[Opinion] What’s the Point of Owning a Nexus Phone?

Posted Sep 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm in Threads > Smartphones & Tablets

So, Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus finally received Jelly Bean 4.1 this week and while we all know the problems with VZW’s “Nexus” it made me realize something:

There is no real advantage in having a Nexus over other top of the line phones

It’s not the hardware
Now, don’t get me wrong I love the idea of the nexus line, however the honest truth is that Android phones quickly become outdated. When a Phone like the Galaxy Nexus came out last year it didn’t have that great of hardware. In fact, last years nexus was kind of a disappointment on the hardware side. The Motorola razor, HTC One X, and more recently the Galaxy S3 quickly outdated the Nexus in all aspects of hardware.

Quick Updates are Pointless to Flashers
Chances are that if you buy a Nexus you unlock the bootloader, and root it within hours of powering it on. If you unlock and root it, then chances are you flash CM, AOKP, or some other rom. That is great for nexus owners to be able to unlock/root their phones, but the truth is most other high end phones can easily be unlocked/rooted as well, even the Verizon Galaxy S3 (Thanks to a great development community!). In some cases it’s even easier to unlock the bootloader on a nonnexus phone (e.g. VZW S3 has an app that unlocks/locks it with one button). All these phones that can be unlocked and rooted like the Nexus also have great support for the same roms as the Nexus. For example, see if you can determine what phone I have based the screen shots below:

Having issue posting an actual picture to this thread so here is a link to my g+ album with the pics:
View Screen Shots Here

If anyone knows how to post a picture to a thread please let me know I would greatly appreciate it!
If you guessed Galaxy S3 then kudos for you!!

My point is that my phone is not a Nexus phone, yet it has all the advantages of a Nexus phone plus amazing hardware.

Quick Updates are Important to Nonflashers?
Here is my answer to this:
If someone has a Nexus and doesn’t unlock the bootloader and root it then what’s the point of having a Nexus. Furthermore, if that person doesn’t unlock and root their phone they probable don’t know what JB is until the update is pushed to their phone.

So what are the advantages of having a Nexus? Currently I don’t see any, but lets hope this years batch of Nexus phones blows all other phones out of the water and proves me wrong!

And please, feel free to prove me wrong about the Nexus phones. Seriously.

  • SGB101

    i think you post is valid and well thought out. i have a One X that was root’d in the first week of launch, and i run CM10 atm.

    the only advantage i can see is more dev support, the roms was slow to come out for the X, but i think that was more down to Jelly Bean, it launch just as the CM9 roms was being developed, and as soon as JB dropped all the devs seemed to abandon the unfinished ICS roms, and its only now that decent solid roms are appearing,

    but overall your right, there isnt much reason, ive never had a nexus, G1,Desire,SGS1,Sensation XE and now OneX, all root’d and rom’d bar the G1

  • Bpear96

    Other phones like the One X , Galaxy s 3 etc. May get the same custom ROMs as nexus Phones, like cm10 etc. But getting that ROM to work on those devices is a much harder and longer process. And in the end it may never work as well as the nexus counterpart. Nexus devices have there binary and device trees right in the AOSP repo, so compiling cm10 or other aosp ROMs is incredibly easy, and will usually be bug free (unless there’s a bug in the custom roms code. A nexus is much more open when it comes to drivers and stuff. When compiling cm10 for non nexus device, a developer must first fine all the proprietary drivers for camera, WiFi GPU etc. This really becomes a problem, when the only offical update is for a older version of android. Drivers from a 2.3 build of android do not work well with a 4.X AOSP ROM. Some things like camera and hw acceleration have to be hacked to work, and end up not working properly. When the phone has an official update for 4.0 or 4.1 compiling a 4.0 or 4.1 ROM becomes much easy, since the dev can now pull the official 4.0 drivers from the offical update for the phone. 4.0 drivers/librarys (lib.so files) are non to work pretty much fine with 4.1, but sometimes project butter isn’t as smooth.

    An example of lack of drivers being a problem, is the exynos galaxy s2, of wasn’t until official 4.0 update started leaking, that cm9 starting being stable. Since the 2.3 graphics drivers weren’t working at all on cm9.

    Also non-nexus devices usually lack kernel updates (Linux kernel 3.0 etc) which can prolong custom ROMs based on newer android versions as well.

    Let’s say key lime pie is much different the JB, and Samsung never releases klp official update for the gs3 (not saying they won’t) then the gs3 may never get a stable ROM of klp because it lacks drivers needed.

    So my main point is the advabtage to nexus devices is the availability of opensource drivers, kernel updates , device tree/binary and of course official asop updates

    BTW I’m running a HTC one Xl running cm10 and love it :D,

    • Bpear96

      Oh and my one Xl didn’t have a stable cm10 rom , until HTC released the kernel source (took them for ever) and Qualcomm released the JB graphics libs (drivers)

      • zerosix

        Yep, that’s the thing. You know, that you will certainly get 2-3 updates, with all sources available.
        Some people just don’t like that customizations, that manufacturers do.
        Besides, there are some people, who don’t want any extras. I root my devices only for removing pre-installed software. For example, I don’t use any depending on root apps to make my system as cleat, as it is possible.
        Finally, Nexus devices are bought not only by geeks. Some people really like the exterior (IMHO, GN is one of the most beautiful Android devices).

    • Chris Lewis

      That totally makes sense now as to why my phone has spotty connection on all JB roms. All the ICS roms are great with connection but the JB roms are constantly dropping connection.

      BTW, have you ever used AOKP? I just flashed it this week, I usually have CM on my phone but AOKP is basically the same exact thing as CM with a lot of extra features. Its worth a try if you havent checket it out!

      • Bpear96

        Yup that’s probably why, ICS RIL libraries, or Radio is probably causing the problem. When Stable Samsung JB leaks, or official update is out, you will likely have a perfectly stable AOSP JB rom :D. Yeah i used AOKP on my Galaxy S 2 back in the ICS days, even worked on a AOKP based rom for the I9100 for a bit. But I haven’t given it a shot since JB and my One X. There is a AOKP rom for my One X, i might give it a shot. We also have codefireX Cm10, which is basically CM10 with extra tweak options added in, I tried that and liked it, but went back to CM10 after.

  • redraider133

    First and foremost its a developed phone. More aimed at those to test their apps and have access to the latest is versions. Plus its easy to do without having to jump through a ton of hurdles like with other less open devices.

    • Chris Lewis

      It started out as a developer phone but IMO it has become more of a main stream consumer device. Just look at the way it is being marketed in commercials, and web adds. Don’t get me wrong I still believe its a dev phone at its core and great for those who use it to develop great apps, but the Nexus brand has become much more than a developer phone.

  • orangestrat

    Its possible to unlock and root other phones, but the nexus is stable from day one. There’s no ‘what works and what doesn’t’ list, everything works. This means that instead of fixing bugs, developers create new things. Custom ROMS on the nexus S were insane, with things like new CPU states, completely rewritten audio and display drivers, the ability to wake the phone up by touching the screen, using the buttons as a notification light, ect. Every single ROM starts from a stable release and builds on it, the ROM experience is completely different from generic android phones. I’d be willing to bet that the nexus is faster and more stable than an S3 with CM, my nexus S was a definite upgrade over my Motorola Matrix.
    Even though the vzw galaxy nexus was delayed, it still got Jellybean before anybody else, and it’ll get bugfixes like 4.1.2 sooner too. I was saying this about the NS update, yes the S2 and sensation got 4.0.3 sooner, but neither of them saw 4.0.4 and all its improvements, it sucks to be behind in the short run, but nexus is better for the long haul. Don’t forget that When delays like this happen its because there are kinks to work out, its not just that Google and vzw hate you.

  • chris

    Unlocked. SIM card ready. No 2 year carrier contract. That’s worth quite a bit to me!

    • Chris Lewis

      I think you missed the point of the article. Most phones come in unlocked international versions and anyone who has the willingness to pay full price for a phone can get it without a 2 year contract.

      The article is more about updates to latest versions of Android, and hardware specs.

      • RobBull75

        Most international phones, however, are not pentaband, meaning they won’t work at full speed with T-Mobile. I’m sorry, but I would rather use 2 cans and a string than AT&T (royally screwed me twice – land and cell lines). Also, as good as devs have gotten, there are very few truly stable ROMs out there without bugs. My GSM Nexus has at least a dozen stable ROMs that aren’t plagued with signal drops and other issues.

  • AmarAK

    My friend got it in India from a local store(It is not available officially) and he hasnt got the JB update yet …. the phone is the international unlocked one.. so where is the update (he is scared to mess with it as he doesnt even have warrany cover)

    • Chris Lewis

      Tell him to check out XDA developers im sure there are instructions on that sight on how to pull the update or even load it from an sd card.

      • AmarAK

        Thanks for the reply mate ….. Good news last night he came to my place and got the OTA ……. JB is really buttery smooth…..

  • Viggster

    The software isn’t important, however it’s a nice combination of hardware, price and not being as fucking ugly as the galaxy s3.

    • Bpear96

      I thought the Galaxy s3 was ugly when I first saw it in pics, I ended up getting the One X, then when I saw the GS3 in person, i really didnt think it was ugly at all. And fits the hand better then any device ive held. But its everyone can have there opinion

      • Chris Lewis

        I had the same reaction with it was first realsed but when I saw the phone I changed my opinion instantly.

  • mojeda

    While they may not be outstanding in the hardware field they are still decent phones compared to other budget phones. While usually offering the latest and greatest android, with limited to no carrier bloatware.

    I can see a $99-$199 Galaxy Nexus being a contender when signing up for a new 2-year contract vs. a $299 S3.

    • Chris Lewis

      The galaxy nexus was a top of the line phone when it was released and cost $299.99 with a 2-year contract.

      Hopefully, with several devices being realsed this year we will have a range of devices from low to high end.

  • nivekkev

    For me, I will probably be getting one because of the updates they receive, the most I have gotten with a carrier on any phone has been 2 then I am stuck till the end of my contract on an outdated version, two, I hate all of the bloatware that comes with any carrier supplied phones.  I do not root so the NEXUS is very appealing to me right now, I also can’t afford to get a new phone every time there is a new model so I will be dependent on the updates to keep things fresh.  Seems like a pretty good deal the more I look at it and compare to what I have had in the past.

    • Chris Lewis

      Good point! I never really thought of it from that perspective.

  • Ardrid

    The point of having a Nexus was to ensure that you had access to the pinnacle of hardware and software. When the Nexus One was released, it was truly Google’s flagship device for Android. Unfortunately, Google has allowed Samsung to bastardize the idea of the Nexus, saddling it with adequate, and oftentimes buggy, hardware.

    That said, I still think the idea of owning a Nexus should be ensuring access to the best hardware and software Google has to offer, in addition to the security of knowing you’ll receive the latest updates upon release. I think, and hope, that VZ’s Nexus is an anomaly; a true, pure Nexus experience can only be offered by a GSM device or a world device that has both GSM & CDMA bands.

    Here’s hoping Google brings the Nexus back to its former glory…

    • Chris Lewis

      Yeah on the hardware side the galaxy nexus was very disappointing. I am hoping that with the rumor of several nexus devices being realsed this year that other manufactures will be able to make truly amazing devices.

  • drewstiff

    1) Updates are released first, and work correctly first time. No need to wait for someone to work out how to get BT or LTE working correctly on the new ROM – it just werkz because the new ROM was built for the Nexus.

    2) Vanilla Android. I just prefer it and think a lot of custom OEM changes are either ugly or pointless (or soon available via an app like SmartStay=>ISeeYou). Look at where HTC fked with the kernel in the One series so apps closed too soon when you switched between them. They are breaking Android ffs. Plus, relating back to 1, the fact that a Nexus phone runs vanilla Android again means you are not waiting for the manufacturer to add the fluffy sh!t on the top before they release the latest ROM and it means you also get the true Android as Google intended.

    Disclaimer: I don’t use my phone’s camera much so that’s why it doesn’t bother me on my GNex.

    • Chris Lewis

      Nice, yeah I defiantly have realized that having the proper drivers for the radios to work is a major factor for the NEXUS, however your second point is relating the nexus to OEM UI’s (ie smartstay is a samsung thing, not a custom rom thing) and not roms like CM10, and AOKP. Those roms literally look identical to sock vanilla android and simply have extra features added on such as: notification pull down toggles, overclocking, (optional) launcher mods, and (optional) themes.

  • da9el

    now beginning with the nex7 and nex4 there is a really good price-performance ratio. so thats a point of owning a nexus device after all.

  • Teebor

    Nexus phones are supposed to be sold as developer phones, so you get the latest and greatest vanilla OS from google as it comes out so that you can write your applications to work with it.

    I expect pretty much most of the people who buy one are only buying it to use as a phone, in which case it can be argued that there is no point in the phone over other brands. However 3rd party phones are always just slightly behind the latest OS release

  • TheVoodoo

    At least for phones, let’s not forget the Google-subsidized price that gives us a top-of-the-line unlocked device St almost half the price of any other comparable phones.


    The blazing fast UPDATES

  • gmaninvan

    The one thing that I disagree with is this statement

    “Quick Updates are Pointless to Flashers”

    Nexus devices by a long shot have the most support in the development community. The largest variety of ROM’s, the most kernels, the highest level of development builds. Because the ROM builders like to work from source, it is easier to build off a Nexus, since the latest versions source is available months before the others. CM10.1 is already available on every Nexus device, you will be waiting a few months for anything stable on an S3.

  • Justin Marsh

    I’d have to disagree with your points about the same experience being available for other manufacturers flagship phones as the Nexus line.

    For example I own a HTC One X (last years flagship from HTC). The choice of ROMs are: CM 10 official (used to randomly reboot, now just horrible battery life due to kernel), AOKP/PAC/PA (all might as well fall under modified versions of CM), unofficial MiUi (buggy and battery life), modified Sense ROMs (varying, mostly poor battery due to kernel) or Android Revolution HD (closest to stock ROM without the bloat).

    As you can see the battery life is now the main concern. The stock ROM with bloat (Vodafone version) both in ICS and JB form were able to achieve much better results than any of the custom ROMs but they were so frustrating because of the unavoidable bloat everywhere. Why is this the case? HTC is doing a poor job supporting the devs (I often saw complaining about the sources being screwed up).

    Also back to the One X, nobody could ever get the nice photosphere camera to work in any ROM in any form properly. An issue with the accelerometer + gyroscopes apparently.

    On the Nexus, where it’s encouraged to pull the software apart and everything is available to the devs, they have a much easier time putting together ROMs for it.

    I upgraded my HTC One X to a Nexus 4 and couldn’t be happier.

  • da9el

    normally you say: good – fast – cheap. choose 2. nexus phones cover all 3 points in my opinion :)

  • DroidPower

    i’d say the hardware game is starting to loose its appeal to me (personal opinion). when I look at the current line of phones, I see the Google N4, which has 2 gb ram and quad core processor. When I look at the HTC One and S4, I also see 2 gb ram and quad core (though clocked higher than the N4). If u play a lot of games and dev apps, then the latest hardware certainly justify your needs and their premium cost. to me, the 200 bucks N4 satisfy all of my requirements for a smartphone and more. I’m treating my phone as a communication device (aka not many games or movies, no huge productivity apps).

    TL;DR: the biggest advantage is the price.

  • CTown

    It’s about driver support. When a OEM gives their device an update to a newer version of the OS, the update also comes with newer drivers. Then the modding community pulls out the drivers themselves. If Samsung and Google never updated the Nexus S to Android 4.0, the Galaxy S would probably have a non-working camera or one that performs worse than what it does now.

    Sometimes drivers pulled from current firmware of the device will work with a newer version of Android if you hack Android enough to make the driver compatible. Other times the driver just works (such as Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU driver if one is using Android 4.0 or higher).