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Life after Google Pixel and Pixel XL: We will miss the Nexus

Life after Google Pixel and Pixel XL: We will miss the Nexus

Life after Google Pixel and Pixel XL: We will miss the Nexus

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Now that we’ve all had time to reflect on Google’s Pixel launch event, and the pats on the back and general optimism that come with most hardware launches are behind us, I can’t keep from feeling a hint of sadness. With Google deciding that the way forward for it is to design its own hardware (although HTC makes it), this also brings the Nexus line to an end.

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Hiroshi Lockheimer may state in interviews that he “doesn’t want to completely close a door”, but the fact is that there are no plans for more Nexus devices and the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P have been completely removed from the Google storefront.

For many, myself included, the Nexus line was a beacon in a world of smartphones that promised a lot but delivered very little. After burning my hands with multiple OEMs promising timely updates and support during Android’s early days, I decided to take matters into my own hands. A trip to the gray market and a few minutes of haggling later, I walked out with a Galaxy Nexus Japan unit. Little did I know this would take me down a slope that had me touting the virtues of the Nexus for years to come. From recording in-depth interviews to capturing blink-and-miss moments over the past half-decade, they’ve always been done on a trusted Nexus. Timely updates, great pricing, and decent availability have made them nearly perfect not only for enthusiasts, but also for mainstream users.

So much so that while my daily driver now switches between an iPhone 5s and a OnePlus 3, I ended up providing my family – both immediate and extended – with several Nexus phones, from the Galaxy Nexus all the way up to the Nexus 5X from last year. Even my Nexus 5, despite no updates after the first two years and the dismal battery, got a second life when I passed it on to an aunt who had to upgrade from a dying Nokia Lumia 520.

The truth is, Android devices from OEMs were, for the most part, not exactly intuitive to use. There was a learning curve for phones, which made them difficult to use. With the stock Android operating system and regular updates, coupled with a relatively cheap price (well, at least until the Nexus 5), Nexus was an alternative worth considering.

Smartphone makers have improved – we’ve seen it with OnePlus’ Oxygen OS and even Samsung’s Grace UX on the Galaxy line. However, the user experience isn’t quite where it should be yet, although Google says its partners have finally hit the right performance and price point.

Life after Google Pixel and Pixel XL: We will miss the Nexus

Google distinguishes between the Nexus and Pixel lines by saying that Nexus was a representation of what Android should be, while Pixel is just Google’s vision of Android. But packed to the brim with cutting-edge features like Google Assistant, Pixel phones also end up being what Android should be. After all, it’s not like other phone makers have Android updates as fast as Google does for its own phones. Pixel phones launch with Google Assistant and Android 7.1; both are expected to trickle down to OEMs in an unspecified timeframe. At the same time, the barrier to entry for a purely Android experience has become much more expensive. You can try to defend this by talking about Google’s no-compromise approach, but any phone in the neighborhood of Rs. 50,000 with no real water resistance smacks of doublespeak.

The Nexus range has earned its place in history by giving us something affordable, faster, better, with the ability to let you do more with your hardware, if you want. And while Google wants you to order a new Google Pixel or Google Pixel XL, I’ll probably hide on a few sites to see how cheap a Nexus 6P would be. It’s the latest in a long line of smartphones that shaped an era for me, almost always delivering what a smartphone should be.

(Also see: Google killing Nexus smartphones was the right thing to do)

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