On 4 October, Google sealed the fate of its Nexus smartphone line by announcing the launch of the Pixel phone. While the Pixel is doubtless an improved product, the price point at which it was released has left many wondering.
The Nexus line was originally started as a reference device for other smartphone manufacturers, turning into a popular stock Android experience only later. With the Nexus 4, produced in collaboration with LG in 2012, Google began to present the Nexus series in a more consumer friendly avatar. Nexus 5, with its affordable price-point, was probably the most popular in the series.
And, while Nexus 6 might have been a failed experiment, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P were well received. So, after the Pixel phone announcement by Google many Nexus fans began to wonder what the closest and best alternative to their phone could be.
There are a few phone-makers whose devices have shown great potential and could fill the space for the mid-range flagship smartphone ceded by Nexus.
One of them is OnePlus, which, after two years of invites, controversies, and crazy marketing campaigns went back to the drawing board and produced a gem of a phone in OnePlus 3. With a price point of ₹27,999 and great specs to back it up, OnePlus 3 has lifted the company's image.
In terms of specs, OnePlus 3 is a big upgrade over any Nexus phone, with Snapdragon 820 processor and a huge 6 GB RAM. The phone's camera, which was the weak point for both OnePlus One and OnePlus 2, is much improved.
Although OnePlus might not be the fastest in providing updates, users can still get a solid smartphone experience with a nearly stock Android software. The tweaks by OnePlus are not on the user interface level and don't become a hindrance in day to day usage.
Another company which seems poised to take the Nexus crown is Lenovo. It has multiple weapons in its arsenal. The recently released Lenovo Z2 Plus is a promising device with great specs, such as a Snapdragon 820 processor and a 4 GB RAM. The camera and other aspects are strictly okay.
But one big advantage Lenovo has now is that it owns Motorola. It has produced great near stock Android phones in the past couple of years, with useful additions. This year the modular Moto Z and Moto Z Play should turn a lot of heads in India.
Both devices have solid hardware with much better cameras than the previous Motorola iterations. The modular design, with its provision for add-on features, is an extra incentive for customers. And the company is generally fairly quick about updating its phones to the latest version of Android.
There are plenty of other competing brands such as Xiaomi, Huawei, LeEco and Asus in this range, but they all use a heavily customised version of Android, making it impossible to mark them as Nexus contenders.
The market is wide open for anyone who provides a near stock Android experience with fast updates. There are a lot of consumers willing to give software priority over hardware.