By now, you should be familiar with the Nexus line of official Google devices. Even if you may not understand them in-depth, just the term ‘Nexus' has likely come across your ears at one point in the last few months. Whether it was because of the Nexus 7, arguably the best tablet in the 7-inch market; the Nexus 4, with its seemingly endless issues remaining in stock; or the Nexus 10, the line's largest and most powerful device, there has been some point in some place that you have come across Google's flagships. And whether it be because of envy towards your friends who seem privileged enough to have acquired any version of the Nexus or because of sheer curiosity, a question looms in your mind.
There are multiple ways to answer this question, all of them pointing to particular aspects of the Nexus experience that, on their own, cannot tell the whole story – however, when put together, all of the reasons to get a Nexus device over other ones sum up the enthusiasm by which owners have flocked to this line of special devices. As an owner of every current Nexus device, I certainly have my own reasons for loving the Nexus. And after some scrutiny, I bring 10 again to answer that very question. As I have and likely will continue to do more lists of 10 what-have-yous, I'll call them 10 Again.
And as is customary with my list features, a disclaimer: this isn't a ‘tips and tricks', but some discretion is still warranted. Some of these reasons for choosing Nexus may seem to deal more with the general Android platform rather than this specific line. While this may be true to an extent, I am saying that it is with the Nexus 4, 7, and 10 that the particular reason shines best. The Nexus line of phones and tablets is supposed to be Google's way of presenting Android the way it is supposed to be experienced, so this is as much an upholding of the Nexus as it is another way of looking at the greatness of Android in general.
Also, unless otherwise stated, 10 Again occurs in no particular order. They are just numbered for convenience.
This might not have been the story in the first few Google official devices, but it will certainly be a mainstay of the Nexus line from this generation onward – the hardware. As they are supposed to be industry standards for their respective markets, the phones and tablets of the Google Nexus line have the best specifications of any competitor.
At the time of release, every current Nexus line touted the best specs and performance compared to basically all other phones and tablets. Even better, specifically the Nexus 4 phone and Nexus 10 tablet continue to be the fastest devices in their respective markets.
When released, the Nexus 7 (the first in the current line to see the light of day) had 1GB of RAM and the Nvidia Tegra 3 graphics/processor as its powerful engine. Its main role as a device to rival the original Kindle Fire was very much fulfilled, as the Nexus 7 sold out quickly and was never low in demand (something we know all too well these days, unfortunately). Users loved to have the incredible power of some of the best smartphones out at the time in a larger form factor, complete with the backing of Google and its updated Android operating system (which will be, perhaps inevitably, touched upon soon).
If you follow the phone market (or maybe you just remember my comparison review from a while back), you probably know that there is one phone that directly competes with the Nexus 4 – the LG Optimus G. Both do sport the same incredible specifications like the quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, making the performance on either phone blazingly fast. However, as I stated before, any one aspect cannot tell the whole story about why the Nexus is the place to be, as the Nexus 4′s trump card can be summed up by simply uttering the magic words: Jelly Bean.
Finally, the Google Nexus 10 is perhaps the main example of a Nexus device that thus far has been able to stand the test of the time in the market. Bringing Samsung in for design and manufacturing, Google wanted to mature into the full sized tablet market and rival the likes of the iPad. Boy, did they make a statement with what came out. A blazing fast 1.7GHz dual-core Exynos A15 processor and a great graphics package in the Mali T604 made the Nexus 10 the fastest tablet in the market, and it still is. Put in a few extra bits like a surprisingly capable camera and front facing speakers, and the package of the Nexus 10 is hard to beat.
It is clear that Google wants to keep itself at the top of the Android food chain and with the help of capable manufacturers, the current crop of Nexus devices shows us that this is entirely possible. We can certainly look forward to more incredible devices, perhaps those with the CES-announced NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor, sporting ‘NEXUS' across their backs.
So we would expect that with such high capabilities comes nose-bleedingly high prices, right? Fortunately, this hasn't been the case. As we explained in a previous feature explaining exactly what a Nexus device is, Google has made it clear that it is willing to sell devices at lower prices than its competitors. Of course, we have to remain vigilant and ask why this courtesy by Google, and they have not hidden their ulterior motive.
Google hopes that their Nexus devices will be able to get more people through the doors of their Play Store, so app and content sales essentially make up for the lowered prices. And, for the most part, it seems to work – when you fire up your new Nexus device, what is the first thing you do? Fire up that Play Store. You're bound to find apps that you need (or want) enough that they justify their prices (not to mention, apps go on sale more often than you might think). When you hit that buy button, it makes Google happy and Nexus devices remain the prices they need to be.
Of course, with the low prices that the Nexus devices come at, the sheer number of sales itself is nothing to brush off. After all, starting at $299, the Nexus 4 is the best-priced unlocked phone ever. The 16GB Wi-Fi only version of the Nexus 7 is only $199 (Valentine's Day gift for the loved one, maybe?) and the Nexus 10 is very competitively priced at $399 (a competitor, the Asus Transformer Infinity, can be up to $450 for the base model and that doesn't even include the keyboard dock).
Should this particular aspect of the Nexus line remain in future generations, it is certainly very hard to resist. Together with the previous reason, the picture is quite a lot clearer as to why you should choose Google's official devices.
You knew this one was coming. After all, wars (okay, flame wars) are started over what operating system is included in nearly any Android device.
“It's still on Ice Cream Sandwich?”
“Which Jelly Bean version is it?”
That last one is like the end of an Android user's worst nightmare. This kind of emphatic reaction stems from one simple reason – Google's official stock Android operating system has and continues to set the standard of the mobile OS's experience. And with the Nexus line of devices, you never have to question – they will not only come with the latest Android OS, Google will keep them updated for at least a long time (maybe up to when two later versions of the same device are released, let's say).
For a lot of people, this reason alone is the reason to invest in Nexus. Especially for the Nexus 4 – do a quick Google search and you will see people debating over whether to wait for it because of its constant ‘sold out' status or just settle for the LG Optimus G, its fraternal twin. Notice the word ‘settle' being used there. More often than not, people respond to questions like this by telling the OP to wait – having the most updated operating system means too much to them when it is common knowledge that the Optimus G (or pretty much any other Android phone, for that matter) will always be at least a step or two behind on this front. Not to mention how much better people believe the stock experience to be over forked iterations, which we will touch upon next.
I read a story recently in which the writer made a pretty spectacular point – before Ice Cream Sandwich, it was hard to put Android on the top of the food chain because, as an operating system, it just wasn't… there. I can definitely agree. It wasn't entirely because of specific functions that were missing or because it was lacking in any one big aspect – it just didn't have that “je ne sais quoi”. Now, those days are behind us.
Maybe it was ICS' change to an entirely new color scheme and design outlook, or maybe it was Project Butter, which made the OS cut through its screens and apps like… well, butter. But something happened when Android 4.0.4 came out that changed the landscape. Suddenly, it was easier, faster, and (most importantly) more fun to use. More now than ever, Android users are clamoring for that version number when looking at a new phone. Will be at least 4.1?
But I want to extend this past Ice Cream Sandwich and the impact it had, instead bringing Jelly Bean's latest iteration to light. As it was released on each Nexus device I now own, I began to notice something that was nothing short of amazing – I wasn't reaching for my customization applications anymore. Launchers, replacement lockscreens, and even power widgets became afterthoughts because with the newest iteration of Jelly Bean, 4.2, all of the issues that I used to have with the stock experience has gone away.
Aside from speed optimizations and an overall better looking UI, a number of things that needed refreshment and upgrade were revamped. The notification dropdown allows for expansion of notices for easy access to the information without needing to go into the app, the newest Jelly Bean brought a new side (quite literally) to the dropdown as a place to access most used settings, and the lockscreen was given new life by the addition of widget screens.
And Google Now – as I stated in my previous edition of 10 Again about tips and tricks on the Nexus 4, I want everyone to start using this great service more often because it is just that good. Google Now has become my go to place to perform searches, check the weather, see what the traffic is like before leaving to a destination, and even to check the score of the Laker game. It looks elegant and is definitely a feat by Google to bring information to its users in a unique and ultimately useful way.
All of these optimizations have made the overall experience of Android better, and it's only going to continue. In the current crop of Android devices, it is only with the Nexus devices that you can get the OS fully updated and the way it was meant to be used. I don't even go for my custom ROMs anymore, because stock Android already has everything I need. Of course, if you really wanted to get in on the fun on a non-Nexus device, you could opt for a ROM like Cyanogenmod. But which device is the easiest to root and flash ROMs to?
That's right, power to the people, as the Nexus is the place to go when you want to get behind the veil of your phone's capabilities and really get down to the customization. While Google has given developers the ability to work on their devices since Android's inception, it was with the Nexus One that the community truly blew up and began to take the operating platform they loved to a whole new level.
We already have a pretty extensive feature on just what rooting and flashing ROMs means, but here is a quick rundown: rooting your phone (or any Android device) gives the user full permissions – we're talking full system level access – to do anything on the software level that they want. At its simplest level, rooting a device allows certain apps that need an extra level of access to the features of a phone, like changing the color of the LED notification light or even just browsing the root directory of the file system. However, the more commonplace steps that follow rooting are installing a bootloader and then flashing a new ROM.
A bootloader allows for raw backups, full data wipes, and the installation of entire operating systems. In the case of loading an OS – or ROM – you can get one of very many iterations of Android designed and built by users in the community. They can be vanilla Android ROMs or ones basically on steroids with loads and loads of tweaks and added functionality. Ultimately, rooting your device brings a whole new level of customization that used to be only for those adventurers who bravely brushed past the dangers of bricking their devices. Now, it's pretty easy to do, but take heed.
Some may say that this is only for the more advanced users, and they are right. I will posit, however, that the general user of Android can easily learn how to root and flash ROMs to their phone or tablet, as the dev community is so good that it makes the process easy to fathom. That being said, this is a way of getting a whole new level of power over your Nexus device, even if it comes with a small degree of danger. If things get messed up, you could end up with a great looking paperweight. But it's not as common as some think, and I will reiterate that the stock Android experience already found on Nexus devices is so good that going this far is purely a voluntary choice. Just do your research before trying.
As with many Nexus devices, their inception into the market makes waves. The Nexus One, as I said before, was a wonderful platform for developers to take Android to the next level of customization. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was the first Nexus device for people not on GSM networks. The Nexus 7 proved that a 7-inch form factor could have the full Android experience without sacrificing pretty much anything.
The same goes for the Nexus 4, as it made waves being perhaps the most affordable unlocked phone ever. Think back to when you saw a phone you really wanted, but you were stuck on your current carrier and your upgrade date was a far off dream. But that awesome new phone just came out and you just needed to have it. So, you check the price. $600 on eBay?! Yeah. That was and, unfortunately, still is the reality when it comes to new smartphones. Keeping up with the greatest that mobile technology has to offer comes at a very hefty price.
Not if you choose the Nexus. As I already said, the Nexus 4 is one of best phones on the market, and that doesn't just go for specifications and price. That all goes along with being an unlocked phone free of carrier contracts. On a 2 year contract with a phone company, you might end up spending close to $299 anyway, but buy the 4 in the Play Store and you get a phone that you own – right out of the box.
And without having to pay subsidies through a long and binding contract, you save some money and can choose a plan from any GSM carrier (yes, this is a bit of a tradeoff, as non-GSM users cannot use the Nexus 4 on their networks) at no commitment. I put my Nexus 4 on an off-contract 4G monthly plan from T-Mobile, and couldn't be happier with the setup. Ultimately, the Nexus 4 is probably one of the best investments you could possibly ask for in the smartphone market.
Fire up any Nexus device for the first time, especially tablets, and your main home screen page will have a grid listing of all the Play Store content that you suddenly own.
These can be single magazines, complete books, and even a movie or two. It's obvious why this is all made available to you from the get-go – Google wants you to immediately know what your new device is capable of. From there, you might dive further into the Play Store and buy more content. It may or may not be a subtly successful ploy by Google, but you nonetheless get some free stuff!
I'm halfway through Treasure Island, myself.
Speaking of tablets – I'm curious how many of you actually use this feature, as I am certainly the sole user of my own devices, but I include this reason because I see the potential behind it. After all, there are times when having different users on a tablet, for example, would be very useful.
You may have different e-mail accounts for different purposes – personal e-mail and work e-mail, for instance. If your tablet is your lifeline, perhaps separating the two accounts and, subsequently, their specific experiences can help you keep things organized or even help your productivity. So, you set up your personal account with all of your personal e-mails and maybe some apps that you use for fun, but when it comes time to work, you switch over to the work user and everything personal is put aside for work-related correspondence and applications.
Of course, if you are able to keep the two lives separate then you probably don't have to worry about doing something like this. How about when a couple shares a Nexus 7 or 10? To keep things tidy, there can be two users with each having only the apps and configurations that those particular individuals need or want. When more than one person uses a Nexus device, the individuality of each person can be upheld without sacrificing space for some personality. And only in the newest iteration of Android, Jelly Bean 4.2, which is only available on the Nexus, is this currently available.
Do any of you use the multi-user functionality for this or any other purpose? Let us know in the comments!
You know what else is great about having an unlocked phone? Well, for one thing, the phone arrives the way it was originally put together. No one took a hot iron and branded the phone to remind everyone that you are tied to your contract for the foreseeable future. But something far uglier is removed from the phone – something that we all truly loathe.
I'm pretty sure most of us fire up a new Android device and expect to see a pretty blank slate ripe for the installing and the customizing. But most of the time with carriers you look in the app drawer and somehow there are already six pages of apps installed. This literally just happened to me with my new Droid DNA. I don't even watch football, so why do I want a NFL app that actually only got 2 stars in the Play Store? And worse yet, those apps are often stuck forever in the phone – you can't uninstall them (well, not easily, anyway). This blatant product placement is something we've all gotten used to on some level, but that doesn't make it any less annoying.
With an unlocked Nexus 4 (or even on either of the Nexus tablets, for that matter) you get none of this. Your Android experience is as clean as it was meant to be – and instead of the phone carriers or companies cluttering up your phone, YOU get to do it yourself. Gradually, slowly, with every app you think you need but later realize you don't.
Finally, we put together all of these reasons to own a Nexus device and come to a startling discovery – when you choose Nexus, that is only the first of multitudes of choices you open up for yourself. When you become a 4, 7, or 10 user, you open up a world of possibilities that might be akin to those found in other Android devices but aren't nearly as great in number or quality as in the Nexus. And it is upon this freedom that we'll conclude this edition of 10 Again.
Got a 7 or a 10? You hold some of the best performing tablets not just in the Android market, but in the entire industry today. Also, take advantage of a host of free content that you can do with as you please – check it out, see if you like it, and then jump into the Play Store, whether or not you want more of it. Got some kids who want to use your prized daily driver? Put a new user on there for them to use and enjoy the way they want to.
Lucky enough to get your hands on a powerful Nexus 4 despite the current stock troubles? You have the freedom to pick from the available carriers and get a plan that fits well for you, without the burden of contracts. Enjoy the extra space to do with what you wish, as no carriers can take up your precious screen space for their own profit. And take advantage of the best that Android has to offer.
Bask in the comfort that your software experience will always be at its best because of Google's backing. And if all of that still isn't enough for you, get rooting and start changing the phone on a whole different level. Participate in the enthusiastic and friendly developer community to find new ways of making your Nexus extend even further beyond what you thought it could achieve.
When you choose Nexus, you choose value, performance, and flexibility. But just as much as all those qualities, when you choose the Nexus, you choose greater freedom. Let us know your thoughts on the Nexus in the comments below and watch above for my video presentation of this edition of 10 Again.