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The evolution of Nexus: 5 years of change

The evolution of Nexus: 5 years of change
Google has taken us on quite the journey with its Nexus smartphones in the past five years. It all started in January 2010, two and a half years after Apple introduced its iPhone and changed the phone landscape. The first member of the family was the Nexus One, a device that set a trend with a surprisingly large for the time 3.7-inch display. 

Looking back you might find it funny that screens that size were considered large and remembering how people got excited about a single-core 1GHz chip might also seem strange from today’s viewpoint.

Just that would tell you how quickly we've evolved from there. It is that evolution and the trends in it that we want to focus on here: to spot what Google has focused on keeping and changing in these years, in both devices, Android software and price.

The Google subsidy - a high-end phone for half the price

A Nexus phone has not always been an affordable phone. Sure, it was a bit more affordable than flagships, but far from the level it is today - the Nexus S for instance launched priced at $529 unlocked. Fast forward a couple of years, and the single most-important feature that makes Nexus phones so enticing now is without a doubt their price. Sold for half the price of flagship smartphones, yet still packing top-shelf hardware, the Nexus lineup is an extremely seductive device for those who are on a budget. Behind this all is without a doubt a huge subsidy by Google on every handset - you can rest assured that neither manufacturers, nor Google made much profit out of the $299 Nexus 4 (even less so after its price dropped to $199).

The drastic price cut only first started with the Nexus 4, and now the Nexus 5 continues with that trend. Still, the low price is not universal. You can get the low-priced Nexus on Google Play store’s devices section, but that section is only available in less than ten countries (the United States and other first-world nations). In all other places, the Nexus smartphones are sold with a slight premium. They are still noticeably cheaper than flagships, but not half the price.

With the Nexus 5 coming at its affordable price, it’s clear that we now all expect Nexus smartphones to be cheap.
HTC Nexus One US
4.69 x 2.35 x 0.45 inches
119 x 59.8 x 11.5 mm
4.59 oz (130 g)

HTC Nexus One US

Google Nexus S
4.88 x 2.48 x 0.43 inches
123.9 x 63 x 10.88 mm
4.55 oz (129 g)

Google Nexus S

Samsung GALAXY Nexus
5.33 x 2.67 x 0.35 inches
135.5 x 67.94 x 8.94 mm
4.76 oz (135 g)

Samsung GALAXY Nexus

Google Nexus 4
5.27 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches
133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm
4.90 oz (139 g)

Google Nexus 4

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.

Google’s stand against carrier monopolies - selling unlocked

Google is not directly standing against the two-year subscription model that many have proclaimed to be a slavery to the operator, but by selling unlocked and contract-free devices on its own store, the company is definitely making a stand. Buying a device separate from a carrier is a common practice in a lot of countries, but it is the United States that Google is trying to change and that’s where 2-year contracts are ubiquitous.

The idea has been there from the first Nexus One, but Google elevated it to another level when it launched the ‘Devices’ section in its new unified Google Play store and the Nexus 4 was the first to be sold there.

The final frontier - cameras

Nexus smartphones have always had the cutting-edge performance and the geek appeal, but ever since the Nexus One appeared, no Nexus could claim a camera that would be on par with the latest flagships. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was a great device, but its camera was lackluster, and the Nexus 4 also disappointed with its sub-par camera.

Put simply, this has been the final frontier for Nexus smartphones. With the Nexus 5 Google has finally made one big step to arrive there. The Nexus 5 features an 8-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, and it aims to deliver great performance in both regular conditions, but most importantly in dim-lit situations. The first camera samples we have seen do show some progress, but we'll definitely need more time to draw a final conclusion whether the Nexus 5 brings Google past that final barrier.

The evolution of Nexus: 5 years of change
4G LTE finally

If the camera was the final frontier, 4G LTE seemed like a strange omission on the Nexus 4. In a time where nearly all top smartphones featured 4G connectivity, the Nexus 4 remained stuck with 3G networks. With the Nexus 5 this issue is now fixed as the handset supports a wide range of LTE bands, compatible with a lot of carriers across the globe.

Good news is that from now on there is no going back, and support for 4G LTE will only continue to improve in future Nexus handsets.

Google’s stand against microSD cards

The first Nexus One was the only in the family to feature expandable storage. Since then, Google has taken a stand against having microSD card slots. Luckily, it’s not mandating it across the whole Android ecosystem, but all later Nexus devices only their built-in storage.

The idea behind all this seems to be to encourage customers to use cloud services (Google's cloud preferably) more. The company has had one of the best cloud solutions out there, and with the launch of its Play music streaming service, there is less need to store tons of music on the built-in storage. The Nexus family has thus evolved to not support microSD cards and is likely to remain this way.

Conclusion: looking to the future

Google has fixed almost everything there was to fix with the Nexus lineup and adorned it with an irresistible price. If you don't shoot for absolute perfection, the Nexus 5 seems like the best value for the money right now and finally it seems to have got it all. Here’s a thought that crosses our mind as we write this - while phones will undoubtedly continue to evolve, it seems that we have reached a point where all big problems are solved and we're ready to look into a radically new category now that everyone has a smartphone in their pockets. Is it watches, is it glasses, or is it something else? We would expect to see all and everything next year. The stage is set.

  • Options

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 08:49 32

1. akki20892 (Posts: 3902; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)

We need Sony nexus.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:14 11

13. PBXtech (Posts: 1032; Member since: 21 Oct 2013)

Wouldn't be surprised if that's next. Samsung had 2, followed by LG having 2, time for Sony or even Motorola to get one.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:19 3

14. EgyDroid (Posts: 111; Member since: 10 Oct 2013)

Sony would rock the nexus series

OR all android companies make a ultimate nexus

but your profile picture has more chance to come to life more than my idea LOL

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 17:24 5

26. akki20892 (Posts: 3902; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)

My profile picture showing legendary mobile company with superior os. That means Nokia with android would be perfect pair.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:24 4

15. roldefol (Posts: 4365; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

I think LG is doing just fine with their hardware. It's still going to be styled by Google, you know.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:38 5

17. CanYouSeeTheLight (Posts: 1122; Member since: 05 Jul 2012)

I also agree, and add that to the fact that Sony's screens aren't that great and consume lots of battery. (Just check GSMArena the Z1 with its 3000mAh runs out of power on web browsing and video playback much faster than the HTC One and its 2300 mAh battery.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 14:52 1

24. rabidhunter (Posts: 90; Member since: 05 Jul 2013)

With Sony's part in the Rockstar Consortium, and their lack of market penetration in the US, I don't think this is likely to happen.

posted on 02 Nov 2013, 12:56

30. SonyXperiaNexus (Posts: 374; Member since: 01 Oct 2012)

lack of market penetration shouldnt be a problem with a nexus. most people dont know nexus 4 is made by LG

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 08:50 1

2. thethird (Posts: 72; Member since: 28 Mar 2013)

Wait, I think the GNexus featured an expandable storage.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 08:59

7. cezarepc (Posts: 718; Member since: 23 Nov 2012)


posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:03 1

8. in_core (Posts: 80; Member since: 14 Sep 2012)

no it didn, 8/16gb with no expansion

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:25

16. roldefol (Posts: 4365; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

16/32 actually. I wouldn't have given the GNex a second of my time without 32 GB.

posted on 02 Nov 2013, 07:53 1

29. in_core (Posts: 80; Member since: 14 Sep 2012)

That's the CDMA version. I am talking about the international one, which was only option to the vast majority.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:51

18. squallz506 (banned) (Posts: 1075; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)

Nope, but it did flaunt lte in some varieties and the gsm version was available from the play store before the nexus 4. The article fails to mention both of these facts.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 10:52

20. ePoch270 (Posts: 192; Member since: 26 Sep 2013)


posted on 01 Nov 2013, 08:52 5

3. power_x (Posts: 264; Member since: 28 Aug 2013)

the hand holding the nexus one is huge

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 11:07 1

22. g2a5b0e (Posts: 3814; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)

Not really. It's got a 3.7" screen.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 08:52 2

4. toiletcleaner (Posts: 224; Member since: 10 Oct 2012)

A Blackberry Nexus and I'm in :)

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 08:55 9

5. DKMDROID (Posts: 103; Member since: 09 Aug 2011)


posted on 01 Nov 2013, 08:57 17

6. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

For $349, Nexus 5 is simply the best device in it's class. Period.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:05 2

9. WHoyton1 (Posts: 1635; Member since: 21 Feb 2013)

well said +1

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:08 2

11. tiara6918 (Posts: 2111; Member since: 26 Apr 2012)

Taxes ruin the whole price tag but this is a great starting point for an awesome device

posted on 02 Nov 2013, 07:41

28. WindowsiDroid (Posts: 138; Member since: 22 Jul 2013)

I feel your pain dude, here in Philippines instead of $349 it becomes $500 >.< I totally hate it.

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:06 1

10. WHoyton1 (Posts: 1635; Member since: 21 Feb 2013)

It almost makes me wanna cry :')

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 09:12 1

12. scriptwriter (Posts: 396; Member since: 13 Nov 2012)

i currently have a galaxy nexus and a nexus 10. im waiting on my nexus 5

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 11:21

23. scriptwriter (Posts: 396; Member since: 13 Nov 2012)

Motorola Nexus could be very intresting

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 17:20 1

25. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

I wouldn't say that the Nexus 5 is compatible with a lot of LTE carriers across the globe. Rather, the US version is a N. America LTE phone. It may work with a particular carrier in a particular country, but, lacking support for the widespread bands of 1800 and 2600MHz, it misses the mark as a global LTE phone. Surely, sporting six UMTS bands at up to 42Mbps, it's still a quite capable 3G global phone.

(v. bit.ly/HwNmUK )

posted on 01 Nov 2013, 20:31

27. 14545 (Posts: 1676; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)

I just wish that google would realize that service A) isn't available everywhere, and B) data service now costs an @$$load of money. So "cloud storage" isn't viable yet. Also, what's wrong with including expandable storage?

posted on 02 Nov 2013, 14:08

31. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

Excuse me? It's time to shop around then, for I pay $30 per month for 5GB of data at 4G, 2G afterwards with free international data roaming. I wouldn't call $30 a @#$%-load of money.

posted on 02 Nov 2013, 15:47

32. 14545 (Posts: 1676; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)

For what you get, it is. Especially compared to what one used to get. Also, and I like Tmo, but Tmo out in the rural areas isn't that great. I have family in the rural areas so I can't just get rid of VZW. I have unlimited data, but that still disregards the fact that there are many places with every carrier that don't have service. No, 30 for 5gb is reasonable, but 30 for 2 isn't. That's more or less what I am referring to.

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