By Jaime Rivera | September 19, 2013 6:01 PM
Just to provide some context, my first ever-Android device was a Google Nexus One. I was reluctant to move away from Windows Mobile, until I was forced to, and after some time with an iPhone, my move to Android was more a choice than an obligation. Still, Android never really did wow me before Froyo. Back then, the UI was still child-like to me, and the only reason why I changed my mind, was because of the fact that things like turn-by-turn navigation became basic and free on Android. This made the change towards Android more of a smart move than anything else.
I chose the Nexus One for lots of reasons. I’ve always been a big fan of HTC’s design language, and this was HTC design at its greatest. Those of you that used it will remember just how thin, light and handsome this device was. It was also the first-ever Google device, and if you wanted to use Froyo or Gingerbread on their launch day, the Nexus One was your best bet towards the future. Now, an even more important reason to select this phone over any other was because it was the best Android device of its time. Its codename was HTC Dragon, and this was because it became the first Android smartphone to use Qualcomm’s new 1GHz Snapdragon processor. Back then; a Nexus phone was an elite phone that made its unlocked price reasonable, and not a push over in any way. In a nutshell, this was an aspirational phone in every way.
Sadly, times have changed. I never found any innovation in the curved display of the Nexus S, at times when dual-core processors became popular. The Galaxy Nexus did wow me a bit when it became one of the first smartphones in the market with a 720p display, and that’s the only reason why it was the last Nexus smartphone I ever bought. Yeah, the LG Nexus 4 was cool visually, but more of an affordable device than anything, so I stayed away from purchasing it.
I do understand Andy Rubin’s change in approach. Instead of going for the elite, like he did with the Nexus One, he wanted to make the Nexus 4 as popular as the Nexus 7 through an affordable price tag and decent internals. The idea of challenging other OEMs to drop their prices was good, but it sadly wasn’t as effective as with the Nexus 7. These are two very different case scenarios since other OEMs already succeed in smartphones at their current prices, and in the case of tablets, they didn’t.
Sundar Pichai is a different strategist though. There’s nothing inferior about a Chrome Cast, and still, it retails for $35. There’s also nothing inferior about the new Nexus 7, and yet, it retails at a very affordable price as well.
Recent rumors have an LG smartphone at the FCC that points in every way to the future Nexus smartphone. We’re going to call it Nexus 5 for short, since we still don’t know what its official name will be. As opposed to the Nexus 4 though, this new device sports all the hot specifications of the LG G2 that we recently reviewed, and this is big news. It’s hard to predict if the company will retain the price points of the Nexus 4 with this new device, but even if they made it just a little more expensive, just as they did with the Nexus 7, this has every single possibility to disrupt the market as Google has already intended to. Here are a couple of reasons why:
This would make the Nexus 5 aspirational
There’s a reason why nobody has released any sales figures for the Google editions of the Galaxy S 4 and the HTC One. This was a cool idea that I dreamed about for years, and even I praised when Google announced it, up until when they revealed the price tag. Surely there’s no reason for stock Android to be less expensive than HTC Sense or TouchWiz, but at times when CyanogenMod 10 will give you the same features on your subsidized phone for free, paying that crazy premium for the contract-free Google edition phones just didn’t make sense. Why? Well the targeted market for these devices are power users, and yeah, I’m referring to the same crowd that teaches you how to root your phone.
Imagine a $350 Nexus 5 with a Snapdragon 800 processor and a camera with Optical Image Stabilization. Imagine the idea that for a premium of just $150 over the same amount of money that you’d pay for a subsidized phone, you’ll have the freedom of having an unlocked monster that doesn’t tie you to a contract, and that runs Android how it should. Would you want it?
Of course you would.
The Nexus 5 would disrupt smartphone prices
Google has an element to their advantage that only Apple has. They own the Google Play Store, and they even own the ad agency that sells all the ads on the free apps. Even if Samsung sells millions of Galaxy phones, or HTC sells tons of One smartphones, their profit ends at the device. Google has the advantage that it can subsidize this smartphone just as well as they’ve subsidized their Nexus 7 tablet through content consumption and ads.
If Google played their cards right, and focused on giving us a $350 phone, a price which would only be possible through the profits that the Play Stores would provide, this would significantly dent the market. Surely Samsung has already taken a stab at giving us their own App Store, and the same can be said about Amazon, but neither of these compares to the Google Play Store. It would take HTC and Samsung years to compete, and they would be forced to be more aggressive about the pricing of their smartphones in order to compete.
If Google did this right, they’d even force Apple to drop the price of its iPhones.
The bottom line
Obviously, there are tons of reasons why Google doesn’t want to upset its partners, and especially with Samsung’s plans to deploy Tizen in the future. Sadly, I do feel that Samsung will deploy Tizen anyway, for the better or for the worse of Android. We’ve also heard the rumors of HTC working on their own OS as well. I feel this is Google’s chance to ensure the success of Android, beyond the choices that OEMs make in the future.
It’s hard to predict the future, or even predict the market. Nirvana’s record label predicted that their first album, “Nevermind” would only sell 50,000 copies, and look how that turned out. So this is my personal opinion on what Google should do, but we’d love to hear about your opinion. Should Google stick to their mentality of selling an affordable phone, or would you prefer it if they took the risk of launching a powerful and affordable phone? Leave us a comment.