With the announcement of Google's new Pixel and Pixel XL today, there has been the question of what's happening to the long-running Nexus hardware program, which started in 2010 with the Nexus One and has been comprised of eight phones, four tablets, and two media players. According to Google, the company has "no plans" for a future Nexus product, marking the likely end of the Nexus run.
The Nexus program went through many iterations, but it largely existed for Google to provide an example of how Android devices should be built. Nexus phones and tablets were the first devices to get new versions of Android when they were released, and they frequently had hardware features that took advantage of new software features Google was showcasing in the latest versions of Android. Google also experimented with pricing in the Nexus program, ranging from premium-priced smartphones over $600 to lower-cost midrange options.
The Nexus phones and tablets were embraced by enthusiasts and largely ignored by the general public. That wasn't helped by the fact that buying a Nexus generally meant going through Google and not to your local carrier's store. Further, while later Nexus phones ended up being more than decent, most of the time you could get a better device from Samsung or one of the many other Android device makers — and be able to buy it at retail stores.
It's hard to see the difference between Pixel and Nexus
Still, from what we know so far, it's hard to see how Google's new Pixel strategy is materially different from the Nexus program. They are limited availability devices that don't really push the envelope in terms of design or capabilities from what you've been able to get from a high-end Android device all year. The real advantage to a Pixel phone is the same as was offered by the Nexus program: a direct-from-Google software experience and the promise of rapid software updates. For all intents and purposes, the Pixel phones are likely to fall into the same niche of phone buyers occupied by the former Nexus line.
That could all change if Google commits to marketing the new devices more broadly and is able to get them in front of the phone-buying public in ways that it didn't do with the Nexus line.
For now, we'll pour one out for the Nexus program and look forward to see if the new Pixel devices live up to expectations.