Google Nexus, Google Pixel and… Nokia?
Android is the foundation for the majority of smartphones sold around the world today. However, for most manufacturers, Android as released by Google is only the starting point for their own operating system. You see, manufacturers like to give their devices a corporate identity, to help encourage customers to stick with the same brand when it is time to upgrade. In 2017, many manufacturers retain some of the look and feel of Google Android. All manufacturers must retain certain features if the device is to be certified to run Google Services and the Google Play Store, such as Android’s advanced power saving technologies, but otherwise Android is often customised in many different respects.
For the customer wanting an Android experience as Google envisioned, the solid choice has been either a Google Nexus, a Google Play Edition version or more recently the Google Pixel handset. These models use software as released by Google, which brings with it certain advantages and disadvantages. Chief advantages include that the device software is quickly updated with new versions, and that with a stock interface, things are kept smooth and quick. Disadvantages include how stock Google Android is devoid of features compared with manufacturer-tweaked software, and can be less than thoroughly optimised, especially with older models (such as the LG Google Nexus 4).
Still, despite these disadvantages, many people like the clean, stock interface and experience with a pure Google handset – myself included. Part of the reason why I prefer the clean, stock experience is that it means I can add precisely the features I want to rather than have all of a manufacturer’s useless add-ons.
In 2017 the customer wanting the stock Android experience from a new device means paying a premium price for the Google Pixel family. These are great devices, but they are flagship grade and their price reflects this. Not everybody wants to spend $800 on a smartphone.
If you’ve read the title of this article, you’ll know that it’s time to introduce Nokia into the equation. Nokia debuted three smartphones in January 2017 (the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6), which have taken around six months to reach the market around much of the world. Nokia have promised that these devices will use a stock interface and will receive rapid software updates. The company’s promise to deliver a stock experience on these devices comes with the caveat of Android needing modifications to support the microSD card slot, dual SIM code for relevant models, and the three hardware keys under the screen.
The good news is that the most expensive model, the Nokia 6, is a fraction of the cost of the Google Pixel devices. The unlocked Nokia 6 has a recommended retail price of $229, but it’s available for $179 as an Amazon Prime device with lock screen advertisements. The Nokia 6 does not have the same power as the Google Pixel but it has a reputation for being beautifully built, just like the Google Pixel.
Nokia’s three handsets look interesting on the face of it, but what of other manufacturers offering a stock-like experience? This includes companies such as Lenovo Motorola, where the Moto family of devices have a “stock plus” user interface, starting with the 2013 Moto X. I can also include the Wileyfox Swift 2, which has a very near stock user interface. There are differences between the Moto and Wileyfox software experience and the Nexus, Pixel and Nokia devices, but in terms of interface look and feel, these are difficult to spot. One of Nokia’s advantages is that the company has pledged to provide software support (in the shape of regular security updates) for these devices, which should be on everybody’s shopping list.
It’s great to see Nokia deciding to use the stock interface, and with the rumours circulating about high end Nokia smartphones being prepared for the second half of 2017, we may see the Finnish company compete with the Google Pixel on a more level playing field.