Google next week will unveil its latest Nexus phones and you can expect two versions with partners LG and Huawei.
These devices are expected to be reference smartphones with the key selling point being a "pure Android experience."
Indeed, the new Nexus devices will be the first to get the latest Android as well as the updates that follow. Aside from price and hardware specs, the latest greatest Android is the real selling point. When Google first launched the Nexus program there was little doubt that a pure Android experience was better. Smartphone makers added a lot of crapware and bloated down the phones.
Today, the gap has closed to the point where a pure Android experience may not be what it's cracked up to be.
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Consider the following:
- Smartphone makers have cut back on extra apps and layers on Android. Even Samsung has cut back. And as Matthew Miller noted, smartphone makers have actually improved core functions relative to pure Android. Camera features are front and center here.
- Android isn't updated that much anymore. When the Nexus program first launched Google was updating Android on a faster cadence. The breakneck pace required a pure experience to capture the innovation from Google. Today, Android is a once-a-year release with tweaks on an ongoing basis.
- Pure Android isn't perfect by any stretch. I've been on a pure Android experience for months and my Nexus 6 has wiped itself three times. Meanwhile, Gmail is crash prone too. I could blame Motorola or I could blame Google. Either way pure Android is a bit of work. There's something to be said for the testing smartphone makers and carriers conduct before upgrading Android.
- Motorola provides a pure Android experience too. The Nexus line doesn't have the purity edge when it comes to Android. When Motorola launched its Pure and Moto X devices, it said Android will come largely untouched and updated accordingly. In other words, whether you choose a Motorola pure Android experience or LG or Huawei will come down to price and specs.
In the end, Google got what it wanted with the Android Nexus program. Google dabbled in hardware and forced smartphone makers to scale back add-on apps. As a result, the pure Android edge just isn't what it used to be.