We have it on good authority that the focus of this week’s Google I/O 2014 event will be Android Wear. The company’s new smartwatch platform looks poised to bring us some of the most compelling wearable offerings ever, with devices to satisfy desires both subtle and gross. While I can’t wait to see what Google has cooked up for the wrists of the world, I also can’t help hoping that Wednesday’s announcements will bring us more news from the smartphone side of Mountain View’s portfolio. Specifically, news of the (possibly) forthcoming Nexus 6.
You’d be right in calling this expectation premature, even stupid. Nexus smartphone launches are typically an autumn affair, and I’m not seriously expecting a Nexus 6 to break cover this week. The reason this possibly-nonexistent smartphone is stirring my imagination on this day in particular is thanks to another device we’ve recently spent some time with: the excellent LG G3.
Based on past experience, there’s solid reason to think the Nexus 6, if built by LG, will hew closely to the design of the company’s newest flagship. In case you missed our coverage of that device, there’s an awful lot to like about it: I called it the most intriguing Android halo device the company has ever offered in our full review, and Taylor Martin backed me up in his review rebuttal, calling the G3 an exquisite take on the modern flagship.
The Nexus 6 may never arrive. If it does, it may not be made by LG at all. In fact, the entire Nexus program may well fall victim to Android Silver. But assuming the G3 does come to market as some kind of “pure Android” offering, whether as a Google Play Edition device or one of the above improbable scenarios, there’s good reason to get excited. Here’s three reasons why.
A Design That Actually Says Something
I’m not saying they’re ugly phones (so those of you who’ve already raced to the comments to defend your Nexus purchases can chill for a sec). Nevertheless, I’d argue that the Nexus devices of the past two years have succeeded despite, rather than due to, their looks. Of course LG and Google were constrained by price when designing and manufacturing the Nexus 4 and 5, and in the case of the latter, Google made a conscious decision to create the most minimal hardware possible in order to let the software shine. But in both cases, what resulted was a rather unremarkable slab.
That’s not the case with the G3, and if even some of its aesthetic makes it through the conversion process to a “Nexus 6,” we’ll have a brilliant looker on our hands. In my view, the G3 strikes an almost perfect balance between portability and beauty, with a lightweight chassis that’s comfortable to hold, but which also looks edgier and “faster” than any other LG smartphone. The edge-to-edge display, anchored by the modern, minimal chin down below, works together with the redesigned rear keys and the “floating arc” curve to give the G3 a very distinct personality. It feels like a very advanced piece of technology, but one that’s not so advanced as to seem showboat-y or inaccessible.
Expandability and Extensibility
Sometimes beauty comes with a heavy cost in terms of extensibility and expandability. (That’s lame tech jargon for “sometimes pretty phones sacrifice power for looks.”) Not so with the G3. Despite its seemingly seamless construction, it only takes a thumbnail under a side-tab to pop the G3’s back cover loose, revealing a user-replaceable 3000 mAh battery and a MicroSD slot for up to 128GB of additional storage space. While these are becoming more prevalent additions to modern phones, they’re still rare finds on a good-looking flagship device –the HTC One M8 needs an embedded battery to preserve its aesthetics– and with a Quad-HD display soaking up a lot of power, carrying a spare battery in a side pocket might not be the worst idea for G3 owners.
Granted, it’s entirely possible these features would be intentionally omitted by Google if the G3 were ever to undergo a Nexus 6-type conversion. Google tends to favor pushing its cloud-based Drive solution over MicroSD, and the last two Nexus iterations have featured sealed-in batteries. Plus, it’s uncertain Google would retain support for awesome accessories like the Quick Circle case, which supports only LG-built apps. But in my book, even that would be an acceptable compromise with a Nexus-ified G3, because …
Stock Android Would Only Make It Better
Of all the arguments in favor of a Google-sourced G3, this one is perhaps the lamest in that it’s the most predictable. The purpose of a mobile tech blogger, it seems, is at least partly to hate on third-party UIs while espousing the virtues of stock Android. And given our mostly-positive feelings regarding LG’s new Android skin for the G3, this seems like an even-less-necessary callout.
But spend two seconds with the stock KitKat launcher on the G3, and you’ll see where I’m coming from. I used KK Launcher to simulate the experience for this editorial, and while it’s not a perfect substitute, it certainly offers a mouth-watering window into the possibilities once LG’s skin is out of the way. This is less an indictment of LG’s software design than praise for Google’s: as we said in our full review, stock 4.4 KitKat represents “the most responsive, attractive, and useful version of Android we’ve ever encountered,” and that’s even more evident on a 5.5-inch device that’s nearly all-screen. Sure, we’d like to see better support for the G3’s high resolution, but that’s something which would come with an official Nexus release. And replacing LG’s embryonic Smart Notice with one-swipe access to Google Now would eliminate the kind of redundancy that’s unavoidable when it comes to third-party UIs. As much as we like some manufacturer software, stock is usually still better.
None of this is earth-shattering, and it’s likely that none of it will come to pass. In some ways, this is applying old-world thinking to a new Android model … one which will no doubt surprise all of us if and when it breaks cover. In the interim, though, it’s always fun to speculate on the geeky halo devices of tomorrow – so help us do that! Drop a comment down below letting us know what you’d most like to see from a hypothetical Nexus 6, and don’t forget to check out our newest podcast where we discuss the LG G3 in depth with none other than MKBHD!