like Apple and Samsung overnight.

dourscot

April 28, 2015, 9:03 am

Never heard a single person hanker after any of the current Nexus devices - they represent poor value for money and have zero brand value.

The Nexus 5 was a superb product. I was hoping that Google's follow-up would promote new capabilities such as photography and just push the capability of Android, but no.

Perhaps the Nexus has turned into the Moto G.

godafoss

April 28, 2015, 12:12 pm

Great article and spot on IMHO. I was dismayed to see the ridiculous size of the NExus 6 and the obscene price and then they follow that up with the Nexus 9 with appalling build quality and yet again premium price. I actually did the unthinkable and bought an iPad Air 2 as I got sick of poor Android tablets, especially after Google's Lollipop update turned my (and thousands of others) Nexus 7 into a load of crap.

apuk101

April 28, 2015, 2:51 pm

Spot-on! The Nexus brand is now just too expensive. I waited for the Nexus 9, having been a "long-time" Android user, but when I saw the price I simply laughed and did what I said I'd never do - I bought an iPad Mini 2, which with the 2-year warranty from John Lewis made it a no-brainer.

Google's simply become too greedy.

toboev

April 28, 2015, 8:07 pm

will be interesting to see how LG prices the G4.

RhinoJon

April 28, 2015, 8:33 pm

My wife was a big lover of the Nexus 7 (perfect size for her daily commute) and was gutted with the introduction of the Nexus 9 and then the Lollipop fiasco (making it virtually unusable). In the end she wound up going for a Samsung tablet as a replacement... and now I'm faced with her wanting a bl^*dy S6 Edge when her mobile contract runs out!!!

A. Mir

April 29, 2015, 5:28 am

Actually, many of us decided to buy the Android-based smartphones and tablets because we preferred Google's open OS - not because we "couldn't afford an iPad". Yawn. There is more to this than money.

Steven Marshall

April 29, 2015, 9:58 am

"only the most blinkered Android fan would claim that any Android tablet is better than a current iPad"

Tablets are very good for media consumption, for watching movies/TV whilst commuting or traveling and for this the 4:3 screen ratio in pretty crap. This is the reason I did not consider buying a Nexus 9.

So for me, a tablet with a 16:9 screen ratio is so much better than any iPad. I can also fit my 8.4" tablet in my suit or jacket pocket, I couldn't do this with any iPad.

:)

Bugblatter

May 1, 2015, 12:49 pm

I'm the opposite; a 4:3 screen is a big plus for me and a large part of why I bought an iPad. Neither of us is wrong; this is why choice is good.

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