If you’re considering whether or not a Nexus phone is the right device for you, you’re probably familiar with a few of the benefits of opting for one of Google’s phones. Each Nexus phone offers Google a chance to show off the best version of Android — typically a smoother and more secure version of the sprawling Android ecosystem that’s widely fragmented and often left vulnerable to security threats. Short of some major changes to Android’s update system, the update situation on other manufacturers’ phones isn’t likely to improve quickly, which makes a Nexus phone all the more appealing. But there are other factors you should consider when trying decide whether you should buy a Nexus phone. Ahead are five things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for your next Android smartphone.
1. One of the biggest reasons to choose a Nexus phone is the software
One of the most compelling reasons to buy a Nexus phone is to get a phone that offers a pure Android experience and will get software updates promptly. Google’s commitment to releasing monthly security updates for Android is a game changer for Nexus phones — even if the company can’t force the manufacturers of other phones, or the carriers who sell those phones, to start taking software updates and critical security patches more seriously. That’s important. But the software that you get with a Nexus phone is just as important as the software that you don’t get — namely, the bloatware and extra apps that appear on virtually every other Android phone.
As Ben Gilbert reported late in 2015 for Tech Insider, few manufacturers are really taking heed of what Google is doing with its Nexus phones. “The closest you can get to Google-made phones is the OnePlus Two or the Moto X line – phones with nearly pure, unadulterated Android that are sold directly to consumers by their respective makers.” Meanwhile, he adds, “The most popular Android phone makers like Samsung, LG, and Xiaomi, load up their versions of Android with ‘bloatware’: apps that you can’t erase that often duplicate other, better apps. Samsung makes its own email app, its own calendar app, its own text messaging app, etc., despite the fact that Google makes better versions of all of those that are built into Android, for example.”
2. Buying a Nexus phone is a great way to get Android’s latest features
Buying a Nexus phone is also a great way to get the latest features enabled by the most recent version of Android. And some of those features might be more important than you might imagine. For instance, Android phones have had full encryption capability for several years, but it’s been an option that users would need to actively turn on. But the latest Nexus phones, which run Marshmallow out of the box, come fully encrypted.
That out-of-the-box encryption caught Android up with Apple’s iOS — even though as Elcomsoft’s Oleg Afonin reports, activating full-disk encryption on an Android phone often results in slower performance and lower battery life, which may be one reason why few Android users turn the feature on when it’s optional, and the majority of the users who do have encryption turned on are Nexus users. Caveats of specific features aside, a Nexus phone is the place where you’ll find the latest Android features — including features that help keep users safe and secure.
3. A Nexus phone is often a better value than other Android flagships
However, it bears mentioning that even if a Nexus phone is a great value, Nexus phones aren’t exactly easy to purchase. You can’t just walk into your carrier’s store, for instance, and pick up a Nexus phone on your lunch break. In fact, most people have to purchase a Nexus phone online, without trying it out in person first, which is frustrating for users who would prefer to hold a device in their hands before committing to a purchase.
4. With a Nexus phone or any Android phone, be aware of how your data’s being used
Whether you’re looking at a Nexus phone or an Android phone from another manufacturer, it’s important to be aware of what’s happening with your data. As Dan Gillmor reported for Backchannel, “It’s reasonable to assume that the phones and other Google-branded hardware serve purposes beyond de-fragmenting Android.” He explains, “No matter what other purposes they serve, all devices running Google’s version of Android — whether under the Nexus brand or not — will keep feeding data into the global brain that knows more and more about everything, including you and me, and is the company’s beating heart.”
It’s true that using just about any device or service comes at the price of sharing some of your personal data. And most users realize that, short of switching to a community-based build of Android that focuses specifically on privacy, they need to share some data to get access to modern, cloud-enabled features. Most are willing to do so if they get an operating system that’s smoothly designed, securely architected, and implemented on elegant hardware.
5. A Google-built Nexus phone may be on its way, and would offer some new benefits
As the Cheat Sheet recently reported, it’s possible that Google will take a more Apple-like direction with a future Nexus phone. A new Nexus strategy would see Google’s relationships with manufacturers shifting toward a model that more closely resembles the relationships that Apple has with its contract manufacturers. Apple designs its phones, including their chips and other components, and then contracts with third-party manufacturers to build the devices.
A Nexus phone built with the same process would afford Google more control over the hardware of each Nexus phone, and perhaps expand the appeal of the Nexus program beyond the relatively small group of Android enthusiasts that it currently reaches.