The wait has begun for the new Android N-powered Nexus device/s to be announced, probably around sometime in September this year (if the release follows Google’s recent pattern). If the pattern holds true, we might see two phones like we did last year; a top-shelf device like the Nexus 6P from Huawei, and a mid-range device like the Nexus 5X.
However, we’d like to turn our minds to the possibility of a true budget Nexus.Here is why we think Google should look at releasing a reference device focused on the budget market, alongside their higher end enthusiast devices.
We all remember when the first HTC Nexus One was released back in January 2010 with such trepidation and excitement. Since then Google has told various news sources, including Ausdroid, that their vision of the Nexus program is this:
The Nexus program is our effort to push what’s possible in hardware design while unlocking the ideal software experience. It’s Google’s take on the total user experience including hardware and software, the retail experience, frequency of security updates (monthly) and ongoing software updates (for two years). …… Since Nexus is built by the same people who build the OS working closely with partners, we think these devices serve as a beacon to show the industry what’s possible.
Jump forward to today and we have had 8 smartphones, 3 tablets – not including the Pixel tablet – a never launched media streamer (the Q) and an Android TV set-top box all bearing the monica Nexus, and yes our editor-in-chief Dan Tyson owns them all!
One thing that has yet to be seen out of the Nexus program is a true budget focused, low-cost device. To be sure, Google does have the Android One program, however, this has been more focused on emerging markets and perhaps an even lower price point than we’re suggesting.
Unlike the Nexus program, Android One is more of a software as a service model, with a minimum hardware specification that any OEM can use to produce hardware that will run the software Google provides and maintains. They are not a Google product engineered and optimised from top to bottom.
So why don’t Google look at moving into the budget end? For example, last year Google had both the high-end and mid-range markets covered with the Huawei Nexus 6P and LG Nexus 5X, why not add the low-end device to that range?
The case for a budget Nexus device
There is an argument that Google did go the budget end with the LG Nexus 5X but I beg to differ, for the most obvious reason that it didn’t have a true budget price tag. In effect, the 5X tried to be both high end and low cost. Having a mix of high-end and mid-range spec components placed into its body didn’t deliver a great experience for many users, and ultimately resulted in a mid-priced under-performer.
I think they aimed too high for too little.
Let’s be clear, if Google does make a reference budget device it’s going to have compromises in multiple areas of the hardware package, and maybe even features. That is the reality for the budget market- and by extension budget buyers, a market segment traditionally ignored – but someone needs to show how to do it, and how to do it well.
Google is uniquely placed to be the one to do that, having complete control of the Android Platform. Perhaps they’ll even learn lessons themselves that would improve all Android devices, budget, and nonbudget alike.
A budget Nexus isn’t going to be Daydream ready, nor offer the latest in most technology. What it will have is the minimum components needed to showcase the Google Android Experience. That could include, NFC for Android Pay, fingerprint sensors for security, monthly updates with security patches (something many budget phones never see), alway on voice interaction (hello assistant) and an acceptable camera capable of lower quality but reliable images.
#Be together. Not the same. If Android is the platform that embraces difference and cherishes inclusion, then aren’t we approaching the time where Google needs to focus some guidance at the bottom end of the ecosystem it guides and nurtures?
Google could, in all honesty, look at partnering with OEMs like Huawei or ZTE – who already build for this end of the market – to produce a budget nexus device today, that would essentially retail somewhere between $100-$300. Anything more than $300 would really be considered to be mid-range and anything above $500-$600 and upwards is generally considered high end.
Can it be done?
Just take a look at ZTE who have released budget friendly unlocked smartphones running vanilla Android smartphones like the Blade S6, Blade V6, Blade V Plus and the Blade V2. It can be done.
That said, manufacturers like Huawei and Alcatel add their own skin over and on top of the Android base software. This is certainly a mistake as most of those skins can and do negatively influence the overall device experience. However whilst they might be frustrating to use it goes to show that there is a market for budget friendly devices and as stated not everyone can afford even a mid range let alone a high end device.
With the likes of Samsung, LG and HTC all releasing very strong top tier hardware offerings this year, all while “toning down” their skins and bloat- still not stock but definitely improving- it could be argued that the Nexus program is having good effect at the top end of the market.
For consumers who can’t afford $1000 or even $500 for their new phone it would make perfect sense that ethos of the Android One project be moved into the Nexus project with a more global reach.
If the goal of the Nexus program is truly to showcase what can be done through the right combination of hardware and software I think it’s obvious that the lower end of the market is in desperate need of this.
Perhaps 2016 won’t be the year of a budget Nexus, however higher end components are becoming cheaper and cheaper by the day and it would seem incumbent of Google to take gamble and look at producing and ultimately selling a low end Nexus smartphone, and soon.
Several Ausdroid writers contributed to this discussion.
Should Google focus their attention onto a Budget Nexus device? Let us know in the comments.