I admit that I’ve been scratching my head with the two new Google devices, the Google Nexus 6 and Nexus 9. Google took a product line up of a smartphone, the Nexus 5, a small tablet in the form of the Nexus 7 and a larger tablet, the Nexus 10. They made their smartphone bigger and their large tablet smaller, dropping the Nexus 7. Depending on your perspective, by positioning the Nexus 6 mid-way between the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7, they’ve made it a poorer smartphone and a poorer tablet rolled into the one, expensive, device. Or from another perspective, here is a device that’s only a little bit smaller than the Nexus 7 but voice-capable. By making the larger tablet smaller, moving from the Nexus 10 to the Nexus 9, for those of us who want a full-size tablet, this is a backwards step. And then Google played with the aspect ratio and not so many people wanted the full size Android tablet, so tonight I’ll concentrate on the Nexus 6 and that rather odd decision to make it a big handset.
I’m the first to admit that I’ve joined in the industry trend of using an increasingly larger handset in the last few years. My current handset is the HTC One M8 with a 5.0-inch screen, which I use with two hands most of the time. I can still text with one hand, just, if I need to but I don’t see this as realistic with the Nexus 6. This doesn’t bother me too much; as long as I can carry my device with one hand I’m happy. But I’m baulking at the thought of moving to the Nexus 6 with that 5.9-inch display. Why, then, have Google decided to go down the phablet route?
I suspect that the answer is a mix of a number of different reasons but the first is product differentiation. Google could have made the 2014 Nexus smartphone in line with the rest of the industry and this would not have been such a bad thing. In the developed smartphone markets, flagship screen sizes are clustered somewhere just north of 5.0-inch across the diagonal. There’s nothing wrong with a flagship having a 5.0 to 5.3-inch screen but it would hardly be differentiated. And a part of the Nexus smartphone program has been to stick out amongst the crowd; why not make it massive? A smaller scale Nexus 6 would wind up looking like the 2014 Motorola Moto X; the Moto X already runs a near-stock Android experience.
However, the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 have been put up for sale at mid-range prices for decidedly upper mid-range hardware. The Nexus 6 is going to be on sale at high end prices for high-end hardware. I always considered that despite their attractive pricing, Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 were not designed to grab market share or sell in huge quantities and I don’t see the Nexus 6 as breaking out into the market as a huge seller, either. Some of us will lament the passing of the inexpensive Nexus smartphone, but we’re probably going to buy it anyway and in any event, the Nexus 6 is either cheaper or about the same price as buying a smaller smartphone and a small tablet. That draws me to my next point. I use my HTC One with a Google Nexus 7 – 2013 model. The Nexus 6 could conceivably replace both of these devices in one product. it would cost me about the same, if not slightly less, than the two device line up, it’d would be easier to carry and it would be a more powerful piece of technology than both. This becomes a little bit more appealing, but it’s still a large handset. And as I’ve written, the closest device to a downsized Nexus 6 is the Moto X.