Google today announced their new smartphones, the Pixel and Pixel XL. The Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P of 2015, they are the last of the Nexus line of smartphones. That’s right, the Nexus is no more. Nexus, born 2010, has left us. For the first time, Google’s smartphone is all made by Google, designed in and out all by Google.
The Pixel and Pixel XL may be completely Google’s design, but they still need a smartphone manufacturer to actually make the hardware. That manufacturer is HTC. You won’t, unlike the Nexus devices, find any HTC branding on the device. In fact, you won’t even hear about HTC in the Pixel marketing materials.
Today, many media channels are going to be excitedly writing about the new Pixel smartphones, or at least those that cover technology news. I’ll certainly write about Pixels in due course. But today I’ll do something different.
Sadly, it looks like Google has terminated its line of reference Android smartphone devices, well-regarded for their above-average, if not flagship, hardware specifications, that yet sold at very competitive prices, at least in the earlier years. The Nexus 6 in 2014 was too expensive. The Nexus 5X and 6P was much better value, but you wouldn’t consider them as budget phones.
There had been rumours. Remember Android Silver? It was rumoured to arrive in 2015. They would replace Nexus with high-end premium devices with stock Android. It didn’t happen. But the rumours appear to have panned out in a different form this year. It’s not Android Silver. It’s Pixel. It’s high-end. It’s priced like flagships from the competition, the iPhones and Galaxy S/Note devices from Apple and Samsung.
So Google this time around is done competing through a proxy. They are in the game themselves. They still don’t manufacture the phones, but that’s not unlike, say, OnePlus, which outsources hardware manufacturing to OPPO.
I had the Nexus One. It’s goodbye to Nexus. The latest Nexus device, the 5X and 6P, are guaranteed to have Android version updates through September 2017. It’ll have security patches for another year.