It has been nearly four years since Google leaped into the smartphone hardware market by trying to sell its own branded phone, the Nexus One, with less than stellar results. Though well received by reviewers, the HTC-built device, sold unlocked via an online store, wasn't a marketing success without carrier partners to push the phone into the hands of their subscribers.
But Google isn't known for giving up, and the Nexus line of tablets and smartphones is alive and well and thriving. On Thursday (Oct. 31) the company launched the Nexus 5, the latest flagship smartphone, with pre-orders available through Google's content and merchandise portal Google Play. It's a smart, fast 4G LTE smartphone made by LG Electronics, with a nearly 5-inch display, up slightly from its predecessor, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2 GHz processor, up from the 1.512 GHz Snapdragon S4 on the Nexus 4.
Showcase For KitKat
It will be the first device to ship with the latest version of Google's Android operating system, 4.4, nicknamed KitKat. Its predecessor was Jelly Bean.
"The strategy with Nexus devices is to use them as a 'launchpad' and a 'showcase' for its latest Android flavor," said wireless industry analyst Neil Shah of Counterpoint Technology Market Research.
"Google is not intending to directly compete with its Android partners or ambitions to achieve tens of millions of sales," Shah said. "Google is doing well and has created lots of buzz with its Nexus devices, starting with Galaxy Nexus 4 last year which embedded not only the most recent flagship Android version but also latest-cutting edge hardware."
Google also said the 8-megapixel camera "captures more light for brighter night and sharper action shots."
Shah said his company's research estimates show Google's Nexus 4 was the best-selling Google Nexus device ever, moving an average 1 million units per quarter since launch almost a year ago.
On its official blog, Google said: "For KitKat, we partnered with LG to develop Nexus 5 -- the slimmest and fastest Nexus phone ever made. Its design is simple and refined to showcase the 5" Full HD display. Nexus 5 also keeps you connected at blazing speeds with 4G/LTE and ultra fast wifi."
KitKat contains the first major upgrade to the calling application, allowing users to search contacts, nearby places, or Google Apps accounts directly from within the app. It also features Hangouts, an app that keeps all SMS and MMS messages in the same place, alongside other conversations and video calls, Google says.
'Best Chipset on the Market
Shah said the specs on Nexus are "comparable to almost any Android vendor's flagship device with superfast 802.11ac Wi-Fi and the best chipset on the market [while] the 'subsidized' price of $349 incentivizes developers to get their hands on latest Android software and hardware to develop apps quickly and deploy them on the Android Play store."
That, he adds, is also a key motive for the Nexus lineup.