For someone who has been working with smartphones for so long and loves mobile technology, what took me so long to get a Google Nexus phone is something you may be wondering. I have always been a huge fan of HTC phones & their layer of Sense on Android, I think that it adds quite a bit to the OS that I find useful. I really thought that getting a HTC device would be the best device for me, Sense, great camera with sturdy premium hardware, nice look, all that I could really want in the device, but then I began thinking again. Up until recently, I didn’t feel the same way about Android devices, I was always afraid of buying what would quickly become outdated, and that always scared my wallet away from the purchases. I knew it was going to be supported, but I did feel like I was spending money on something that would be out of date the next month. With too many choices on the market, and even more rumors of future product announcements from HTC (One series phones) and Samsung Galaxy S III devices, the decision became even harder for me to make. So, when the Google Nexus was announced, I was more than intrigued, I thought I wanted one, and would grab it as soon as it was available and that’s what I did.
It’s the first thing I pick up in the morning, and the last thing I put away at night. I work on it, connect to the world with it, and interact with those that matter most on it. I reach for it every time I want to remember a moment, and easily share that moment with just a few taps. This isn’t just another smartphone; it stays with me and keeps up with me. Google Nexus, the smartphone for geeks that stay on the edge.
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What’s a Nexus?
For those of you who don’t know, Nexus is essentially Google’s Phone. They have full control over the hardware and software, come out with a new Nexus every year or so, and update all recent Nexus phones with the latest version of Android as soon as possible. Like the latest Nexus phone is already updated to support Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The OS is also open source so it’s easy to make custom ROMs, it has an unlockable bootloader for flashing custom kernels, and a stock version of Android without any crapware or bloated UI tweaks.
You may ask, why Nexus?
If you’re an Android geek, you’re probably sick of hearing about Android’s “fragmentation” problem. If you have a non-Nexus Android phone, you’re probably even sicker of dealing with it.
Fragmentation Problem: Android’s fragmentation problem can be summed up by looking at the iPhone: When a new iPhone update rolls out, every newer-than-two-years old iPhone owner can expect to upgrade at same time. They may not all have the exact same feature set—e.g., the iPhone 4 won’t have the new turn-by-turn navigation coming in iOS 6—but they’re at least guaranteed to be updated with some new features. This is easy for Apple to do because they make the hardware and software, so they have a lot of control over each device and the software it gets.
Unfortunately, Android is different. With Android, you have multiple manufacturers taking Android, tweaking it with their own UIs and editing it to fit a ton of different devices. The problem is, those devices don’t get software updates as soon as Google releases them, and in a lot of cases, they don’t get them at all. Android manufacturers have gotten worse at keeping up with updates over the past year, too. Only 50% of you even have Ice Cream Sandwich—even less if you discount custom ROMs—and Jelly Bean is already out in the wild. We’ve heard promises from Google time and time again, but it’s time to bite the bullet and accept that for us Android geeks, the Nexus is the only phone worth buying.
What You Get (or rather, Don’t Get) with a Non-Nexus Phone?
One of the best things about Android is that you have your pick between tons of different handsets—some large, some small, some with stylus or with physical keyboards. Many have their own UI on top of Android, which brings extra features to the device (which are sometimes good and sometimes awful). The choice is nice, but by buying one of these phones, you make one big sacrifice: software updates. You may get them, but they aren’t guaranteed. When buying a non-Nexus phone, you should buy it based on what the phone is like out of the box and consider any software updates you end up getting are an exciting bonus.
Now, in the case of Android, In fact, most phones are pretty awesome when they come out—like the Samsung Galaxy S III. Is it good phone? Sure it is. but it’s already outdated compared to the latest Nexus phone. It’ll probably get Jelly bean at some point, but you’ll be waiting awhile—and we’ll already be halfway to another version(Key Lime Pie) of Android by then.
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What You Get with a Nexus Phone
Because Google has so much more control over the Nexus phones—having a Nexus means you get updates almost as soon as Google releases them. They won’t stay up-to-date forever, of course, but if an update is coming, you’ll be the first to have it. Not only that, but you’ll also have more stable ROMs, better rooting methods, and all around an easier time hacking and tweaking your phone, because developers have more to work with. Plus, you don’t get locked bootloaders like you do on other phones, including that hailed Galaxy S III.
Instead, you’re predictably buying the one phone that comes out every year, made by the same people that make the software (sound familiar?). Moreover, you don’t have to deal with the “should I wait” question, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have awesome hardware if you buy it at release time. Heck, the Google Nexus is a pretty awesome phone, hardware-wise—and frankly, I’d rather have constant Android updates than an extra 0.2 GHz in my phone’s processor.
Google I/O 2012 was amazing, it carried quite an obvious underlying message, and something that a few have discussed already. Think back to what OEM’s were there with products, who’s products were discussed, and what announcements we saw. Everything that came from Google I/O this year was Nexus related, nothing from Samsung, HTC, or anyone except Google and their Nexus line. The Nexus 7, the Nexus Q, and then the instant drop of Jellybean for the existing Nexus line of phones. This is a clear indicator of one thing, Google’s focus is very much so on their own Nexus line. The Nexus devices are certainly the first in line for Android OS updates, and it was pretty evident that Google plans a lot of support for these devices. We have seen rumors of five OEM’s making “Nexus” devices next time around, and while that may still be true I think Google will still pick a favorite. Over the past few months we have seen many OEM’s tone down the number of devices they are bringing to the table, and instead of flooding the market with devices they are releasing fewer number of devices, and spending extra time and money to make sure they are extremely competitive, and produce what users really want.
I’ve been using ICS for more than 8 months on my Nexus and love it. And now, I’ve got a brand spankin’ new version of Android in Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean may look a lot like Ice Cream Sandwich on the surface, but the performance and polish are worlds apart. If you’re using one of the many other Android-powered handsets, you’re waiting. And probably not very patiently. Someone needs to do a better job of fixing the Android’s fragmentation problem —whether it’s Google or the manufacturers. But until that happens, there’s no reason for us Android lovers to torture ourselves by buying marginally better phones and sacrifice the ability to get updates. The next time you’re in the market for a new phone, ignore your impulse to shop around and just get the Nexus—you’ll be a lot happier in the end.