Google's move from Nexus to Pixel has reinvented its smartphone business

Google’s move from Nexus to Pixel has reinvented its smartphone business

If you’ve been following Android smartphones for a long time, you might remember Google’s Nexus line. Comprised of both smartphones and tablets, it was the ultimate set of devices for enthusiasts and developers alike. I had a Google Nexus 5, and there were only a few Nexus devices released after that before the company switched to the Pixel line instead. However, this transition was more than just a name change. The move from Nexus to Pixel completely reinvented Google’s smartphone business. With the Google Pixel 7 series approaching and with it, the anniversary of the Pixel series, we thought it was appropriate to remember how the Pixel series changed the course of Google in smartphones.

The shift from developers to consumers

Previously, Nexus smartphones were generally thought of as developers’ reference devices – a pretty clean base anyone could use to tackle Android development. That didn’t stop enthusiasts from buying it either, of course, but there wasn’t really a mainstream appeal. Google didn’t really market these devices either, and the company didn’t include exclusive features at all. That all changed with the first Pixel smartphone.

Nexus 5 on a desk

For example, the Nexus 6P (made alongside Huawei) comes with anything very special. It was a great design with a decent camera, but there was nothing special to write about in the software department. Later came the Google Pixel, with the assistant built into the operating system (at the time, it was included in Google Allo, of all places), a new Pixel Launcher, and a much improved camera — the best in a Google smartphone to date.

Since then, Google has done its best in ambient computing, exclusive software features, and even marketing. Nothing the company is doing now will happen with the Pixel line as part of the Nexus. Play Now, a fun feature aimed entirely at the masses would have no place on the developer’s device. Previously, any features released on a Nexus device were typical features that were part of AOSP and any manufacturer could integrate them. With the Pixel, though, Google has gone from creating niche hardware to being a competitor to the many OEMs that provide a software base.

Cameras, Pixel Visual Core, and laying the foundation for Tensor

If there’s one particular feature in the Pixel range that doesn’t make sense on the Nexus series, it’s the camera. Google has made great strides in smartphone photography with its Pixel series, and it’s something that’s aimed at the mainstream more than anything else. Through doubled efforts and the introduction of the Pixel Visual Core as well as with the Pixel 2, Google’s efforts overshadowed anything it had done with the Nexus line. So far, with Tensor being a joint effort between Samsung and Google, it’s clear that the company’s first foray into custom silicon has led the Pixel series down the path we are on today.

For Nexus, the treatment it faced from Google was completely out of step with mainstream audiences versus competitors. It would never work in the state it was in if Google wanted to launch it on carriers with a broader appeal, as in the case of the Pixel lineup. It all started from the ground up after the Nexus, and the company’s approach to the Pixel lineup was probably its first-ever foray into smartphones in general.

Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone held in hand, with leaves and flowers in the background

All of this means that Google’s path with its Pixel lineup has followed a path it couldn’t have with the Nexus — at least not in the state it was in. I think the company has plans to try to do what it did with the Pixels on the Nexus series at some point (since the HDR+ algorithm already showed up there, not on the Pixel lineup), but I think they realized the vision was for their smartphones incompatible with the Nexus brand at that the time. The Galaxy Nexus was probably the last Nexus phone to have mainstream appeal since it was made by Samsung and already launched to carriers.

Can we see the revival of the Nexus?

It’s hard to say if we’ll see a revival of the Nexus brand, but I think if we do, it won’t be in smartphones again. Google has obviously been looking at something different with its smartphone division for a while, and I think reintroducing the Nexus phone would spoil the waters a bit. However, can it work with developer-oriented devices? Certainly. After all, we’ve got a file Nexus Player That essentially predated Chromecast with Google TV. It wasn’t the Nexus either Just phones and tablets.

However, the move from Nexus to Pixel has reinvented Google’s overall smartphone strategy. It has transformed it from just a software provider with hardware to indicate a comprehensive competitor in the space. Even if it’s not the biggest or best manufacturer, a small but growing group of consumers who use Pixel smartphones as their daily driver may not have done the same with their Nexus.

One thing is for sure though: for anyone wanting to buy a Google smartphone, it was definitely for the best. I loved the Nexus 5, but compared to the rest of the competition, it wasn’t an act Lots. It was just a good, powerful Android phone at a time when skins like TouchWiz were the best. Nowadays, Pixels offers a lot, even when compared to the rest of the competition, and it’s something Google has been working towards for years.

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