Google is making a 5.9-inch Nexus X because your opinion doesn't matter

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Google is making a 5.9-inch Nexus X because your opinion doesn't matter
There has been a lot of news recently about the upcoming Motorola-built Nexus X, and the majority of the reports point to the fact that the Nexus X will feature a 5.9-inch display. There has been recent news that a 5.2-inch Nexus could come along as well, but that is dependent on certain Motorola releases. The main Nexus X will feature a 5.9-inch display, and this is a fact that has routinely caused a commotion in the comment threads (and among PhoneArena editors) because many of you don't believe the Nexus should be any bigger than the 5 to 5.2-inch range. So, I wanted to clear up the most likely reasoning for Google's choice of the larger display. 

As always, the rationale here begins with the basic purpose of the Nexus line of devices - what they are intended to be, and what they are not. The Nexus line has undergone some changes in recent years, and the basic definition of the brand has changed somewhat; but, based on various information and from talking with insiders, I believe that Google is attempting to bring the Nexus line back to its roots, and that means the wishes of average consumers and enthusiasts alike don't really matter. 

What the Nexus is not

First and foremost, the Nexus line is not a consumer-oriented set of devices. Nexus devices have certainly become popular with a subset of consumers because of the low price tag; but, aside from the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus smartphones have not been aggressively marketed towards the average consumer, certainly not in the same way that the Nexus 7 has been marketed and made easily accessible. For the most part, Nexus phones have been made available only through the Google Play Store, T-Mobile, Sprint, and certain other retailers, like Best Buy. Nexus phones are not found in the largest carriers, because that isn't really the point of the Nexus brand. And, while Nexus devices are often featured in Android commercials, the ads are not for the Nexus phone itself, but are more aimed at marketing the Android platform as a whole. 

Since the average consumer isn't the purview of the Nexus line, the consumer-facing brand will be Android Silver, which is the natural extension of the Google Play edition program. The aim there is specifically to highlight the stock Android experience and the speed at which software updates can come when you have a device running stock Android. The Nexus devices have done this as well, but the awareness hasn't extended much past the tech elite and enthusiasts. Average users still don't quite understand the benefits of stock Android, but Silver will be able to show it much more easily. 

Android Silver will have dedicated sections in all carrier stores, including Verizon and AT&T; and, employees of those stores will be specially trained by Google to help customers understand what it is. Android Silver will likely feature devices that would otherwise be Google Play edition, meaning it will be much easier for consumers to see how the Silver variant differs from the manufacturer customized model because both will be available in the same store. Imagine a customer being able to see the Android Silver version of the Galaxy S5 (which is not a device known to exist, but will for the purpose of this hypothetical) running Android L well before the TouchWiz S5 gets the same update. That is a powerful thing for Google in helping average consumers understand a more complex issue in the Android world, and its efforts to push manufacturers towards lighter skins and faster updates. On the other hand, while Nexus phones are often based on or closely related to certain manufacturer devices, it doesn't have the same impact in the comparison. 

Ultimately, Nexus devices are not designed to cater to consumer wishes. You may not want a 5.9-inch Nexus X, but I'm sorry to say, that opinion doesn't factor in to Google's plans, because at the end of the day, the Nexus line is all about what Google wants for the Android ecosystem, and what it thinks is necessary. It is the same reason why the Nexus line is not a set of devices featuring expandable storage and removable batteries. Just like Apple does what it believes best, often in spite of user demands, so too will Google do what it thinks is best for the Nexus line, despite what you might personally want, because the Nexus line isn't really for you.

What the Nexus is, and why Google thinks we need a larger Nexus phone

At its core, the Nexus line has had two major purposes since its inception: 

  1. To be a developer reference device, and 
  2. To highlight features/trends in the ecosystem, or those that Google wants to push. 

The first purpose has always been the biggest aim of the Nexus line. Google has always wanted to offer a device that is always running the newest version of Android without manufacturer modification, so developers know where the Android platform is going in terms of hardware and software. It is also the main reason why the Nexus line of phones has been priced so aggressively low. The fact that consumers and enthusiasts jumped on the Nexus brand is a byproduct of the low retail price, but Google's aim has always been to make a device that could get to as many developers as possible, which meant selling it at a cut-rate price. But, just because you like having an inexpensive high-end Android device doesn't mean that Google is building it for you. 

As Dave Burke, the head of Android engineering and the Nexus program at Google, said a couple months ago, the Nexus program is essential to developers, especially developers at Google. The new Nexus device is developed in tandem with the new version of the Android software, one cannot exist without the other. Both the software and hardware point the direction in which Google thinks the ecosystem is going or should go. Google wants more intuitive design with playful animations, so Android L has Material Design. Google wants to push NFC and de-emphasize SD cards, so those features are added/removed from the Nexus hardware. 

This year, the aim of the Nexus phone is to highlight a trend in the Android ecosystem and offer developers a device to help capitalize on that trend: phablets. Regardless of your personal preference when it comes to smartphone size, Android devices in the 5.5-inch to 6.5-inch range are growing in popularity around the world. South Korea has been dubbed the "home of the phablet", because customers there buy large screen smartphones at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world, including buying millions of Galaxy Note handsets. But, the trend towards phablets is something that is happening everywhere. There's a good reason why Apple has a 5.5-inch iPhone on the way - customers want that form factor. 

Of course, until now, all of the Nexus smartphones have been 5-inches or smaller, while the tablets are either 7-inches or 10.1-inches. So, Google has been missing certain sections of the ecosystem with its developer reference devices. This year, Google wants to be able to hit all of the segments with its Nexus line. It wants developers to have options that fit every need, which is to say each size tier. This means a having the old Nexus 5 (or possible second new Nexus with a 5.2-inch display), a Nexus X with a 5.9-inch display, the old Nexus 7, a new Nexus tablet at 8.9-inches, and the old Nexus 10. That gives developers options to choose from depending on how and where they may want to target their software. 


While it is still possible that Google will release a Nexus device this year that is 5.2-inches, the main Nexus X is set to be 5.9-inches, and there is very good reason for that. Unfortunately, the number one reason is one that may not sit well with many of our readers: you are not the target market of the Nexus line, and what you want doesn't really matter. I'm not sure why this is a surprise though. If Google really listened to what the enthusiasts on sites like ours said, then the Nexus line would still feature expandable storage and a removable battery, but obviously those features are now gone. Google wants to limit the use of expandable storage to make for a more consistent experience for users and developers alike; and, force better hardware and software design by moving towards non-removable batteries. Now, Google wants to highlight the growing segment of phablets in the Android ecosystem, so we're going to get a larger Nexus device. 

As much as I love the Nexus line, I know I'm in the same boat as you, and I'm not the target market either; so, I've given up hoping to see the device of my dreams come directly from Google. Instead, I embrace the power of the Android ecosystem, and the hardware variety afforded by it, to find the device that fits my needs and desires. Last year, I traded my Nexus 5 for the Moto X, because of the design, the software, and the personality. This year, I'm still undecided until we see what comes with the X+1, Nexus, and various Android Silver devices, but I'm confident that there will be something that fits what I want. So, the conclusion is simple really: if you don't want a 5.9-inch device, the Nexus line may not be for you this year, but there will be plenty of options for you through Android Silver and other manufacturers. 

Related phones

Nexus 6
  • Display 6.0 inches
    2560 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP (Single camera)
    2 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 805, 3GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB,
  • Battery 3220 mAh
  • OS Android 7.1 Nougat



102. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

Micheal, While I agree with you that google has been neglecting the ever growing phablet section and is finally doing something about it, I completely disagree that the phone is "not for you". In essence, the Nexus line is "for me", because its for developers to make apps for me. It is a reflection of the current realities of android and the directions google wants it to go. The Shamu is a reflection of the current reality of the popularity of phablets. It would not exist without it being such a vertical growth vector. Thus, if I were someone in the market for a phablet, it would be "for me" either directly or indirectly. That said, if they completely ignore a more "normal sized" 4.7-5.2 inch phone is to ignore the vast majority of the people it's aimed for... the developers.. and indirectly "me". The vast majority of android's screen range from 5.2 and down. So to ignore this segment is to ignore android's core developer audience... and thus.. me. To me and to apparently 2/3rds of the buying/voting public if the PA polls are to be believed, "I" dont want a phone that big. So where will developers be concentrating most? On scaling for phablets or making sure the 4.3-5.3 inch screen phone range works well? They are concentrating on what "I" want so they can try to make $$ off apps, not on what google wants to push. So, in essence, Google needs to cater to its cell phone growth vector and to its primary vector in its vision, even if it requires 2 devices for the first time since the Nexus family launched. Otherwise its not just ignoring "me", its ignoring developers, thus ignoring its main source of income from google (in app adds/payments).

103. cezarepc

Posts: 718; Member since: Nov 23, 2012

Where have you been?

99. Aireck

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 10, 2014

Time to buy bigger pants.

94. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1292; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

Great work dear Michael... Hats off... I will buy 5.9" Nexus phones, only if it comes with (almost) 4000mAh battery... OH, Google doesn't cares about me, then it will fit 2750mAh battery in it..

100. Aireck

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 10, 2014

How about one of those mobile "power bank" chargers or whatever they're called. Those sound very useful

89. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

I think there would be two Nexuss, a 5.9" for developers and a mini version of the same.

88. vandroid

Posts: 406; Member since: Sep 04, 2012

Google: Oh you don't want a phone this big? LOL f*ck your opinion.

87. mas39

Posts: 80; Member since: Jan 17, 2013

Maybe the writer of the article is oblivious to the obvious trend towards phablets, doesn't he realise that most people want larger devices, 5 - 5.2" is going to be replaced next year by 5.5"+ for flagship devices. Has he not noticed the LG G3, Lenovo are releasing their flagship which will be the 6" vibe z pro. It is so silly to want a 5" device in this day and age when there is no sensible reason to have one. Better get used to it now otherwise you're all going to be moaning for next ten years.Personally I can't wait for phablets to reach 6.5" .

96. Canaan

Posts: 351; Member since: May 25, 2014

The LG G3 is barely going to reach 10 million units sold, that's nowhere near what smaller phones have sold. The Galaxy S4 reportedly sold 100 million units and it's still in the top 10 monthly sales. The Galaxy S5 in 4 months is nearing 30 million despite its 5.1 inch screen and then there's the iPhone that is still a top seller; in the past few months it's been #1 in monthly sales despite it almost being a year since its release.

85. ManusImperceptus

Posts: 724; Member since: Jun 10, 2014

"Just like Apple does what it believes best, often in spite of user demands, so too will Google do what it thinks is best for the Nexus line, despite what you might personally want, because the Nexus line isn't really for you." And this comparison makes sense how? A comparison that fails on two levels... Apple products are certainly for the average user, and Android have specifically tried to differentiate themselves from Apple by offering their customers a device for every need.

82. gaara6775

Posts: 738; Member since: May 20, 2014

Now put Tegr K1 and I'm sold(even though it has 5.9' display).

81. OldNorseBruin

Posts: 235; Member since: Mar 12, 2013

This is going to a KICK-ASS 5.9 phone! Only wish, MOTOROLA would roll out with an Xperia Z ULTRA-size screen phone as well!

78. Adrian38

Posts: 142; Member since: Nov 05, 2012

Hahahaha that has to be the best title ever

77. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

Anybody here wants to buy my Z1??

71. nathan.carter

Posts: 416; Member since: Aug 11, 2014

so they are trying to hit all sizes. 4,5,6,7, and 8 cool google hope they make an lte nexus 4.

70. SemperFiV12

Posts: 949; Member since: Nov 09, 2010

I want to thank Michael H for this write up. I am glad I read it, and it is a must read for most tech enthusiasts. Well written, well organized, and stays on point. No frills, no fluff... just business. Breath of fresh air, thanks for the great write up!

68. Pattyface

Posts: 1658; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

I would most certainly buy a nexus at that size and specs. I just hope they have better cameras and calibrate the screen property

66. talon95

Posts: 1015; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

Hey Google...FYI - I want a true nexus device. - I want it on Verizon. - I want it 5" to 5.3" - I want it fast (1080p is great ~400ppi) - I want 3k+ mAh battery (to avoid swapable) - I want 64Gb+ internal (to avoid sd) - I want security (biometrics, kill switch, encryption etc.) - I want sensors (the more the better, be creative) - I want a high quality camera (doesn't have to be above 14MP output but include OIS and maybe some new sensor shifting / oversampling / isocell /curved tech to really clean up the image quality and make it work in low light) - I want stereo front speakers - I want a rugged body (doesn't have to be metal but it has to be shock/scratch proof and look good so that I don't have to cover it and bulk it up in an ugly case. Sure, charge a little more than you have in the past but keep it competitive. Nail all that and you're golden. In my opinion anyway.

65. Professor

Posts: 223; Member since: Aug 02, 2013

I always had being thinking that a developer develops hardware and software based on what the customer wants to buy. In order to actually be able to sell and be profitable with their products. Not just to satisfy someone (in this case Google) by manufacturing or developing a product no one wants to buy. As a consumer I want a phone with a big screen and with 300 to a max of 400dpi resolution. QHD resolution is an overkill even at 6". That level of dpi makes more sense in tablets, but is an overkill in a phone. Just using battery and slowing the system to the point that even with the latest and fastest processor still maybe slower than one with HD. Also only Google wants a phone without expandable storage hoping that people pay for their slow internet based cloud storage. Any customer that knows what about phones is going to want to buy a phone with the option to add a Micro-SD card. And with a big or removable battery. Only someone retarded or someone that don't use his phone to take photos, videos, listen to music or even use the internet is going to want to buy a phone with a small storage and no way to expand the storage. Or with a battery that only last a few hours if he actually uses the phone.

64. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

5.9 inches for a phone is an excellent size...but, for the puny little girly man, I guess there is always the iPhone...


Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 28, 2014

Still it doesn't justify the reason for the 5.9, the only reason i can think of for the 5.9 is that they are trying different sizes and that's it, i see no benefit for either the developers or consumers in that size (why not 5.5 or 5.7 for that matter which in terms in size can still be favorable). Another point why not kill two birds with one stone please the developers and the general consumers at the same time which doesn't contradict with each other. I believe the real reason if it really to be 5.9 inch screen will only be known when its revealed by Google.

60. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

"Google wants to limit the use of expandable storage to make for a more consistent experience for users and developers alike; and, force better hardware and software design by moving towards non-removable batteries." Sorry, but this is just outright nonsense. Google limits storage on phones so you use the cloud for storage. This is a win for Google as they make more money mining and selling you and your data than they will ever make on Android itself. Google also wins as the carriers do not want a lot of data storage on phones. They have expensive data plans to sell and SD cards do not help with this. So Google gets favorable treatment from the carriers when they want "off the record" data collection, for instance. As for the non-removable batteries, Google does this so you can never truly turn the phone off. So their custom low power always-on/always-listening chips can always be running.

67. Awalker

Posts: 1988; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

That's the way I see it. If their concern is the inconsistency of SD cards they should insist that Android manufacturers release phones with 64 or 128GB of storage.

57. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

That'll one badass phone.

56. Awalker

Posts: 1988; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

Confusing article. First he says Google doesn't care what consumers think and then he says a 5.9" Nexus is a result of consumer trends. Anyhow, it's looking more and more likely that I'll be skipping the Nexus line this year.

55. Canaan

Posts: 351; Member since: May 25, 2014

One would think that they did care about consumers considering the Nexus line has been increasing in sales with each new incarnation. The Nexus 4 sold an estimated 3 million, while the Nexus 5 has doubled or perhaps even tripled those sales.

54. kalalemuhammad

Posts: 13; Member since: Jan 14, 2014

Most people now use their smartphones for web and media consumption. A large screen makes sense.

52. ciprian.ruse

Posts: 320; Member since: May 13, 2014

I am a big nexus fan but this device will be too big and won't buy it.

51. YourNickname

Posts: 127; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

1. Google makes nexus to please developers 2. Developers make apps to please consumers 3. Google's nexus "reference device" needs to be a REAL reference: to the consumer A baker does not need nor want eggs or milk that he might like but his customers do not. A baker makes for customers. A baking goods distributor makes for the baker to make for the cutomer. I can see how a half billion asians use phablets, and asian devs need a reference device for them. But many asian phablets do have sdcards(bc asians love to pirate) and do have removable batteries. They also are mostly 720p screens with mid-range specs phablets, fact. So its evident a 1440p snapdragon 805 no removable battery no sdcard phablet IS NOT A REFERENCE for the devlopers to cater to the growing phablet consumers. Prime specs are for the western market, who does not care about phablets. Somebody at google is phailing hard on phablets. Forgerting that phone arenas own poll showed weak interest in anything above 5.5" with ideal size being 5" evident and ignoring the "consumer is the developer is the android ecosystem" it really is just google trying force cloud subscription revenue. No other explanation, forcing OEMs to produce more data storage in their devices is a profit margin status quo not going to be upset by an exemplariry 32 gb. They need 64gb and 128gb internal if they want the no sdcard trend to take root.

50. alrightihatepickingusernames

Posts: 474; Member since: Dec 29, 2013

Great article as usual, Michael. Glad somebody else recognizes that these smartphones just aren't built to compete. I think you missed out on an important factor on why the Nexus smartphones aren't built for consumers: Google's hardware partners. Google gives Nexus phones mediocre battery life and minimal marketing because if Google really pushed them as consumer-friendly devices they'd steal a lot of their hardware partner's sales. Not something Google wants to tamper with.

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