How the Google smartphones have evolved
Google is expected to unveil its next line-up of Pixel smartphones later today at the Pixel event. These will run the Android (8.0) Oreo with a pure Android interface, free from the clutter and bloatware of custom user interfaces (UIs). It was one of the reasons why Google came with its own phones in the first place.
Custom UIs allowed phonemakers to add more features to their phones. Poor software optimisation and presence of too many features slowed down the devices, marring the overall experience. It was often blamed on the Android operating system (OS). This compelled Google to come up with smartphones that would demonstrate what the original Android could do.
Here are all the Google smartphones launched under the Nexus and Pixel branding.
Google’s association with HTC Corp. goes way back to the first Nexus smartphone. Released in Feb 2010, the Nexus One marked Google’s entry into the handset market. It was driven by a Qualcomm S1 processor with 512MB of RAM, ran Android 2.1 (Eclair) and supported 3G networks. The 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen packed a modest resolution of 800x480p. It was Google’s answer to Apple’s iPhone 3GS.
The second Nexus smartphone was released a few months later (December 2010) with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). Manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, it wasn’t a big upgrade in terms of hardware. It came with a 3.7-inch display with resolution of 800x480p, just like the predecessor. It was powered by a Hummingbird processor with 512MB of RAM, offered 16GB internal storage and was the first nearfield communication (NFC)-enabled Android smartphone.
Google upped the hardware game with the Galaxy Nexus. Released in November 2011, the smartphone was made by Samsung and came with a bigger 4.6 inch AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1,280x720p. It introduced Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and was powered by TI OMAP 4460 dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM with 16GB storage.
Nexus 4 was the first stunner from Google and had a beautiful glass back. It was launched in November 2012 and was made by LG Electronics Inc. The smartphone had a 4.7-inch LCD screen and resolution of 1,280x720p. It ran Android 4.2 (JellyBean), was driven by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro dual core processor with 2GB RAM and came in 8GB and 16GB storage variants.
The LG made Nexus 5 and its plastic body was a step down from the Nexus 4 in terms of design. Released in October 2013, the Nexus 5 offered a slightly bigger 5-inch screen with resolution of 1,920x1,080p. It ran Android 4.4 (KitKat) which was designed to optimise performance on devices with low memory. The smartphone itself was driven by Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB RAM and was the first 4G smartphone in the Nexus family.
Made by Motorola Solutions Inc. during the days when the company was owned by Google, Nexus 6 (released in November 2014) was a major leap in the series in terms of hardware. It had a 6-inch (2,560x1,440p) screen and was also one of the best designed Nexus smartphones with curved back, similar to the Moto X smartphones. It ran on Android 5.0, was driven by Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 with 3GB RAM and came in 32GB and 64GB storage variants.
Nexus 5x and Nexus 6p
In October 2015, Google took the world by surprise by launching two Nexus devices. Both ran Android 6.0 (Lollipop) out of the box. The Nexus 5x was the smaller variant with a 5.2-inch (1,920x1,080p) screen. It was made by LG and had a similar plastic body as the Nexus 5. However, it was powered by a superior Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 with 2GB RAM.
The Nexus 6p offered a slightly bigger 5.7-inch screen with resolution of 2,560x1,440p and used a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 quad-core processor paired with 3GB RAM. The smartphone was made by Huawei Technologies Co. and looked a lot more premium than the Nexus 5x, due to the metal body. The camera had always been the weakest link in Nexus smartphones. Nexus 6p was the first major attempt to change that perception. It had a 12-megapixel Sony sensor with aperture of f/2.0.
Pixel and Pixel XL
In October 2016, Google unveiled its first set of non–Nexus devices. The new smartphones were called Pixel and Pixel Xl. Both ran Android 7.0 (Marshmallow) and were by powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor with 4GB RAM. The Pixel was the smaller variant with a 5-inch screen and resolution of 1,920x1,080p.
The bigger sibling of Pixel offered a screen size of 5.5-inches and had a resolution of 2,560x1,440p. Both smartphones come in 32GB and 128GB variants, have a metal body and pack in a 12.3-megapixel camera with aperture f/2.0.