Since roughly January of 2010, I have been loyal to the Nexus brand. The totally unlocked, off-contract, controlled by Google Nexus brand. I’ve owned every Nexus device released so far, with the exception of the Nexus 7. And I’ve spent very little time with anything else as a personal device. I already know what phone I’ll be buying next, as well as what I want to see in it. So let’s get right into it.
I could spend all day talking about what I want in a display alone. That’s mostly because I feel like there’s been some sort of major flaw in the display in each Nexus so far.
The Nexus One used an AMOLED display. The colors were great, and the text looked good on the now pint-sized 3.7-inch display, but there were some serious touch controller problems with the Nexus One. You can argue exactly how related to the display that really is, but it negatively impacted how I interacted with the screen on my phone. And it sucked.
Then came the Nexus S with Super AMOLED. Again, colors were bright, and there were no touch problems to be found this time around, but let me be perfectly honest here. Thanks to Super AMOLED’s wonky PenTile sub-pixel layout, text rendering, white backgrounds, gray background, gradients and edges looked like total garbage on the Nexus S. I got used to how bad they looked until I used a different phone for a minute, something like the myTouch 4G. The overall improvements SLCD made over first generation Super AMOLED displays made it hard to stick with the Nexus S.
The Galaxy Nexus’ Super AMOLED suffers from some of the same problems as the Nexus S. At 1280×720, the HD display on the Galaxy Nexus helps a lot with text smoothing, but gradients and certain colored backgrounds still look terrible. That’s still thanks to the PenTile sub-pixel layout of the Galaxy Nexus’ display. I could go on and on about how much I hate PenTile alone, but I’ll cut to the chase.
I’d love to see a Nexus phone that makes no compromises in the display. With the Galaxy Note II, Samsung has released a new screen tech that the company isn’t being very vocal about. Instead of their standard PenTile layout, the display on the Note II features a more standard layout. It’s still not entirely normal, but each pixel does indeed have one red, one blue and one green subpixel. Could this do away with all the problems generally associated with Super AMOLED displays? I’m willing to bet there’s a good chance. So I wouldn’t be totally opposed to another Nexus phone with an AMOLED display, but I’d rather see something like Sony’s new LCD panels.
The Sony Xperia V uses a relatively new technology in LCD panels usually referred to as “in-cell” (which Sony is calling “sensor-on-lens”). This method combines the top glass layer of the display and the touch sensor, doing away with the extra sensor layer usually sandwiched between the top glass and LCD panel itself. This makes for better clarity, greater luminance, more contrast, thinner phones and improved touch performance. If Sony could take sensor-on-lens technology and apply it to the 1280×720 4.55-inch Mobile Bravia Engine Reality display of the Xperia T, I’d be in geek Heaven.
LG is also coming out with killer displays I wouldn’t mind seeing in a Nexus device. In fact, LG might even be the better choice over Sony. The Optimus G uses the same in-cell technology the Xperia V does, paired with a 320ppi IPS+ LCD. I’ve been using a PenTile display as a daily driver for so long, I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up next to the crisp clarity of an IPS+ display. It makes me giddy just thinking about it.
As for the size of this HD, in-cell, dream display, I’ve gotten really used to the 4.65-inch screen on the Galaxy Nexus. I do not want to see it grow in size, but I’d be OK if it were 4.65-inches again. I never thought I’d say that back when I first used the Galaxy Nexus, but I’ve come to feel that any compromises in one-handed usability are made up for in how awesome watching videos and playing games can be.
Back when phones like the original Droid and Galaxy S were first coming out, I was huge into processor tech. The difference between each new generation made older devices feel unusable. It was like that for a long time. Fortunately for consumers, not anymore.
For the most part, I couldn’t care less what processor goes into my next phone. Why? Because thanks to optimizations on Android, no one chip offers that dramatic of an improvement over any other. Sure, I want good graphics for games and want to be future-proofed for at least a year. I just don’t think I do anything that would need added power at what it would end up costing.
If I had the choice of getting a Nexus with a top-of-the-line processor for $500, or a Nexus with a slightly older, easier to obtain and cheaper to manufacture processor for $350-400, I’d take the cheaper one. If Google wants the Nexus name to succeed by any measure of the term, it needs to keep unlocked Google Play devices affordable. I’d much rather see the money it would cost to include the best processor available put into other things. Like the camera.
Where do I even begin? The quality of the camera on the Galaxy Nexus is yet another topic I could spend all day on. It’s so bad; there have been multiple occasions in which I have pulled out my phone to take a picture, only to decide I might as well not even bother. On its own, it sucks. Compared to other high-end Android devices, it sucks even more. I’m not saying it has to be better than any of the current flagship phones, it just has to keep up.
The camera on the iPhone 5 is going to be great, no doubt about it: sapphire lens, IR filter, backside illuminated. The Xperia T uses an Exmor R CMOS sensor, which LG is also using in the Optimus G. The One X uses a backside illuminated sensor with an F2.0 aperture and 28mm lens, powered by a dedicated imaging chip. The Lumia 920 uses PureView technology, and despite some early marketing snafus, it already looks great. And the Galaxy Nexus has a Playskool quality, bottom of the barrel, basic camera that can’t even outshoot most tablets.
The next Nexus absolutely has to have a better camera. There is no reason whatsoever for the next Nexus to have the same garbage quality camera it does now.
Memory, be it RAM, internal or expandable storage, is another thing that isn’t high on my wish list. In fact, it’s another area where I think Google could keep it simple in order to keep costs down.
As for internal memory, 16GB is more than enough for me. Of course I use services like Spotify and Google Music to help keep it down, but that’s where Google is trying to steer you. Google is, and always will be, a cloud company. They were born in the cloud. They know syncing and online media management better than most companies. The quality of their cloud services reflect that. I have never had an issue with Google Music streaming, even out in the country stuck on an edge data connection. I’ve fully embraced online services for everything I possibly can, and I don’t regret it at all.
Having 1GB of RAM, as opposed to the 2GB going into some phones now, is also plenty. The tradeoff of any minute performance differences between 1GB and 2GB of RAM to higher production costs don’t add up. It’s the same way for the added bulk of expandable storage, and more than 16GB of internal memory. What they add to the overall quality and price of the end product doesn’t make it worth it. Google is working hard to make sure 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage are plenty. If you utilize the tools they give you to make limited storage work, you’ll never know the difference. I’d be perfectly happy with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage in the next Nexus if it helps keep it affordable and more accessible to a wider audience.
Phone design has come a long way in the last year. At one point I may have thought the Galaxy Nexus was a good looking machine. But manufacturers have really stepped their game up.
It seems that most major manufacturers have found their rhythm in industrial design. Nokia is bold and bright; the sleek lines and rich colors integrate perfectly with Windows Phone. Apple is minimal and defined; the contrast of the flat, glossy glass face of the iPhone 5 and the matte aluminium back are truly impressive. HTC is clean and sleek; the white unibody of the One X, and the way it melds with the display make for just the right balance of modern and futuristic. The One X almost feels like a physical representation of Android 4.x.
The last two Nexus series phones have included a curved display, but other than that, they lack identity. I’d love to see a device like the One X retooled as a Nexus with a curved display. Some industrial design that ties the hardware and software together. Matias Duarte, the brain behind the design language in Android 4.x, also worked on the Palm Pre and webOS. He took the Pre, and designed it to fit webOS. It worked so well, years and years later we’re still using it as a reference for how good hardware and software design can work together.
I want the hardware of the next Nexus, my next phone, to look as good as the software. Jelly Bean has brought about the perfect blend of minimal flare and modern functionality: not too bland, not too gaudy. Let’s get the hardware to match.
So there you have it. Those are some of the most important things I want in my next phone, the next Nexus. There are lots of other features and specs I could talk about — like speaker quality, removable batteries and notification LEDs — but those hardly matter to me at this point. Google and whoever they team up with can even leave the memory and processor alone, so long as they give me a better display and much improved camera, all put it in a great looking shell for a decent price.
Now I know there are rumors that there will be five Nexus devices available by the end of the year. A fall NTT DoCoMo roadmap showed a Nexus device coming from Samsung, Sony and LG. But that holds little weight with me. If that turns out to be true, I’ll most likely end up buying whichever one matches my wish list the best. I really hope though, that Google partners with one manufacturer, to make one phone, really well. Or if there is more than one Nexus phone planned for this fall, each one offers distinct advantages over the others. One for camera enthusiasts, one low-priced model, one super high-end. It could work, but it’d be best for consumers and Google alike if they could balance features and cost to make one great phone.
How about you? Do you plan on buying a Nexus phone this fall, or something else? What do you want to see in it?