For the entire generation of phones and tablets we know as the Nexus devices, Google seemed focused on providing those devices mainly for developers. You can see this in Google initially using the AOSP project as the OS for the Nexus devices (later changing to ‘Google Android’) and by the lack of extra features built into those devices.
Nowadays though, if you were to look at Google as a company, you’ll notice that it has changed its ways to become more of a consumer-focused manufacturer.
Google Nexus Era
Comparing the Nexus line of devices to Google’s newer Pixel line is like night and day. Let’s look at several devices in this piece, the Nexus One, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, and Pixel 2. I’ll skip tablets as they seem to follow the same evolution as the phones do.
The Nexus One was a neat device to show off Android as seen through Google’s eyes and arrived in 2010. While praised as a great early Android phone, the Nexus One didn’t have enough unique features to keep the consumer interested; additionally, it was not sold long enough with carrier partners.
That reception follows through to the Nexus 5, premiering in 2013. The phone was great with performance, stock features, and cost ($400). At the time the Nexus 5 was pitted against devices such as the Galaxy S4 and HTC One. As far as performance goes, Google’s experience was nearly the same.
Google started heavily focusing on camera features (namely HDR/HDR+) as it saw the rise of popularity of smartphone cameras in the general public. Sadly, the Nexus 5 didn’t have LTE bands to support several popular carriers. It also didn’t have the battery life to be a more substantial hit with the general public. Notably, this was the last Nexus to come with a cheaper price tag.
Skipping to the Nexus 6P, the last primary Nexus phone from Google, introduced in 2015. The 6P was regarded as the best Nexus device created. It was built with premium materials, a great camera, super-fast performance, and a low cost relatively. The 6P didn’t have many downfalls with its overall product, although the delivery was still weak on Google’s part. It wasn’t sold in carrier stores, but it did work flawlessly on many global carriers (including Verizon).
Google Pixel Era
The year after the Nexus 6P, 2016, Google surprised many at its hardware event with the launch of the Google Pixel line. Additionally, it also introduced the Google Home, Google Wifi, and Chromecast Ultra.
These home devices are the next most significant sign that Google was starting to focus more and more on the general consumer, giving them easy to use replacements of ordinarily hard to set up equipment. Not only that, but the Google Pixel was actively sold in Verizon stores. The phone was also sold at Best Buy and Target and other retailers, promoting visibility to consumers.
The phone itself was pure Android, had the best smartphone camera on the market, and had high performance. Unfortunately, the device also had a high price tag, lacked wireless charging, and resistance to water. Those faults likely affected the sales of the phone and led to me not being able to recommend the device to many people that simply weren’t looking for the best camera on a smartphone.
This past year, we were graced with the Pixel 2 line that addressed many concerns regarding the first Pixel, except the cost. The design of the Pixel 2 is similar but more refined than its predecessor. Its standout feature is its great camera that continues to beat out even today’s phone cameras. The phone, as with all of Google previous phones, doesn’t offer many standout ‘gimmicky’ features, but instead has significant hardware, smooth software, and great performance.
The evolution of hardware between the Nexus and Pixel lines show that Google is aware of what’s trending in the smartphone market and what consumers want. Smartphones’ cameras have become one of the most critical parts of consumers’ buying decision, and Google has put in the effort to create a great one. It also knows that consumers like the choice of having a bigger or smaller phone without having to worry about losing features.
Consumer and Hardware Era
Google also introduced and began selling more hardware in the Pixel 2 event including the Google Home Mini and Max, the Pixel Buds, and Google Clips. All of these devices are answers to other products on the market that consumers are buying from other manufacturers.
The Mini is a direct competitor to Amazon’s Echo dot, while the Max is a smart competitor to Sonos’ Play:5. Google also created Pixel Buds seemingly in response to Apple’s Airpods. All of these products put Google’s name in front of more consumers who want more choices. Google understands that choice is good for consumers.
I feel that Google wants to be the other Apple. Not in the sense that they necessarily want to defeat Apple but rather be the other manufacturer for consumers that also build all its products in-house.
Google also doesn’t want to kill Samsung, LG, or any other Android manufacturers because as I said earlier, choice is good, and selection can be needed — even Apple provides options. Google wants to be able to provide for the masses and not solely the tinkerers anymore. It has already gained the support from developers and tinkerers long ago, and now they are tackling the other 90% of available people in the world. It is doing an excellent job if you were to look at the sales from the past year — over seven million Home Minis since launch, this past October.
Going back to phones, I can easily recommend the Pixel 2 line now, thanks to the time Google has spent maturing its software and hardware. I already suggested using Google’s software on platforms that weren’t made by Google. Now I recommend the hardware accessories as well since a lot of people have a ton of information within Google’s apps and services.
All in all, as big as Google is, I felt they had trouble with the general public when it comes to their hardware due to lack of features and cost of entry. Now with its evolution and broader product lines, Google’s hardware can start to rival its software. What do you think about the growth of Big G in the past few years regarding hardware and public presence?