Smartphones today are an inseparable part of our lives. They have managed to replace a lot of other gadgets to give us the convenience of using them all at once. From surfing the web to video-calling to playing music and recording videos, smartphones today can do more than they could a few years or a decade ago.
So, why are we on about what happened a decade ago? For starters, Google’s Android Operating System debuted 10 years ago and, from then on, has dominated and shaped the smartphone industry. While it’s no secret that Android started out as a tactic to fend off the onslaught of Microsoft, it has since shifted to being an arch-rival to Apple’s offerings. While Android managed to make tremendous inroads into the smartphone market in their earlier days, they were plagued with loads of issues, especially when it came to non-existent software updates and a ton of bloatware. This meant even if a new dessert-themed Android version was released you couldn’t have it, which often led to a bad taste in the mouth for many. There wasn't much Google could do to persuade manufacturers as they were adamant that people wanted and preferred the heavily skinned UI and the features they brought.
The Nexus One – Codename Passion
So, in the year 2010, Google took matters into their hands and teamed up with their old mate HTC (who also made the very first Android phone in the world―the HTC Dream/ G1) and created the Nexus One. The Nexus line-up was meant to add that last missing bit when it came to smartphones―great user experience. As mentioned, bloatware, custom skins and slow or no updates were soiling Android’s reputation, and so the Nexus line-up was created. It promised stock, bloatware-free software, regular updates and great hardware. This was in sharp contrast to the TouchWiz, Sense and Moto Blur enabled smartphones of that era. People loved the phone and this led to a chain of some brilliant Nexus devices over the years.
The Nexus One was packed with a 3.7-inch AMOLED panel (considered huge at that time), a 1GHz Snapdragon S1 processor (that's single-core btw), 512MB of RAM, 512MB of storage (Not a typo!) and a 5MP camera. While the specifications don't mean much today, back then, the Nexus One was considered a powerhouse. Yet, it didn’t do well and came to be known as a failed experiment. Want to know an interesting quirk about the Nexus One? Well, it remains the only Nexus smartphone that had a micro SD card slot, which is strange given Google’s strong hatred for them.
The Nexus S – Codename Crespo
For the next two Nexus smartphones, Google sought the help of Samsung, which at that time was making the popular Samsung Galaxy S series of smartphones. The Nexus S was the first phone to come out of this partnership. The Nexus S was a marginal improvement over the Nexus One, but it had many firsts, it was the first Android phone with NFC (Near Field Communication), the first phone with a curved display, the first Nexus phone with both front and rear cameras and the first commercial smartphone certified by NASA for use on the International Space Station.
The Galaxy Nexus – Codename Maguro/Toroplus
Then came the Galaxy Nexus which brought another fresh approach to user experience with the help of the new Holo UI in Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and the shift to on-screen navigations keys. Hardware specifications included a curved 4.6-inch HD display (First Nexus with an HD display), Texas Instrument’s OMAP 4460 processor, 1GB of RAM and 16/32Gb versions. Some rather interesting additions to the phone were the support for OTG, MHL and a notification led. The Galaxy Nexus, however, did not sell very well capturing only about 0.5 per cent of the market.
The Nexus 4 – Codename Mako
Come 2012 and Google had a new smartphone partner for the Nexus program―LG. Using the LG Optimus G as the base, Google and LG launched the Nexus 4. While the first three Nexus devices weren't popular for their aesthetics, the Nexus 4 changed that with its shimmering glass back that even had support for wireless charging. While the display wasn't a major upgrade over the previous phone, coming at 4.7-inch with HD resolution, the processor too was bumped up to a Snapdragon S4 (quad-core) unit and the phone now had twice the RAM at 2GB. Opening to positive reviews from critics, the Nexus 4 managed sales of over 3 million.
The Nexus 5 – Codename Hammerhead
Google stuck with LG for the next Nexus phone as well, the Nexus 5. To say the Nexus 5 was one of the best Nexus phones at its time would be an understatement. It was truly one of the highlights of the year and really showed that a quality smartphone need not be expensive. Retailing at USD 350, the Nexus 5 boasted class-leading specifications which included a 5-inch Full HD screen (a first for the Nexus series), flagship grade Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB RAM and an optically stabilised 8Mpx camera (another first for the Nexus line-up). For a long time, Nexus smartphones were considered to be devices for enthusiasts who prefer the stock nature of the software, but the Nexus 5 broadened the scope of the vision that Google had for their smartphones.
The Nexus 6 – Codename Shamu
Up until the Nexus 5, the Nexus series of phones came to be known for their great value price, good hardware and excellent software but with the Nexus 6, Google clearly wanted to aim at the more premium market. Made with the help of Motorola, the Nexus 6 looked like a beefier version of the Moto X of that time. It had a gargantuan 6-inch display with a Quad HD resolution (clearly the biggest and highest resolution screen ever put on a Nexus Phone), a Snapdragon 805 processor (the last 32-bit flagship processor used by the Nexus series), 3GB of RAM, and an OIS enabled 13MPx camera. Starting at USD 649, the phone was praised for its hardware and newly designed Android Lollipop (with the material design based UI), Motorola even baked some of their genuinely useful Ambient display and Touchless controls features into the OS giving you a far superior software experience. But the high price and ungainly size meant the Nexus 6 wasn't for everyone.
The Nexus 5X and 6P – Codename Bullhead and Angler
After the Nexus 6, came the Nexus 5X and 6P. Google shifted its strategy and moved to launch two Nexus phones at a time. The 5X served as a homage to the brilliant Nexus 5X and was made by LG, while the Nexus 6P was the more premium offering like the Nexus 6 and was made by Huawei. The Nexus 5x had a 5.2-inch Full HD display and Snapdragon 808 processor while the Nexus 6P had a much larger 5.7-inch QHD display and was powered with the more powerful Snapdragon 810 processor. Both these phones were also one of the first devices to use the newer USB Type C standard and both were the first Nexus phones with fingerprint sensors. While it had good reviews, the market had grown with many more players occupying the budget segment and the likes of OnePlus, Xiaomi and Honor now dominating that space which once the Nexus 5 used to hold.
Like all good things that must come to an end, Google closed down the Nexus program and moved to the more premium market with the Pixel and Pixel XL range of smartphones. But technology fans like us will also bask in the glory days of Android and Nexus fondly reminiscing the days of the Nexus phones.
While the Pixel phones of today especially the Pixel 3 XL have pushed the boundaries of innovations when it comes to software and camera, the Nexus line-up remains a cherished part in the journey of one of the most illustrious manufactures of the current era―Google. Not all hope is lost, however, as Google and many other manufacturers (Nokia, Xiaomi, Motorola, Infinix) have started the Android One program which aims to deliver an experience similar to the Nexus phones, but at a much lower price with more mid-range specifications.