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Is the Nexus 6 really too expensive?

For a lot of potential customers eagerly awaiting the Nexus 6 unveil, the fact that flagship specs have been matched by a premium price tag is cause for consternation. Has Google priced its new smartphone too high?
October 16, 2014
nexus 6 lollipop

The Google Nexus 6 has arrived. It has cutting edge specs and it will usher in Android 5.0, but there’s one big catch as the good flagship Lollipop sails into view — it’s going to cost at least $649.

Leaks aside, few predicted that the next Nexus would be a phablet manufactured by Motorola. It feels like a significant change of direction from Google. But the main criticism from Nexus fans so far seems to be focused on the price tag. Is it a mistake?

The changing face of Nexus

google nexus evolution

Google’s strategy with the Nexus smartphone line has changed over the years. It grew from the realms of reference device and developer phone to become a firm favorite with many Android fans. Here was a line of stock Android devices that offered up the platform in its purest form, as Google intended.

It has never been a big seller compared to the top releases, like Samsung’s Galaxy S line, or even HTC’s One, but it always offered something different.

Working with HTC and Samsung, Google released some good Nexus devices, but it was the partnership with LG that really got pulses racing. The Nexus 4 was a phenomenal smartphone for $299. It compared favorably with many of the top smartphones of the time which were priced way higher, up around the $600 mark.

Google and LG repeated the trick with the $349 Nexus 5. There were some compromises; you might highlight the battery life, camera, and lack of a microSD card slot, but it took months before you could point elsewhere for an Android smartphone that represented better value.

Swimming against the tide

Nexus 6

The fact that the Nexus 6 starts at $649 seems especially strange now that more OEMs have followed Google’s lead to reduce prices. The ASP (average selling price) for Android smartphones has been steadily dropping. The OnePlus One caused major waves when it hit the market at $299. A lot of the big smartphones have still been launching at premium prices, but they’re falling faster than before. The Galaxy S5, for example, didn’t take long to drop from its list price of $800 down to nearer $500.

This trend toward lower prices has definitely framed expectations. It’s even more surprising when you consider that Motorola has become the budget king under Google. The Moto G and E have shaken up the budget end of the market, though the Moto X wasn’t quite so price conscious. Could you be forgiven for expecting a Motorola and Google Nexus to be relatively cheap or were people’s expectations unrealistic?

Is it all that expensive?

The Nexus 6 really only looks pricey if we compare it with its last two predecessors. We’re not at Apple levels of expensive, the basic iPhone 6 Plus costs $749. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is a better point of comparison when it comes to specs and it’s launching at $800, though we won’t be surprised if deals start popping up soon after release.

Does it really look too expensive when we drill down into the specs? The Nexus 6 is definitely at the top end with the latest quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor clocked at 2.7GHz, the Adreno 420 GPU, 3GB of RAM, a 5.96-inch display with a QHD 2560 x 1440 resolution, dual front-facing speakers, a 13MP main camera, 2MP front-facing camera, and a hefty 3,220mAh battery.


Here’s an in-depth look at how the Nexus 6 stacks up against the competition. For the most part it’s in line with the competition on price.

Google embraces the carriers

It’s hard to find reliable statistics on how many people buy smartphones unlocked at full price. In some countries you have little choice, but in the US and UK most people buy through carriers and get subsidized up-front costs in return for locking into two-year contracts. There are often financial benefits to buying unlocked, not to mention the fact you’re free to pick up service where you want, but with carrier deals you can get an $800 device for $200 down, sometimes less, sometimes nothing.

The Nexus 6 is the first Nexus that will be sold by the big four in the US. It will be on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. That makes it a completely different prospect from the Nexus 5. People see $649 down as too expensive, but what about nothing down and a two-year contract?

The Nexus 5 v2


It’s interesting to note that the Play Store update indicates that the Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 will co-exist. Google is pitching the Nexus 6 as a different product category. After Samsung’s surprise success with the Note a lot of other OEMs including Apple, are doing this now. The phablets aren’t replacing the flagships; they’re another option for fans of bigger devices.

Maybe what a lot of people were really hoping for was a Nexus 5 (2014), the kind of upgrade we saw when Google refreshed the Nexus 7. The basic Nexus 5 is $349, and it’s still a great smartphone, but the OnePlus One costs $50 less and blows it away on paper. A Nexus 5 with improved hardware, even at $349, may have put a smile on a few faces.

What’s missing?

Nexus 6 promo video

If you look at the feature list the Nexus 6 looks really good. Can you point to anything else that looks significantly better? It seems like it has encompassed a mixture of popular trends. It has a bigger screen, bigger battery, dual front-facing speakers, a better camera, and it’s even water -resistant. What’s missing from this picture? (I know some of you will say a microSD card slot).

We need to get a hands-on before passing any kind of judgment here. The Nexus 6 is definitely a new direction for Google and the success of it at this price point could well depend on carrier promotion. You can be disappointed that it’s not cheaper, but can you really call it too expensive for what it is?

Will you buying the Nexus 6, or are you done with the Nexus line? Do you welcome the chance to get it cheaper upfront on-contract, or do you think Google is taking a wrong turn?

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