Your next phone needs to be a Nexus, and why that’s a problem for Android

Android 6.0 (more commonly referred to as its more sugary name, Marshmallow) was announced back in May 2015 (as “Android M” at Google I/O). And as it typically goes, the new OS debuted in the real world with the launch of the Nexii this past Fall – the Nexus 5x and Nexus 6P.

The gold Huawei Nexus 6P
The gold Huawei Nexus 6P

For those Android fans not on a Nexus device (including myself), we’ve become accustomed to getting excited about the latest software from Google, but not too excited. Third-party Android phone manufacturers aren’t very expressive about when their current devices will be updated (if at all), and the adoption slowness of the new OS has yet to get better (it may actually be getting worse). Data collected by Google on Jan. 4th, 2016 says that Marshmallow is currently only on 0.7% of the Android devices out there.

Android distribution stats provided by developer.android.com
Android distribution stats provided by developer.android.com

This is a huge problem for Android.

It’s a disservice to both the customer and to Android when manufacturers let time pass by without acknowledging the update for their products and/or keep launching devices with the old OS. I hope I’m not the only one who cringes when I see new phones still coming out with Android 5.1.

I know what many folks say to this: “Most consumers don’t even track what version of Android they’re on, or care.” That’s certainly a good point, most consumers aren’t tech-savy enthusiasts. But this makes for a discontinuity. New devices always boast about cool, neat features and technical jargon (such as software tricks or chipset improvements). Why is it okay to tend to enthusiasts then? Many would say “Because they’re trying to sell the product.” Well then, isn’t it the enthusiast who would understand/care about these selling points?

Wouldn’t this same person care about new features that make the user experience better? Ah, I see now – the manufacturer already sold the device to you, so why do they need to do more work? This is where the problem lies with Android, and Marshmallow has shown that it’s not getting better.

This convolution unfortunately means that we should only be buying Nexus devices. It’s unfortunate because Android is supposed to mean choice. With this fragmentation left to run wild, the purpose is defeated.

be_together_phones

If you think I’m being dramatic, let’s recap all the features that many Android users should be benefiting from right now.

  • Now on Tap: Touch and hold the Home button to automatically ping information about content on your screen.
  • Doze: Device goes into a deep sleep over lengthy periods of standby, to conserve some serious battery life.
  • App Standby: Another battery saving feature – seldom used apps are limited on battery usage.
  • Improved Permissions: Apps only request permission(s) when it’s needed.
  • Fingerprint Security: Your fingerprint not only unlocks your device, but authorizes transactions in the Play Store or signing into third-party apps.
  • Android Runtime “ART”: Improved application and multi-tasking performance.
  • Improved Text Functionality: Smarter text selection and copy/paste, built-in undo/redo, and text selection actions (such as a Translate option).
  • Chrome Custom Tabs: More integrated/seamless retrieval of web content from within apps, because they use Chrome.

These are the highlights, there’s more to Marshmallow.

The argument can go further when talking about faster updates to the current OS and smoother experience in Google’s pure user interface. Also, Google’s Project Fi wireless network is locked down to just Nexus phones. I enjoy the “Be together. Not the same” philosophy as much as the next Android fan, but the only reality I see for a proper experience with Android is with a Nexus device.

There are some wild card exceptions out there that have Marshmallow on a non-Nexus device (i.e. the HTC One A9 or Nvidia Shield tablet), but a 0.7% adoption shows that they are way too few and far between. What do you think about the matter? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below!