The evolution of the Nexus: introduction
The Google Nexus phone has, in many ways, helped revolutionise the mobile market in much the same way that the Apple iPhone has. The Nexus devices may not have set the world alight in terms of sales, but they have served as important reference points for Android manufacturers. And some of them have been rather good.
Apple’s iPhone has undoubtedly been the catalyst that has changed the mobile market in ways that would have seemed so radical a few years back. If it wasn’t for the iPhone, we might well have seen Android looking a lot more like the OS that graced BlackBerry devices.
The Google Nexus One was not the first Android phone to market, that was the T-Mobile G1. With manufacturers still seemingly unconvinced about creating devices for its new mobile OS, Google introduced the Nexus One to show developers just what the software could do.
Google had never planned on making the Nexus series into a staple of the annual smartphone diet. The original Nexus One handset was designed to give Android a push in the right direction, and nothing more. It obviously worked, as Android now holds over 75% of the mobile market in Europe.
Perhaps buckling under industry pressure to follow the Nexus One up with more, and more impressive hardware, the guys at Mountain View made a second. And a third. And then a fourth, a fifth, a sixth. And what’s that? You get the idea – they just keep on coming.
Google also decided to take this “one off” into the tablet market, showing the world how it feels tablets should be made and helping to popularize the smaller form factor.
What’s up next for the Nexus line? We’re hearing there’ll be a Huawei Nexus phone and maybe another LG Nexus device as well.
So how has the volatile nature of the mobile market changed the Nexus hardware and software over the years? Well, let us take you through the journey of Google’s Nexus range.
Google Nexus One
Partnering with HTC, the Nexus One was based on the Desire – the very first phone to win our coveted 5 star review. It had some competition at the time, having to win over fans from the likes of Symbian, BlackBerry, and those that had fallen in love with the iPhone 3GS.
$529 (around £330) bought you a single-core 1GHz processor, backed with 512MB RAM and 4GB of storage (and a microSD slot believe it or not). It also packed, what is considered small by today’s standards, a 3.7-inch 480×800 screen to show off Android 2.1 Eclair.
A 5MP camera sat on the back, giving the Nexus One a lot to shout about given that the 3GS came with 3.2MP. To keep things running was a 1400mAh battery, which gave the Nexus One up to 7 hours 3G talk time.
Google Nexus S
Things had changed by the time the second iteration of Google’s smartphone, the Nexus S, launched less than a year later at just over £400.
Google moved to partner with Samsung to launch Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Google needed its impressive weaponry to fight it out with the iPhone 4, the biggest competitor to the Nexus S at the time.
The Nexus S based itself heavily on the Samsung Galaxy S, although coming similarly specced to the Nexus One. A single-core 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, 5MP camera all seems familiar, but storage was given a boost to 16GB, but no microSD slot.
The screen was also improved (although the 480 x 800 resolution was stretched to 4 inches), with Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology in use. The battery was also boosted, to 1500mAh for a similar talk time. NFC also made its first Nexus appearance here.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
By the time the Galaxy Nexus had launched, another phone had garnered our 5 star review, the Samsung Galaxy S2. At £429, it aimed to challenge the iPhone 4S, a phone that was making waves as it improved greatly on the iPhone 4.
Paired with Samsung again, Google looked to get some of the S2 magic into the Galaxy Nexus. This meant a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM and 16GB storage. The camera took a boost, but was still measured at 5MP, and the battery was now 1750mAh.
As with all Nexus launches, the Galaxy Nexus heralded Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, displayed proudly on a 4.65-inch 720×1280 Super AMOLED display.
Google Nexus 4
Google decided to move across South Korea for its next Nexus iteration, with LG taking up the reins for the Google Nexus 4 handset. Things were looking a little more difficult for LG, with the market now populated with the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X.
LG was desperate to get back into the smartphone making market, so its partnership with Google seemed ideal, giving birth to a device sporting a 768×1280 4.7-inch screen, 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, 8 or 16GB storage and an 8MP camera.
It launched with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and a 2100mAh battery, giving it 15 hours of 3G talk time. Perhaps the biggest game changer was the £269 price tag, that unfortunately has yet to revolutionise the mobile market pricing in the way we might have hoped.
Google Nexus 5
The Google Nexus 5 was comfortably the best Nexus smartphone to date, when it landed in October 2013. Billed as “the best that Google has to offer”, it certainly made waves.
LG was the partner of choice once more, and the Nexus 5 welcomed the arrival of Android 4.4 KitKat.
With a beefed up 2.26GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a 4.95-inch screen full HD display the Nexus 5 was taking on the likes of the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 5S and LG’s own G2 – but at a price point which made it supremely attractive.
Google Nexus 6
Smartphones have been growing larger and larger, but the Nexus 6 marked Google’s first foray into genuine phablet territory. The Motorola-manufactured phone boasted a 6-inch, AMOLED display with a dreamy 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution.
Inside there was a 2.7GHz quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB or 64GB of onboard storage. A 13MP camera and a whopping 3,220mAh Qi wirelessly chargeable battery confirmed that there was nothing small about this phone.
Unfortunately, that extended to the price tag, which proved a bit hefty for some Nexus fans at £499 for the 32GB model.
Android 5.0 Lollipop also debuted on the Nexus 6 and it’s the first smartphone to work with Google’s Project Fi, a wireless network that switches seamlessly between Wi-Fi and LTE.
The tablets: Google Nexus 7 (2012)
With the iPad carving out a market, that could well have been argued to be its own, the lack of Google’s official presence seemed to be a little noticeable.
This was exacerbated by the rise of cheap Android alternatives often running phone software, and Android Honeycomb only appearing on third party devices like the Motorola Xoom 2.
That all changed when Google and Asus took on the likes of the iPad and the Amazon Kindle Fire with its very own Nexus tablet, the original Nexus 7. Launching at the cheap price of £159 for the 8GB version, Google looked to undercut the iPad.
For your money, you got a 1280 x 800 7-inch screen, a 1.2GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 1GB RAM, 4,325mAh battery and a 1.2MP front facing camera. There was no rear sensor. It also brought Android 4.1 Jelly Bean to market.
Google Nexus 10 (2012)
By this point, Google’s only foray into the tablet market was at the smaller sized, budget end of the market. This left the gap for the iPad 4 (briefly the iPad 3 as well) to continue to grow the full sized tablet market. Third party devices were still struggling to compete.
Despite the New York launch being cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, the Nexus 10 managed to launch online. The Samsung made device packed an eye-popping 10-inch 2560 x 1600 screen, 1.7GHz dual-core processor, 2GB RAM and two cameras (5MP on the rear and 1.2MP on the front).
It also came with 16 or 32GB of storage (no microSD) and a 9000mAh battery, costing only £319. That made it £80 cheaper than the equivalent iPad 4.
Google Nexus 7 (2013)
2013 came around meaning that the annual product refreshes that we are all so used were starting to roll in. The tablet market had changed drastically since the launch of the original Nexus 7, with Apple deciding that it too wanted to get a slice of the smaller cheaper tablet pie in the form of the iPad Mini.
This meant that Google had to go back to the drawing board, and came up with the Nexus 7 (2013). RAM was doubled to 2GB to sit alongside the 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, with the same 1.2MP camera on the front, and a 5MP snapper now sat on the back.
The screen also became full HD, with the 7 inches now containing 1920 x 1200 pixels. The new Nexus 7 also launched Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. The battery is a little smaller, at 3,950mAh, but still provides up to 9 hours use.
Google Nexus 9
No one really expected the Nexus 9 and it slipped comfortably into place between the 7 and 10. Google had collaborated with HTC on phones before, but never a tablet.
The Nexus 9 sported an underwhelming 8.9-inch display with a resolution of 1536 x 2048 pixels. There was also a 2.3GHz dual-core processor, an 8MP camera, 16GB of storage, and some front-facing BoomSound speakers. It didn’t have a single feature to really get people excited, but as a whole package, the Nexus 9 was fairly well-received.
It was a decent Android 5.0 Lollipop tablet for the £319 launch price, but quick discounts and low sales suggested that Google may have pitched this one a bit wrong. It seems unlikely to go down in history as a classic Nexus, but if you want a 9-inch Android tablet, you really don’t have any other options worth looking at.
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