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Google Nexus to Pixel: the journey so far and the future ahead

26 September 2016 0

It was more than six years ago from today when Google introduced the world to the first-ever Nexus smartphone, the Nexus One. While the phone was aimed at developers instead of regular consumers and also failed to sell in big numbers, it definitely marked the start of a brand that would go on to reflect Google's approach and vision for Android. It started the trend where Nexus phones are seen as the benchmark for what stock Android is capable of offering and how does Google want to see devices running Android.

And when you fast forward to the current date, Google has followed that first Nexus smartphone with seven more and is currently preparing for the release of two new phones that are rumored to mark the end of Nexus branding and beginning of the Pixel. There is no doubt that Google has evolved a lot and come a long way since 2010, both in terms of hardware as well as software that it provides each year. The biggest proof of this evolution is the transition of developer focused Nexus phones in early years to mainstream consumer smartphones Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P as of today.

So we decided to do a little bit of time travel and see how Nexus brand has improved over the years as well as what's there in store for us in the future if the rumors of Google ditching Nexus for Pixel brand are indeed true which is most likely the case. Let's get started.

1. Nexus One:


As mentioned in the beginning, it was the Nexus One that started it all for Google. It was manufactured by HTC and was announced in January 2010. The phone ran Android Eclair v2.1 out of the box and sported a 3.7-inch AMOLED display. The rest of the specs were pretty advanced for that time which included 512MB of RAM, 512MB of storage, a single core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 5MP rear shooter. Don't be surprised by the lack of the front camera because selfies were not cool back then which maybe because Instagram was yet to born.

The phone was made up of an aluminium frame with polycarbonate back and featured a design that can be said premium for 2010. The unique thing about the phone was that it featured a trackball that worked like the mouse. Interestingly, it was the first and only Nexus phone to feature a microSD card expansion slot (up to 32GB).

But despite all this, the Nexus One failed to attract customers which is believed to be due to its high pricing and online availability. The phone was priced at $529 at that time. Google managed to sell only 10,000 units in the first week and crossed 135,000 mark after 10 weeks.

2. Nexus S:


Learning from its previous mistakes, Google released the second Nexus device named Nexus S by the end of the same year which is 2010. But this time, it opted for Samsung as its OEM partner instead of HTC. This phone came with Android Gingerbread v2.3 which happens to be the most widely used Android versions ever.

The Galaxy S had a 4-inch display and was powered by Exynos 3 processor. There was no change to the RAM (same as 512MB) but the internal storage was increased to 16GB (1GB was partition internal storage). It was the first Nexus phone to feature a front camera (0.3MP) and the first ever Android phone to support NFC fully. It also happens to be the first Nexus phone to come with no microSD card slot and last Nexus phone to feature physical capacitive buttons for menu and navigation.

If you are wondering why did Google decide to ditch microSD card slots, it is because Google has never been a fan of those. The reason behind it is simple that it is always easier for an OS to fetch data from internal storage as compared to external storage. Additionally, fake or slow microSD cards can affect overall Android performance even more.

3. Galaxy Nexus:


As the name suggests, the Galaxy Nexus was Google's second collaboration with Samsung for a Nexus phone but for some reasons, it also turned out to be their last. The Galaxy Nexus is mainly known for being the first Nexus phone to ditch physical capacitive buttons for on-screen buttons. Since then, we have seen every Nexus phone and many other Android phones from other OEMs featuring on-screen buttons for menu, navigation, and recent apps.

The Galaxy Nexus was released in November 2011 and it came with Ice Cream Sandwich v4.0. If you are someone from Brazil, then you might have heard about this phone as Galaxy X. This phone had a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED display with 720p resolution which was also a first for Nexus. With this, Google opted for a dual-core processor coupled with 1GB RAM. It even bumped up the storage to 32GB with 16GB being the base model. It was the last Nexus phone to feature a user-removable battery, a necessity that has started to become a luxury in the current time.

In terms of build and design, it was one of the best smartphones back then. It had a slightly curved design with textured back which made it comfortable to hold and grip. While the phone did not sell much like the first Nexus, it was the Android version that was the main highlight as it paved the path for yet to come visually appealing and feature loaded versions.

4. Nexus 4:


The Nexus 4 was released in November 2012 and was manufactured by LG. It marked the start of a partnership which happens to be the longest running and most successful between Google and any OEM for a Nexus device. The Nexus 4 is also special in a way that it was the first Nexus device that made mainstream people consider buying a Nexus. Prior to this, it was only tech enthusiasts and Android purists that used to be excited and consider a Nexus phone. The primary reason for this change was the phone's significant cheap pricing as compared to previous phones. It was launched for about $299 for the base model and that too the unlocked model.

In terms of specs, the Nexus 4 was the first Nexus to feature 2GB RAM. It sported a 4.7-inch display with a quad-core processor from Qualcomm. There were 8GB and 16GB storage options with 8MP/1.3MP cameras. It was released with all new Android Jelly Bean v4.2. The phone also featured a great design, especially the glittering back that used to give different effects when the phone was tilted at various angles under the light.

5. Nexus 5:


Now, this is most probably the oldest Nexus device that most of the people would remember if not the Nexus 4. The Nexus 5 marked the continuation of collaboration with LG and capitalized on everything that was done right by its predecessor. It was the reason that it became the most popular Nexus device ever and went on to one of the favorites as the daily driver even after two years of its release.

The Nexus 5 was launched in October 2013 and ran Android KitKat v4.4 straight out of the box. It was released with a 4.95-inch Full HD display and quad-core Snapdragon 800 chipset. The remaining specs are quite similar to the previous Nexus. Even the design of the phone was amazing and is arguably one of the best designed Nexus phones ever. It had one major drawback and that was its lackluster camera that simply could not stand against the competition but despite this, it was the best Android phone at its price range when it launched.

6. Nexus 6:


With the release of the Nexus 6 in 2014, Google paused its partnership with LG for a while and teamed up with Motorola instead. The result was the biggest Nexus phone till this day. The Nexus 6 sports a 5.96-inch Quad HD AMOLED display which is exactly 1-inch bigger than previous Nexus. Under the hood, it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB RAM and 32GB/64GB storage options. It also happens to be the first water-resistant Nexus phone although, Google never really marketed this aspect of the phone. Additionally, it came with Android Lollipop v5.0 which meant the debut of Material Design language which has become an integral part of all future Android versions and many other apps, websites, and services since then.

The design and build of the Nexus 6 are pretty much like the Moto X (2014) with major differences being the bigger size and Nexus logo at the back. But as opposite to the Nexus 5, Motorola's Nexus failed to sell big in numbers which is mainly believed to be because of its such a big size. And we forgot to mention that the Nexus 6 also features dual front-facing stereo speakers.

7. Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P:


Last year marked the first time Google released two Nexus smartphones in partnership with different OEMs. The first one was the 5.2-inch Nexus 5X (made by LG) and 5.7-inch Nexus 6P (made by Huawei). The 5X is basically the trimmed down version of the 6P but with a different design and aimed at those who can't afford or don't want to spend a lot on a phone as premium as the 6P.

Starting with the Nexus 5X, you can say that it was Google's attempt at reviving the feel of classic Nexus 5 which also explains why it partnered with LG again. It meant the Nexus 5X had everything that was good about the Nexus 5 along with some additions and improvements here and there. But to cut the cost, Google opted for the plastic build with the Nexus 5X which was one of the disappointments among critics, users, and interested buyers.

As for the Nexus 6P, Google went with all-metal unibody design which gave it the premium feeling while holding the device and also kind of justified its higher pricing. It was the first-ever Nexus device from Huawei and succeeded in repeating the success story of phones like Huawei Honor 7 and Huawei Mate S that might have made Google consider the company for the collaboration.

Both the Nexus 5X and 6P were launched with a fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C port which were a first for any Nexus phone. They were shipped with Android Marshmallow v6.0 which was the latest Android version at the time.

And now, what's next for Google and Nexus?

We have taken you through the storyline of Google's Nexus branding, starting from the first Nexus device to the current Nexus phones duo. So the question arises, what's next for Google and Nexus?

At the moment, Google is preparing for its October 4th event scheduled to be held in San Francisco. It has not made anything official but previous rumors, event invite, and teasers suggest that we will be seeing the launch of the new Google phones. While this should have been the launch of the 2016 Nexus phones, there have been a lot of rumors and leaks suggesting that Google will be ditching Nexus branding at the event and launching the two HTC-manufactured smartphones as the Pixel and Pixel XL.


The major difference with Pixel branding will be almost negligible or no mention of smartphone manufacturer at the launch event as well as in the promotional materials. This is also evident from the October 4th event invite, teaser, and advertisements where Google is using the tagline "made by Google." Additionally, upcoming phones are said to have only Google's 'G' logo as the only piece of branding on the device. This is opposite from the Nexus branding where Google has clearly mentioned the name of the manufacturer of the devices.


The Pixel branding was also spotted in the recently leaked launcher that is said to be made from scratch for the upcoming Google phones. The launcher has been named as the Pixel Launcher and features various noteworthy visual changes like no app drawer icon and all-new Google search and calendar widget.

Talking about the specs, the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are rumored to feature 5-inch and 5.5-inch display respectively. Under the hood, they are expected to come with Snapdragon 821 processor coupled with 4GB RAM. The primary camera sensor is tipped to be the same as the HTC 10. On the software front, the phones are rumored to come with Android Nougat v7.1.

With all the above rumors and leaks in front of us, the probability of Google killing Nexus and starting with Pixel brand seems very high. And while it is only about two smartphones at the moment, it should not be surprising if Google rebrands all of its current hardware products to cover under the Pixel umbrella. After all, it will have to do this sooner or later if it wants to achieve its goals of unifying all hardware products under one brand, present itself as a true product maker, and sell the products as "made by Google."

  • The Huawei Nexus 6P isn't still available online. To be notified when it becomse available click here.
  • The LG Nexus 5X isn't still available online. To be notified when it becomse available click here.
  • The Motorola Nexus 6 isn't still available online. To be notified when it becomse available click here.
  • The LG Nexus 5 isn't still available online. To be notified when it becomse available click here.
  • The LG Google Nexus 4 isn't still available online. To be notified when it becomse available click here.
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus isn't still available online. To be notified when it becomse available click here.
  • The Google Nexus S isn't still available online. To be notified when it becomse available click here.
  • The Google Nexus One isn't still available online. To be notified when it becomse available click here.

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