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A Few Thoughts on This “Nexus Experience” Program

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The “Nexus experience” device appears to be all the rage these days, grabbing headlines left and right. After Google announced the first in this new category at Google I/O as the Samsung Galaxy S4 “Nexus experience,” HTC decided they would like to be a part of this elite crowd as well. This morning, Android leader Sundar Pichai announced the HTC One “Nexus experience” to an applause from tech enthusiasts across the globe. It’s a move I think many of us have hoped for all along – you know, the latest flagship devices running stock Android, receiving timely updates, and having no part of a manufacturer skin.

It’s a dream, right? Mostly, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have questions, concerns, and other thoughts in general. Here are a few that immediately come to mind.

The point of this new program

This new “Nexus experience” program is an interesting one, to say the least. Is the point to show that a strength in partnerships between Google and OEMs still exists now that they own Motorola? Is it simply to offer the best hardware with a “Nexus” or stock experience? Is it all about having choices? It certainly isn’t about affordable choices, that’s for sure. I certainly don’t think it’s about selling millions of stock Android devices, though the success of the program will remain to be seen for now. No matter what, we’ve never been one to be negative about choices, so to that I say, “Thanks…Google.”

Timing of releases

I understand that this new “Nexus experience” program is brand new, but to Google and whoever your partners are going forward, let’s not release these phones a month or two after the regular editions have dropped. There are such things in the tech industry as “early adopters,” and we don’t like it when a better version of what we just bought is released weeks later without us having any knowledge of it. So either announce “Nexus experience” editions during your device’s initial unveiling, or at least release them at the same time. I personally, now have an unlocked HTC One that will become a paperweight thanks to today’s announcement of the “Nexus experience” One.

Prices

The prices of these new “Nexus experience” phones are arguably higher than they should be (HTC One at $599, Galaxy S4 at $649). While these are not “Nexus” devices made specifically for Google, meaning the manufacturers still want to make a buck or two off of sales of them, selling them at the same price as one would find from a carrier is a bit much. I get that they are giving us “options,” but when you aren’t tying them to a carrier, you should be able to sell them for much cheaper. Also, since part of the cost of the skinned versions of your phones likely includes all of the time spent fine-tuning your custom skin and software enhancements, I sort of feel like charging the same price for a phone without all of that is sort of a rip off. Shouldn’t there be a discount for the bare bones model? Even shady car dealers have done it this way for years with cars and options.

Updates, where are they coming from

We understand that these “Nexus experience” devices are in essence, Google’s take on how these devices should perform, meaning they should also receive timelier updates than skinned versions of the same phones. But where are these updates coming from? Are they coming directly from Google, or do we have to wait for manufacturers to approve new updates once Google has released them? According to a blog post from HTC, it sounds like updates will indeed come directly from Google. Here’s to hoping those updates carry the same importance as they do on Nexus devices.

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Please CDMA, just die already

Our comments were flooded immediately after today’s announcement that HTC and Google have teamed up for a “Nexus experience” One with, “No Verizon? That sucks.” And yes, it does suck. But thanks to the CDMA networks behind carriers like Verizon and Sprint, we may not ever see “Nexus experience” devices. Carriers get to decide what phones are whitelisted for their CDMA networks, unlike GSM networks who have to allow anything capable of running on them. That’s why these new devices from Samsung and HTC work great on both T-Mobile and AT&T. Our only chance for a “Nexus experience” on Verizon, is one that is VoLTE and doesn’t have to touch their CDMA network at any time. But who knows how many years away we are from that happening.

Nexus program lives on

Sundar Pichai confirmed during his interview today that the Nexus program is not dying even though we are seeing a couple of “Nexus experience” devices. Their goal with the Nexus program is to push the platform forward, and that will continue on. So with that it mind, be aware that we are likely to see a new Nexus phone this winter, if history tells us anything. So if you were thinking of picking up one of these new “Nexus experience” phones, it may not have everything that the next Nexus will offer.

Please Google, fix your camera software

Both the Galaxy S4 and HTC One have been praised since launch for having two of the best smartphone cameras ever made. They both have their issues, but for the most part, there are few phones that carry as many tricks as these two. With that said, they won’t have any of these tricks once they ship with stock Android. Both HTC and Samsung use their own camera software on their skinned phones, but with a stock “Nexus experience,” we’re going to be stuck with Google’s stock Android camera software. As we have mentioned time and time again over the years, Nexus cameras always produce some of the poorest quality shots of any smartphone. At this point, I think we’re done blaming the sensors being used and are instead fully on the stock-android-camera-software-sucks bandwagon. It’s time, Google, to fine-tune your camera software, especially if you are going to sell phones known for their cameras.

In the end, these are the phones to have

When it’s all said and done, if you are an Android enthusiast or one that constantly begs for a stock Android experience with timely updates, these are the phones you should be considering. Sure, the Nexus program itself has always been the way for Android elitists to go, but with the Nexus 4 lacking LTE, we know that many of you passed this time around. But with the “Nexus experience” program launching, you no longer have an excuse, assuming you are willing to spend $600 on a new phone. On June 26, you’ll have the choice of the top two smartphones on the planet, with stock Android, updated by Google, at your fingertips.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts as we close in on the June 26 launch date for both devices. Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this new “Nexus experience” program. Love it? Hate it? Don’t understand it? Changes you’d like to see?

  • Aaa

    Two of the best ANDROID* smartphone cameras. (Ahem Nokia)

    :)

  • BrianBrick

    I know for sure I’m jumping onto tmobile’s prepaid plan with one of these phones next month, I just can’t decide which one. I really hate the goddamn physical face button on gs4 but i need more comparison

  • feztheforeigner

    Kellex, I could use a paper weight…

  • http://www.facebook.com/bret.smith.169 Bret Smith

    I wonder if this will replace an actual launch of a “Nexus 5″ this year

  • realfoxm

    It’s great news even if you own an HTC One w/ Sense or an S4 with Touchwiz. With AOSP being available to these devices officially, means that the dev teams will have a much easier process building for these devices AND having everything work correctly.

  • Higher_Ground

    Too rich for my blood. Also, I’d much rather compare them side-by-side to the actual nexus when it comes out.

  • dcdttu

    Am I crazy that I think the N4 takes pretty damn good pictures? Am I crazy to think that the HDR mode is arguably better than the iPhone’s, and even HTC’s? I get gorgeous shots from my N4 and have been pretty happy with it’s performance. Only thing that I wish was a bit better was low-light performance, but that is decidedly hardware.

    Also, I’m a photographer.

    Also, I can’t wait for the next Nexus to come out. They even said they’re taking the camera seriously now. I love these Nexus Experience phones, but like hell I’ll be laying $600 down on a device that’s already months old. Phones are replaced every few months in this fast-paced market. Releasing something like this months later is kind of ridiculous.

    Look at Apple when you want to know how to do something right. They release just about every option and accessory at the exact same time, and don’t update it every month. That’s what these phone manufacturers should be doing too. Release the HTC One, the One Google Edition and all accessories at the same time, globally.

    • http://profiles.google.com/gallimichael Michael Galli

      That is a really lame argument. No ones making anyone buy anything. Its a free market economy and many will argue, the iPhone 5 was outdated when it was released.

  • Alexander Garcia

    I’ll wait and see what the Moto X has to offer in October.

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    I love this idea…not so sure about timing and execution. I am also not convinced Google is going to market this well enough to generate enough sales to make it worthwhile for OEMs.

    I can only agree on the AOSP camera issue. And I agree loudly. I just ordered a used S3 off eBay and I am not sure how to proceed with ROMs.

    I upgraded from a GNex for battery life, increased RAM, and camera. Not sure which software will give me all of what I need.

  • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

    The point of this new program

    The point is that Google is admitting their hardware design sucks. That’s why we’re seeing Nexus HTC Ones and GS4s while the Nexus 4 hasn’t been updated.

    selling them at the same price as one would find from a carrier is a bit much

    ? They priced that way because … drumroll … *that’s what the phones actually cost.* LTE + high onboard storage is expensive. Deal with it.

    Please CDMA, just die already

    You first. I’d take CDMA over (AT&T) GSM’s crappy call quality any day

  • Klone96

    Ive always had a nexus device and my friends/family have had “Nexus Experience” on there phones, Samsung/Htc are just catching up.. its called a “Custom Rom” sure there a lil buggy and u have to wait until there made for ur device but not only do u get the Nexus experience u get more then that! as far as im concerned i dont want a Nexus Experence, i want a Nexus Device! Google should just team up with Samsung/Lg/Moto/Htc once a yea and make an official nexus device on top of the other phones the various manufactures make.

  • James Friedman

    Why the hell would anyone that has any knowledge of rooting/unlocking/ROM’ing purchase one of these? Is it just the fact that it’s not tied down to a contract? Just curious….especially when you can create the exact experience, if not better by doing it yourself.

  • Technical Issues

    I just hope that either Verizon gets in on this somehow or I can find coverage somewhere else that comes close to them so I can justify changing carriers…

  • km75sr

    For the prices these devices are going for, the only way I would buy one is if they came with both skinned and pure android and I could easily go back and forth between the two. The best of both worlds. Then I could justify paying what they are asking for. I know I know…I can dream though right.

  • WickedToby741

    Anybody else predicting 4.3 on or before June 26th? I think the notion of these launching with 4.2.2 is silly. I think they’ll launch with 4.3.

    And to anyone who already owns a GSM GS4 or One, patience. Chances are that these ROM’s should either port directly onto your phones or would take little hackery.

  • beaumac

    Both S4 and H1 are overpriced for me. They are making me consider leaving VZW and at least trying out ATT though. I want to see these phones at a more reasonable price like the N4 or I can’t justify the switch when I can extend my contract and get the phone for $400 less!

  • Trevor

    These two stock Android phones make me wish my contract with Verizon was up and that I could get a decent deal (that’s laughable) on an individual plan with AT&T, preferably no-contract.

  • enigmaco

    I honestly hate all these phone carriers. They just play games with people in one shape or form. That is why I am slowly getting tired of smartphones. I mean you have a $700 S4 for sale to put that in perspective my car just broke down and I am looking at purchasing another one and it is going to cost me $1100.

    I have a nexus 4, and I have to two between two carriers (there are others but in the end they use the two carriers networks) You have t-mobile who has excellent speeds and limited coverage, and you have at&t who has excellent coverage but outrageous and greedy prices, guess in the end you just pick your poison.

    • SirDriveALot

      No offense, but if you’re driving am $1100 car, you probably shouldn’t be too interested in anything but a free phone…

      • enigmaco

        Free phone requires a contract which has no benefits though. The point I am making is these phones are as much as some cars.