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.
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.
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.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:
- To be a developer reference device, and
- 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.