Apr 18 AT 8:43 AM Dustin Earley 48 Comments

It’s time for Google to make their own Nexus hardware


This last year has been a wild ride for Google. Through 2012 and early 2013, we’ve been introduced to Google Glass, the Chromebook Pixel, the Nexus Q, Nexus 10, Nexus 7 and Nexus 4. All impressive devices on their own, but together, they form one of the best product portfolios any one company has ever introduced in the span of a year.

As with any product portfolio though, some devices released under Google’s name are more impressive than others. But it’s slightly unusual to be able to pin-point a possible reason behind it. While the one-hundred-percent Google branded Nexus Q, Glass and Chromebook Pixel are great because of the unique features they bring to the table, there still feels like there’s more to it. The hardware itself has a magical feel to it. Google has been pushing the boundaries of software and what they can do with algorithms for years now, but it wasn’t until recently that they brought that same enthusiasm to hardware. Just not all of their hardware.

chromebook-pixel-backCompared to the Q, Pixel and Glass, the Nexus 4, 10 and 7 feel stale and bland. Sure, they surpass previous generations, but nothing about them is class leading. The Nexus Q, when compared to other set-top boxes, looks and feels amazing. And that colored ring? Pure bliss. The Pixel, although strikingly similar to the MacBook Air, improves on similar notebooks in nearly every way. It’s much more modern looking than the competition, and again, there are some wonderful aesthetic additions just for the sake of looking good (I’m looking at you, color bar). And then there’s Glass. Glass is in a category all it’s own, but if you were to try and compare it to similar products, you could look at other glasses, in which case Glass looks fashionable (it was the star of fashion week last year). Compared to other wearable computing devices, Glass makes smart-watches look almost dumb.

The Nexus 4, Nexus 10 and Nexus 7 don’t bring anything like that to the table. The Nexus 4 has slightly rounded edges, that’s all fine and good. But it has a glass back, which other companies have moved away from because they realize it’s impractical. Have you seen the amount of people with broken Nexus 4s? That hasn’t changed. The display is boring. The camera is boring. Most of that applies to the Nexus 7 and 10 as well. Matias Duarte spoke about how much he loves the design of the Nexus 7 and how every detail was poured over and fine tuned. Just like with the Nexus 10, it’s nothing but a rehash of a different company’s product. That’s the entire problem in a nutshell.

google-glassWhen Google releases a Nexus device, they pick a manufacturer who is doing things they like. Or rather, has a product they like. Google then makes a couple changes, and they’re done. By making devices this way, manufacturing costs stay down, and through tight partnerships, retail prices are able to be lowered, but it’s time for Google to bring things into the next phase. If a start to finish Google Nexus device had to cost more money, so be it. For the features and quality Google would be able to add by gaining complete control, there’s no doubt it’d be more than worth it.

There’s a lot of rumblings that Google will do this with Motorola’s next great flagship device, but it still won’t be the same. The Motorola X Phone will most likely still be tied to carrier portfolios. Despite design chief Jim Wicks’ statement to PCMag on how Motorola will be adopting stock Android from here on out, he still says Motorola is, “going to try to drive a more singular expression of our brand across multiple carriers.” Which means that Motorola will still be working with carriers on things, including software updates, that will do nothing but hold them back. One of the main reasons why the Q, Pixel and Glass are all so impressive is undoubtedly related to the fact that Google engineers had complete, total control over every aspect of those devices. They answered to no one but themselves.

Motorola’s next products will be great, but not as great as they could be. Same goes for the next ASUS branded Nexus 7, or Samsung branded Nexus 10, or LG branded Nexus 4. If you want to see real innovation, and an unadulterated passion for technology materialize in the form of a phone or tablet that fits in the palm of your hand, Google needs to cut the cord, and make their own Nexus hardware. The fine folks at Google have already proved they know what they’re doing. Time to push forward.

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

    If Google made their own hardware and it was everything I could imagine, I would instantly drop VZW, grandfathered unlimited data and all, for it.

    • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

      Also, there is no reason why Google shouldn’t do this. They have a boatload of cash and could invest it into their own factories and facilities. But I honestly would be elated if Google just said screw it and made their own wireless network. Blazing fast data network that can handle VoIP.

      • snowbdr89

        Sprint an Google together would be the same as dick yarrell and the word smart in the same sentence so that would be a no go..

        • Richard Yarrell

          This snowbdr89 plays with squiddy20 daily. Shit on both of them.

        • squiddy20

          What an intelligent response from a 50 year old “man” who talks and makes insults like he’s back in grade school. Seems someone has some growing up/maturing to do…

      • iamXiV92a

        They have their own wireless network, though campus-wide only. It’s an odd frequency and I’m sure it’s merely for testing purposes BUT I definitely see this happening sometime in the future…

      • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

        No, I want them to have their own network from the ground up and design devices specifically for it. They could have complete control from the phone hardware and OS to the network hardware and whatever software it runs. Google has $48 BILLION+ in Cash and short term investments (i.e. liquid assets) https://www.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ%3AGOOG&fstype=ii&ei=EztwUaihNpDWlgPwqwE

        There is absolutely no reason why they couldn’t take $10 billion or so and develop their own wireless networking empire. And I would love to be in charge of it! :D

        • adityasunkara

          because that causes monopoly for google… imagine google having a network, devices and manufacturing, completely enveloping market….. most people would jump ship to google, causing huge market share for google… then comes the federal trade something with microshit complaining about unfair competition etc…. down on google and they would be spending more money in legal battles than in R&D which is what we don’t want.

  • Nate B.

    It’s not failure but honestly Google has set themselves up with using a previous device as their base. Basically you’re making a stock version of what has been out months before your own upcoming device, and then you’re even lesser in some areas when it comes to the camera, battery, and other things. Don’t get me wrong now, the Nexus devices are pretty awesome, but it’s nothing to ride home about. They simply need to make their own and think ahead and not simply make something on a level of “oh we have one too.” Because then it’s just another phone. You might as well buy a branded phone and root it and you can say you have an even better Nexus like device because it’ll most likely have better hardware and quality specs.

    I love me some Google but they need to be in charge of it all and make their own. It’s that simple. They need to have the mindset of trying to make something that others aren’t making yet. Or just simply bring a more quality and pleasurable experience. As far as pure Android experience, that will be there. I do think they can add some more unified features and redesign with some of their apps.

    • JS_215

      You’re right.

      But you forgot to mention that Google makes a TON of money. They can afford to create niche, qwerky things.

      • Nate B.

        Well, that’s the point of this article. They should take charge..,

  • http://www.facebook.com/williamhester William Hester

    I agree. Now that Google owns Motorola, they have all the reason to make the next Nexus phone in-house. If they can make something just as beautiful as the Q or the Pixel, I’d buy that phone in a heartbeat.

    • Louis A

      Totally agree. When Google first started the Nexus program, I had hope the make their own hardware every year after that. But yes it makes sense that time that they use a different manufacturer. But I also think it’s time that they take control of things and shake up things and bring to the table some “revolutionary” ideas. I am sure they have or is thinking about it.

  • DSaif

    I don’t mind Nexus Devices in partnership with manufacturers.

    They just need full control of it.

    Nexus Devices should be branded as Google Nexus. Credit should be given but they should not be branded as Samsung, LG, ASUS Nexus etc.

    The specs & features of devices should be consistent.

    For example Nexus 7 doesn’t have LED light, Nexus 4 doesn’t have pogo pin. All of them look different in design.

  • J3R3MY_H

    I think I would sacrifice whatever design you think Google is lacking for the price of current nexus devices.

    How popular would the nexus 4/7/10 be if you added $100-$150 to each device’s price?

    • uknowme

      Honestly I think it would still do just fine. Once one person got their hands on it everyone who purchases Nexus products would have no problem spending the extra money. You get what you pay for.

    • clocinnorcal

      Could not agree more! I love my N4 and sure its camera isn’t the best and the glass on the back makes me live in fear of drops but I wouldn’t trade new design aesthetics for the best deal is smart phones.

  • Bryan

    Apparently, the Nexus Q is discontinued. Not sure from this post that you knew that.

    • WatcherJohn

      I have never seen a Nexus Q in the wild. Has anyone here?

  • lancaster09

    I could have sworn that Google made a promise to not make their own android hardware because the perception of favoritism. ( I know there’s going to be some hate here) If they did this I think the environment would be like there Apple and the iphone but with tons a of fake iphones running around with the same operating system. I think its the nature of the game to develop devices that look different and might not have all the features you want. It’s expensive to truly have the top of the line specs in every category and just when you think you do, someone “”one up’s” you with a better camera or something.

  • Dave Kratter

    Google is a for-profit company, with shareholders. That means making devices that no one buys is not a direction they can go.

    The Nexus Q was an immediate dud.

    Google Glass will be a niche toy that most likely will never take off.

    Chromebook Pixel, while nice, is incredibly expensive for what it provides, and will therefore be purchased by a very small segment of the market.

    None of these things make Google any real money. Google doesn’t exist for the sake of making neat stuff, they exist for the sake of making money.

    I think you need to step out of your Google Reality Distortion Field sometimes.

    • buddhacat

      What? google doesnt exist to make stuff besides money? you got it all wrong.
      making money is just the result of making stuff people want… not the purpose of a company. any company that exists for making money is called a scam.

  • redraider133

    I’m still hoping google makes their own carrier and then would love some google hardware on the google network

  • chestont

    While I do love the design elements of the Q, Chromebook Pixl and Google Glass, I’m not sure how people would take to the premium prices a Google manufactured device might be. All three of the aforementioned devices are/were expensive devices for their functionality(Glass may be the exception since there is no direct competitor to compete in the market against).

    How many people would purchase a beautifully designed Google manufactured Nexus phone for $650 instead of an OEM produced Nexus phone for $350? Now, if Google were to take an even heavier subsidy on the cost, then all bets are off.

    Also, doesn’t the acquisition of Motorola Mobility kind of render this concept moot? Shouldn’t the Motorola phones eventually take on the characteristics of design that Google wants to implement?

  • imdiane

    It would be quite amazing if Google decided to build their own hardware for their smart devices or any of their products for that matter but would they have the right material? Would it come out in time as fast as they have been able to release their products?

    In idea it seems great but logistically speaking, they would have to guarantee that their product is delivered as promised. That’s one of the bigger issues nowadays. That’s all regardless of price. People pay $600-$800 for the latest smartphones, I don’t see why they wouldn’t want to pay that price for a Nexus 4 if they knew the product was THAT good and that beautiful.

    But I suppose now it’s hard to push prices up when you’ve already pushed them that low.

  • TheVoodoo

    While I do mostly agree with the sentiment, I am afraid I it may not be a good strategic move for Google to compete with its hardware manufacturing partners such as HTC, Asus, LG and Samsung, as Google relies on these very partners to spread Android throughout the world.

    II believe a more stringent and demanding Nexus program will benefit both Google and its partners more; Not only will it strengthen the the Nexus brand by producing better Nexus product, but it will also improve OEMs’ non-Nexus product lines, if they integrate their learning from the Nexus experience into their own production processes.

    • Joe White

      I don’t think Google branded devices would have any ill effect on it’s partnership with other OEMs. Android is #1 Globally, there is no other option that these manufacturers have to create devices for. Well, unless Apple uses that $140B to buy them all up.

  • Joe White

    I have a feeling that eventually, Google will be using the Motorola arm to make it’s Nexus line of devices. Remember, Eric Schmidt said that they still have about 18 months of products in the pipeline. Google Nexus devices may not happen this year, but I have a strong feeling that it will be coming. Also, I would imagine that if Google were to take on manufacture of the devices, it would be at the same or cheaper price point. I don’t know if this is true for the current situation, but Google wouldn’t have to pay royalties if nexus devices were buit in house.

    Consider that although extremely over priced, Google stated themselves that the pixel isn’t about making money or for mass consumer consumption. The pixel is about setting a new standard for Chromebooks. I’m excited to see where Google goes with this!

    • Arthur

      This sort of strategy may work with the Pixel which is a premium notebook that I am sure is not subsidized at all by Google and doesn’t have the broad mass appeal that a cell phone that serves more people will have.

      If Google uses that same strategy towards an all Google made Nexus smartphone, disregarding how much it sells for to ultimately offer the highest quality Android user experience as far as Google is concerned, in the US anyway, it won’t sell well at all especially if it isn’t marketed much like previous Nexus phones aren’t marketed.

  • Anton Wahlman
  • Paul Atreides

    Sounds good in theory. I’d prefer a program where you can put stock Vanilla on any Android phone of your choice without the hassle of rooting. At this point, I don’t even know if Google will make a phone from scratch that I would love. Also, they screwed up allowing manufacturers to skin Android instead of offering launchers and app suites. Now they have to make stock way more robust to compete with custom skins the masses have become accustomed to before they go making their own phones. How many Nexus 4′s have been sold? The Nexus program is still in beta, not ready for prime time at the moment, though some tech enthusiast may disagree.

  • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com DroidSamurai

    All sounds great, except that Google dosen’t have a good reputation in making its own hardware — I am not talking about the quality of the products, but the marketability of the products. The Q, for example, was a beautiful device. But Google made almost all the wrong choices: high prices, small feature set, unrealistic assumption of how people use a media box, etc. Pixel, arguably the best portable computing hardware ever made so far, but running an OS that’s created initially for cheap/affordable computing. Even Google Glass, no one knows for sure if it will be a success at this point.

    All of these point me to a conclusion — if you give a blank canvas to Google, they have no proven record in creating something that everyone wants. It’s not a technical problem, but a business one.

  • swazedahustla

    And I can cross the X phone of my list as an option for my next phone. If they still have to go through carriers for updates, then it’s not worth it. And its gonna suck that the next nexus won’t be a game changer as far as hardware, so whats a guy to do.

  • Bob

    Not a lot of thinking going on here. Take a good, long look at what you’re comparing. You’re comparing Nexus Q (which was panned as a failure by almost everybody, Google even discontinued it shortly after launch), Google Glass, and Chromebook, with smartphones and tablets.

    Nexus Q’s success, or lack thereof, is not the point here. The point is, that Android-branded smartphones and tablets have been done to death.

    With the Q, Glass, and Chromebook, you’re looking at the new shiny. With Nexus 4, 7, and 10, you’re looking at the same old thing. You have an inflated perception of something new and nice-looking.

    You also have this idea that somehow, Google knows more how to do smartphones and tablets than everyone else who has made a boatload of money selling smartphone and tablets. Would any Google product be “beautiful” and innovative if Samsung and HTC weren’t going at each other’s throats pushing bigger and better specs each year, or if any computer manufacturer weren’t trying to one-up the other by coming out with better screens, sleeker interfaces, etc?

    Nexus Q was a dud, Chromebook is just a glorified web browser, and Glass hasn’t even proven itself as a viable product. It’s just a lot of hot air with this post.

  • irishrally

    I think the Nexus 10 is pretty special.

  • Max.Steel

    What a load of rubbish.

  • Devon

    I don’t mean to be rude but this article made me wonder if you’ve ever held the Nexus 10 or Nexus 4.

    • Max.Steel

      He’s the same lead who kept bashing the Nexus 4 after the design was leaked. Calling it a disco ball. Few weeks later, he went and bought one.

      • Max.Steel

        *same lad

  • curlyq

    A nexus with the HTC One hardware, or similar, would be just as amazing IMO.

  • donger

    Google should, Glass should tie in with Project Shield.

  • nathan118

    Why does Google have to play nice with carriers regarding updates? Doesn’t apple update the iPhone with zero carrier involvement?

  • Paul

    The Verge called Nexus Q “a set of good intentions that don’t come together in the end” — and the God damned thing isn’t even for sale. Google itself gave up on it.

    Gizmodo inspired us about Pixel by saying, “It’s amazing. Don’t buy it.”

    And Glass is currently a complete mystery. Random people get to pay $1500 for he privilege to test something that they know probably does not work in many, many ways.

    So, while it seems Google can make things look pretty, it clearly cannot bring a product to market at a reasonable price point, so what would be the advantage of this?

    All three of these products are essentially not in market (you’d be stupid to pay $1300 for what is essentially a pretty netbook). I would venture to say that Google needs to stop attempting to take products from concept-to-market, not dig in deeper.

  • AndroidAndFreak

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  • Mannan Khan

    Google is Google,keya nahi milta!