As you would all have already read or heard about, the latest iteration of the Nexus line of devices from Google was ‘officially’ launched; After weeks of leaks and rumors, which turned out to be exactly true, barring a few bizzare ones.
Now, lets go back a few devices. The first Nexus device, the Nexus One was launched in 2010, after a historic partnership between HTC and google. It was mainly aimed at developers and to encourage app development to the seemingly new OS back then, Android.
The nexus devices aim at providing the developers a device in which they could test their apps on, which had all the features that could actually be used in an app. For example, if my app should need a huge screen, the Nexus one provided it. It had bluetooth, WiFi, mobile network, 3G, microSD slot and loads of other goodies, which devices at that time rarely did. Now, I were to develop an app and naturally, I would want to test it on a physical device, which meant that I actually had to buy a smartphone to test it. At that time, not all smartphones carried all the features that were meant to be used in an android app. I could test the WiFi or the mobile carrier, but only with an outdated version of android. Coming to the OS, manufacturers then, tried to differentiate themselves from the market, not by making the device unique, but by changing the way the phone worked. This was much easily achieved by modifying and applying customizations to the android version. This usually took months or perhaps even years for companies that didnt have much capital to invest in software R&D. So, everytime google released a new version of android with new features, developers found themselves waiting for an unnecessarily long time to get their hands on the new features and optimisations coming with the new version of android. Sometimes, to test the features, developers might have to buy multiple devices to satisfy the needs to test out the new features, which were seemingly missing from most phones.
Now, this is where the Nexus line comes. It brings the latest devices to you, at an affordable price and with an assurance that no matter how much you tinker with the OS, there would always be the original files for you to flash back. It also ensured that the new features and the latest cutting edge hardware could be brought into the same phone, with Google subsidizing the cost of the device, making it more affordable for the developers. That is, it aimed to encourage app development.
Skipping a few generations of unimportant devices, let us take the case of the Nexus 4.
The Nexus 4 is a no-nonsense device, made by LG, in partnership with google. It was released as the flag bearing model for the latest android version at that time, 4.2.
It served as a major milestone in the Nexus line because, when it was launched, it simply was the best phone that ever existed. With a compelling price point, the Nexus 4, remained the top selling device for many more months to come. Now, every phone that was released till a few days ago, was first compared with the Nexus 4, before moving on to other devices. This was actually what google set out to do. It created a benchmark device, and showed that cheap phones could be made available with relatively low aesthetics and disproved many who dismissed android as a very slow and sluggish OS after experience with a non-Nexus device. It showed the true power of Android, as a reliable OS, by showcasing how, when the hardware and software are married to each other, the result is butter-smooth.
Apple has been doing this for a long time now, which clearly shows the incredible popularity of their devices, which just work. But, android is not apple; Is it? Customizability and flexibility is the key principle for Android. As long as Android is still open source, OEMs are going to customize and modify the software to suit their needs, and also differentiate themselves in the large mobile devices market.
Coming to tablets, the popularity grew after the release of Honeycomb, Android 3.0, which was a tablet specific release. People quickly realized how useful tablets were, with its incredible portability and android’s app ecosystem, it instantly became a hit, with Samsung capturing a large chunk of the Android Tablet market. However, most apps in the Play store were not optimized for the larger screens and thus, the apps had to be resized and they looked, pixelated with no visual differences in the content between the small mobile screens and the large tablet screens. This was when google stepped up and released the Nexus 7, along with a few optimizations to the already smooth Jelly Bean, and showing that the same OS could be used with little modification for tablets as well.
Thus, Google’s act of stepping in at the right times to give a gentle push to the specific market is well appreciated, but nevertheless, the nexus 7 was not a developer aimed device. For some reason, it became a huge hit in the consumer market, with its incredibly low price and the promise of fresh updates.
Coming today’s senario, I currently own a nexus 4 and temporarily, a nexus 7 too.
So, my Nexus 7 has been incredibly useful for me to try out the various after market android ROMs as well as some features like the Active Locksreen from the Moto X. From what I’ve observed, if there’s a new feature out, there’s probably a port for the nexus 4. In that way, the popularity of the nexus 4, has helped in android development greatly. But the nexus 4 is simple not a daily driver. It is one phone that I actually regret carrying with me. It has a terrible battery life and I tend to overuse it quite often. I used to own a galaxy note N7000 before and being uninformed of the eMMC brick bug, I promptly rooted it and installed a couple of custom ROMs when it encountered a super brick, requiring a change of the eMMC chip. And trust me, that did not come cheap. The Galaxy Note was an absolute pleasure to use, despite it being 2 generations behind, I do not complain about the lack of frequent updates, and often end up praising Samsung for the beautiful Touch Wiz interface. And when I mean that, I do not mean the interface in the cheaper Samsung devices such as the galaxy Ace and the Galaxy Y. For that price point, it is still a device which you chose and you cant really complain or compare its performance with higher end smartphones. When I did use a custom ROM with the galaxy note, it was a particular AOKP build, with the latest 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. It was great, except the fact that, many of the optimizations samsung created for the galaxy note was missing, and I was earning to go back to the stock builds.
The Nexus 4, heats up to a great extent when gaming; Obviously, its gonna heat up, it is simply not a gaming phone. It is for testing and tinkering. Its like modding a car. You know its not gonna work that well with all those cosmetic mods, and yet you crib about after comparing it to the Tesla model S, which is supposed to be something for daily use.
Finally, coming to the Nexus 5, I could point out atleast 4 devices that beat the nexus 5 in terms of specifications and benchmarks, as well as those which work better as end user devices. Although a lot of people are going to buy the new-fresh-from-the-oven nexus device, there are going to be a lot of comparisons to the flagships from Samsung, Sony, LG, Nokia and Apple. And it is gonna beat the crap out of them. And when the reviewers have to use it on a day to day basis, they end up cursing the same phone which they praised so much in their reviews.
With a heavy heart, I have to end this post, as my Nexus 4 barely lasted 6 hrs after a full charge, and I have to hunt for a nearby charging point to satisfy myself.