Google’s quixotic Nexus brand, a mix of high-end smartphones, set-top boxes, and other electronic experiments, is finally coming to an end. At the unveiling of the Pixel and Pixel XL in San Francisco on Tuesday, the company said it had “no plans” to produce future devices under the long-running Nexus umbrella.
The company confirmed to The Verge that it had “no immediate plans” to release Nexus hardware. And on Tuesday afternoon, it began removing the most recent Nexus devices, including the LG-made Nexus 5X and Huawei Nexus 6P handsets, from the Google Store. Existing Nexus users — and their devices — are not getting the shaft, though: the Google Nexus Twitter account confirmed that supported devices will “continue to [receive] customers support [and] software updates,” although to what extent — and for how long — remains unclear.
— Nexus (@googlenexus) October 4, 2016
The Nexus program began as an amicable arrangement between rotating Android partners. Each year, beginning in the fall of 2010, Google recruited a hardware manufacturer to design, make, and produce a device to showcase a particular software innovation. HTC’s Nexus One, for instance, was a vessel for Android 2.1 Eclair. The subsequent Nexus S (2011) performed much the same function for Android 2.3 Gingerbread, as did Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus (2011) for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. So, too, did LG’s Nexus 4 (2012) for Android 4.2 Jelly Bean; LG’s Nexus 5 in and Motorola’s Nexus 6 (2013) for Android 4.4 KitKat; and LG’s Nexus 5X and Huawei’s Nexus 6P for Android 6.0 Marshmallow (2015).
Nexus devices were intended, too, to facilitate development around Android. They contained little in the way of third-party modifications like bloatware, and featured developer-friendly tools and software. And they were often among the first to receive Android patches, updates, and upgrades.
But the retirement of the Nexus platform is a move not unanticipated. Nexus devices failed to sustain the mass market popularity Google at one time hoped they would, instead falling victim to an enthusiast niche. Rarely was pricing in line with mass-market sensibilities: when it came to Nexus phones, for instance, Google and its partners frequently eschewed subsidized carrier pricing for a sky-high unlocked model. “[The] product line itself is running out of reasons to exist,” wrote Jared Newman in a piece for Time. “[The] Nexus brand name itself is due for retirement, because it communicates nothing about the product to those who don’t already know its meaning.”
Spin-off Nexus devices punctuated Google’s other software developments. The LG-made Nexus 7 (2012 and 2013), Samsung Nexus 10 (2012), and HTC Nexus 9 (2014) tablets, for instance, showcased the periodic leaps of Android’s slate-specific functions. In the multimedia realm, the Nexus Q (2012) served as a precursor to Android’s Casting functionality, and set-top Nexus Player (2014) a template for the derivative Android TV platform.