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Will Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 be more expensive? Is this a bad thing?

With killer specs and premium materials, the latest Nexus family members may very likely have a higher price tag than more recent Nexus products. Is this a bad thing or not?
October 3, 2014

We’ve heard a lot of talk about the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 recently. Most of this talk has centered around size and specs, though we’ve also at least touched on the idea that both this models might be more “premium” than past Nexus offerings.

With killer specs and premium materials, we can also expect a higher price tag than more recent Nexus products. With that in mind, for this Friday Debate we discuss what would be a reasonable price for the new Nexus family? Additionally, is bringing price and features ‘upmarket’ the right move for the Nexus line? And are cheap Nexus devices less necessary in the wake of the Moto G and Android One?

Check out the responses from our team, and shout off your own opinions in the comments below!

Jonathan Feist

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Let me start by saying that I am excited for the Nexus 6.

I know I mentioned it last week, but my Nexus 7 recently broke down, and it is time to update phones. Since I am accustomed to hauling the Nexus 7 around wherever I go, a 5.9-inch device will be no problem at all. But we’re here to talk about price.

I fully expect these new big display units to pack a big price, but perhaps not as big as we fear. The Nexus 5 and Nexus 7, if nothing else, came in at unbelievably low price points for their time, I want to believe that Google will try to surprise us again.

Here is the thing, and this is purely what I would do if I were Google right now, I would launch the Nexus 6 and 9 as pricey, but solid, premium devices. (I say again, “premium”. There is enough ‘cheap’ stuff out there.)

I know Google isn’t really getting into the market, but I would launch the 6 & 9 alongside an updated Nexus 4. Solve inventory management by utilizing a Moto Maker-like make-to-order system, and offer the full line of Nexus 4, 5 and 6 phones and Nexus 7, 9 and 10 tablets. (Need an 8?) This way, Google can push out a new 4, 6 and 9 this year, and get us updated 5, 7 and 10 next year. Something for everyone.

I hope you see where I am going with this.

With this model, I would expect pricing to match screen size. Phones would start at $300, $350 and $399 for the 4, 5 and 6 respectively. Tablets can start at $179, $229 and $299 for the 7, 9 and 10. Predictable and simple, but should never change, even on the two year update schedule I am talking about.

Back to reality

Here’s the thing, I’ve got at least 3 apps on standby that I’ve purchased but cannot install just yet, because they are 1GB+ in size and my devices are simply out of space. This is a common story for most of us, and pretty much always has been. I don’t want to get into the whole microSD fiasco, but we need more than 16GB of storage space, don’t even get me started on 8GB devices. If the Nexus 6 and Android L don’t bring some good news to the table, well, I don’t want to base my entire purchasing decision on that, but it just might.

The new devices are coming, they are big, and despite our desires, Google really does not owe it to us to offer inexpensive Nexus devices.

With the original idea of the Nexus program being to offer developers a reference device for all things Android (see what I did there?!?) I feel that this time around other manufacturers are not about to follow Google’s lead, it is time for Google to play catch up, and monstrous phones are the trend.

Of course, the other monstrous phones out there come with carrier subsidy in most parts, leaving me in fear that the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 may, after all, come in priced out of reach for most users.

With honest to goodness awesome and affordable devices out there running minimal or even stock Android experiences, I’m looking at you Moto G, Google has little need to put out an affordable Nexus phone right now.

Since we are in good hands there, my guess is that the Nexus 6 will start at around $450 for a 16GB model and the Nexus 9 will come in at a $299 starting point. But don’t listen to me, I was sure the new Moto X would only be $400. Off by 1! [cough] hundred.

Robert Triggs

Yeah, those additional build materials would push the price well above the Nexus 5, but I really want the new Nexus’ to keep the same value for money ethos. I expect that a 6-inch Nexus device would retail in the range of $400, give or take depending on the build materials, but that’s not really much cheaper than the likes of the LG G3.

I’m not convinced that an upmarket Nexus is really a good idea either, because it defies the whole purpose of the project. The Nexus range is designed primarily for two things; giving OEMs a base to add value to, and offering developers cheaper, no frills handsets with update support.

Nexus handsets have garnered a loyal following of people who love stock Android and the cheap price that it comes in, but Google didn’t start the Nexus line with the view to challenging other OEMs, and nor should it do so with future Nexus devices. Metal cases, better cameras, and cutting edge displays push up the cost, and ruin the value aspect that is so beneficial to developers. That being said, I’m not opposed to a purely reference design of this size.

I think the big “problem” for the Nexus range is Motorola. The Moto X, G, and E have come in to fill the demand for stock-like Android handsets, and there’s little point in Google putting out another 5 incher. Android One does the same thing at the budget end of the market too.

Honestly, I’m becoming increasingly skeptical at the need for Nexus, at least from a consumer point of view. A move into the premium segment would suggest to me that Google doesn’t quite know what to do with the range either.

Joseph Hindy

I don’t mind if they’re more expensive like a premium device is. In fact, it makes sense to me. When the Nexus devices first started coming out (the Nexus One), they were meant to be a top of the line device for the die hard Android fans and developers. The Nexus One had top of the line specs and cost like $600 or $700. No one minded really because they were getting a beastly device.

These last few years, Google has been trying to do this “top of the line” thing and mix it with “super cheap prices” thing and I really never understood that decision. I was always of the mind that a Nexus device should be pinnacle of Android smartphones. It should stand above (or at least next to) the best of the best.

From what I’m seeing, the Nexus 6 and 9 may be a return to that. High end specs, larger displays, larger batteries (I hope because Nexus batteries have always been terrible), and a premium build quality. In my mind’s eye, this is how the Nexus line up should have always been. Big, bold, and powerful. Is 6 inches a little big? Yeah but if they keep the bezels small then it’ll be about the same size as a Note 3 or an iPhone 6 Plus and those are on the border of being too big but not actually too big. Keep in mind that the Nexus One was a pretty substantial phone for its day. I think only like one or two other smartphones were that big.

Like the question says, a cheap Nexus device is unnecessary. Android One, the Moto G, etc exist to fill that “cheap smartphone” void and now that we’re reaching a parity in smartphone internals, we’re not seeing that much of a performance drop on the lower end devices anymore.

I say pack every last bit of juice you can into the N6 and N9, sell it for a premium (maybe get it onto carriers so people can get contract prices), and show the world what stock Android is supposed to look like.

Andrew Grush

Like Robert, I’m not so sure that a ‘premium’ Nexus series is the right move. I understand Joe’s point about developers and giving them a device that represents the best of Android — but that means solid processor, RAM, storage (hopefully…), battery and other things that really matter for developer testing. A metallic frame? Probably not at the top of a developer’s “need” list.

As for the low-cost of the Nexus family recently, I’m actually all for keeping cost low. The idea is that Nexus makes it possible for every developer can afford a device for playing around and testing, not just the big operations. It’s also nice as a consumer to be able to get a powerful nerd-friendly phone without paying a lot, though honestly I’m not the original target demographic — the developer/modder.

Turning to the subject of the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9? I’m not against either device necessarily, I reserve judgment until they are official. As for pricing, I would guess that they will end up anywhere from $50 to $100 more expensive than their predecessors, the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 (2013). That’s still not super high asking prices, but for those buying for the value proposition? Might be a bit of a turn off.

Again, there are plenty of cheap options out there like the Moto G and new Android One devices, but they probably aren’t quite good enough for a developer’s need, the real purpose of Nexus. As much as I’m a Nexus fan (and not a developer), I agree with Robert that the direction of the Nexus program seems to be a bit unclear right now. Of course, I’m still in love with my Nexus 5 and look forward to seeing the next generation of Nexus devices either way.

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