From the Nexus One to the Nexus Four — and a couple Galaxies in between

Back in the winter of 2009, the rumors were flying about Google getting into the phone business. Previously they offered what were called Android Developer Phones (we know them as the G1 and the Magic, both made by HTC for Google's reference devices), but this was supposedly something different. Many at Google denied these rumors, but as we all saw the following January, the Nexus One was unveiled.

The Nexus One was a huge leap forward when compared to the current crop of premium smartphones of the time. A fast 1 GHz processor and 512MB of RAM powered the AMOLED screen, and it quickly ushered in an era of what became known as the "superphone."

By today's standards, the Nexus One specs are pretty mediocre, but back then they were unheard of. To go along with these great specs, was a premium build with a unibody design, and a certainty of prompt and early updates to the Android OS. The hardware had it's share of issues, but none of us cared when Froyo came out, because it was fast -- and so was the OS update. The Nexus program was a hit, if not a very successful retail venture, and we knew things were going to get interesting.

The Nexus One set the stage for the Nexus line, and what it would become.

Bring on the Nexus S​

Google continued things, bringing the Nexus S just about a year later in December 2010. This time, they gave up on the original method of selling the Nexus directly, instead opting to go with retail partners like Best Buy and Carphone Warehouse. The Nexus S brought the same great hardware from Samsung that was used worldwide in the original Galaxy S line, while adding NFC and taking away the issues Samsung created by building their own version of Android. Wrap that Hummingbird processor in a sexy curved shell, without any buggy GPS antenna, and you ended up with an awfully nice 4-inch phone. But it still wasn't a very big seller, until six months later when Google surprised everyone and released a version on Sprint with Wimax data, to boot.

A lot of people were concerned at just how a carrier version of a Nexus would fit into the Android Open Source Project and fast update schedule we were getting used to from having Nexus phones, but things went fairly smoothly during the remainder of the year, and Gingerbread was further refined.

Enter, the Galaxy

Fast forward past a summer of rumors and speculation, and we saw the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich. Now we're talking.

A big, bright screen and dual-core CPU, a full gigabyte of RAM and a great new operating system to take advantage of it all got a lot of people excited. We watched the feed from Hong Kong, and as each feature of the Galaxy Nexus was announced we all got excited about a release date and price.

That excitement quickly waned for many folks in the U.S, as we learned that the phone would only be sold through Verizon. Google had abandoned its unlocked and open model here in the states and instead opted for a carrier version of a Nexus -- complete with proprietary "bloatware" and, worse, no final control over the update process. In the U.S., if you wanted a Nexus that wasn't the Verizon model, you were forced to import one and be stuck with high prices and no warranty. Sprint soon got into the game again with its own LTE version, and things got ugly. As minor updates were released, they didn't make their way to the carrier models very fast (if at all) and nerds everywhere were at their boiling point. In late June 2012, it all came to a head.

At Google I/O 2012, we saw the Google Play store finally (and once again) sell a Nexus phone. Online sales direct from Google were back, the prices were great, and the carrier was out of the picture. That's when Jelly Bean first appeared, and rift created between carrier versions and unlocked version of the Nexus phones got wide and ugly. Soon after we saw the Sprint and Verizon versions disappear from the AOSP project, and everywhere you heard cries of "it's not a real Nexus." Users waited and waited for the Jelly Bean update, petitions were created, and many teeth were gnashed. It's still not completely sorted, as the GSM versions of the Galaxy Nexus are running Android 4.1.2 -- which offers a few slight but welcome performance improvements -- while the Sprint and Verizon versions have not been updated.

And now, the Nexus 4

After a sickening summer of rumors and silliness, we finally see the Nexus 4. LG is a new partner, but it certainly looks like they brought the A game to the manufacturing process. There's much moaning about specs, more moaning about LG being the OEM, and even more moaning about not seeing a version for the carriers. It's back in the Play store, at an incredible price. We're not sure what Google has planned for people who want a Nexus with LTE or that will work on CDMA networks. They aren't sharing, and we're not about to second guess them. After the debacle that is the Galaxy Nexus though, we're also not going to blame them. 

Enjoy a few pictures of the Nexus family, and enjoy all the Nexus 4 news you're going to be seeing for a while. 


Reader comments

The Nexus Phone family: Four generations of Android


not only that, but it's damn heavy too.

I remember unboxing my Gnex last year and it was so big compared, then I picked it up and it was so light compared!

I think when I upgrade to whatever Nexus brings us in phones next year, I'll miss the "Google" name on the back, it's much more understated than "NEXUS"...

No way! I always wished my GNex said "Nexus" on the back. I just think it's more interesting and ominous-sounding. :)

It was the right decision to forgo LTE and CDMA. The States is one of the final strongholds for CDMA, it's rapidly being deprecated worldwide. In Canada, all the carriers dropped CDMA for GSM networks during 3G (except regional carrier Public Mobile). As for LTE, it still eats too much juice from batteries and for some like me, not worth the speed upgrades. Honestly, most people only surf the web for basic web pages and for Facebook, you don't need Internet connection speeds faster than most home land line Internet speeds. Also, LTE, is a bag of hurt especially in the States because of CDMA still being used. In other countries like Canada where all the LTE networks are compatible with one another, releasing an LTE version won't be bad, but LTE coverage is spotty.

So, Google to save itself from headaches with carriers and non-interoperable technologies, made the right decision to not bother CDMA and LTE to avoid update issues.

Agreed. This way they get to manufacture only one SKU and sell it worldwide. This is part of what allows them to sell the phone at the price they are selling it for. Considering you can get real-world speeds of 20Mbps downstream with this phone it is more than enough.

I think the real reason so many folks in the US are whining is not about LTE, it's because they can't have the phone at all on their supposedly "great" network. Remember all the complaints Verizon users had about their strong-arm tactics in the past? Well, Google does too...and gave that carrier one really big finger!

Then by God let's give Verizon the finger right back!
Even though I still have a reasonably priced unlimited data plan from Verizon, I'm giving serious thought to dumping them this month on principal and moving to an open network, even if it means a coverage downgrade.

I am glad others are seeing the big picture! The CDMA networks leave the customers with fewer choices and don't compete as fairly in the market because they are so closed. If you and a bunch of others left Verizon, not only would it send them a message, but it would give the GSM networks more money to expand as big as Verizon is now. That would be awesome.

I fought the verizon train for as long as I could, I skated along with virgin mobile for my entire smartphone owning time until november when I got the note 2(I got my first android so I wouldn't have to tote about the ipod touch and dumbphone, yet I was doing this with my nexus 7 and moto triumph, I needed something in between).

I am paying nearly twice as much but got in on my boyfriend's family plan but I really can't afford to be spending a lot of time in a non-covered zone like I used to. If it wasn't for needing coverage and vzw being the ONLY place to cover at my mommom's, I'd have joined a different carrier. :'(

Now I'm feeling terribly guilty despite adoring my phone and feeling safer in that area knowing my phone won't not only keep signal but not die as fast. '~'

Europe is now in the process of adding LTE. Soon all of Europe will have LTE and the same thing will repeat all over again. Once you've actually had speeds of 15-30 mbps it is really hard to go back.

Unless it's a space issue, they could've developed one with LTE, but be able to toggle it off to run at HSPA+ speeds if you're conserving battery.

That would also raise the price of the phone. Where on carriers with no LTE it would be a waste of money to build LTE into the phone, space, and then there is the issue of making more then one variant of the Nexus. The nexus is all about providing the same experience "stock" experience (kind of like apple.) That wouldn't work with a Nexus 4 w/ LTE and one with out.

I understand what you're saying, and I'm down with what Google is doing for a variety of reasons, but I needed to point out that there is NO difference between the stock experience on a GSM or LTE GNEX until you compare the download speeds. Of course, there's a few weeks delay of OTA updates for the LTE, but the vast majority of Nexi users (which is a small majority of overall Android users) root and rom their devices making it a moot point. For those who don't they still get them longer than and before any other device. I had JB well before any OTA.

I think the Nexus One and Galaxy Nexus are much better looking devices. But you're entitled to your opinion.

I think the Nexus One and Nexus 4 are the two best looking. The Galaxy Nexus looks nice from the front but the back is just okay. No doubt the Nexus S is the unfairest of them all.

The Nexus 4 is so beautiful it brings a tear to my eye.

Finally a Nexus device that is beautiful both inside and out.

100% agree. I've always bought nexus in the past for what they are, stock android. This is the first one that really appeals to me visually.

I am pleasantly surprised. I have never really been a fan of LG design. I think they really put their best foot forward on this one.

Sprint has handled the Gnex much better than Verizon IMO.

I don't blame Google for not wanting to deal with them at this point though. How does Apple update their phones on Verizon and Sprint? Do they get the update passed or checked off on Verizon and Sprint before releasing to AT&T? From what I know they release all at the same time right?

Carriers need Nexus. Nexus doesn't need carriers because of Play Store and cheap price. I read some article about it.

We'll see if carriers are willing to give Google more control of updates and sort it out.

My only Android phones have been then Nexus line. As much as I'd like to say what you say is true, unfortunately, the Nexus is a low-volume phone. Carriers don't need it. They have plenty of other Samsung, HTC, and other "Android" phones to sell, and at terms they want. Why bother with Google and their demands for an open phone?

Apple is a hardware manufacturer. They hold back updates until they are ready for all devices, then release.

What apple does that's different (and frankly, better) than Samsung, HTC, et al is to isolate the the main OS from device-specific portions. They can update small things in the OS and release tiny, incremental emergency updates very quickly this way. Much like Google updating apps and security issues through the play store.

This means you have one big chunk of the OS that's universal, and smaller chunks that are specific to the 50 or so different models out there. If an update doesn't need to touch any of those smaller, device-specific chunks they can just push it out, as it doesn't affect anything that would be "regulated" by someone else's IP, the FCC, or the carrier network.

This is why it's easy for Apple to update something like a bug that sends data back to Apple when it shouldn't, but still takes a long time to address any issues with the network, or Wifi, or anything else that is more than just a software bug. Samsung should follow this lead, and send out small bug fixes through Kies or the Samsung app store.

Nice write up. Dont know why people dont like specs on N4 its only missing MAYBE LTE and 'MAYBE' a bit more memory...nothing more. Besides that it seems great!

By memory he means storage (8gb/16gb) Always bugs me when people use the word memory for storage, please don't.

Thank you

Well I think you just hit the nail on the head. I for one would welcome with open arms a 32gb version, but that's just me. LTE well I've yet to enjoy that feature on my GNex so no big deal. However it would have been nice to include an LTE chip compatible with AT&T. I'm not sure how AT&T's LTE compares to other LTE frequencies across the world though so maybe it just didn't make sense at this time based on what Google thinks they will sell.

AT&T is pretty much the only carrier in the entire world using a combo of 700Mhz and AWS 1700Mhz for LTE. Making a separate SKU for just 100mil customers (on a network that's 40-50% iPhones under contract) doesn't make business sense at all. T-Mobile will also be using 1700Mhz, but their network won't be up until about a year from now. Maybe on the Nexus 5 lol.

im feeling like a kid in the candy store or waking up on xmas day. i will have this thing very soon at the expence of my gnex. tears up alittle but new tech for me baby thats all i can say

I would still like to have them release a version on the carriers. Most people don't care if it takes a few weeks to get an update. I like my current level of service and don't want to switch carriers. I would buy a Nexus 4, but I can't.

I disagree, as the average consumer isn't the market for Nexus least not yet. The tech enthusiasts who ARE the current market would (and have in the past) scream bloody murder. Last time I checked the issue wasn't a matter of "a few weeks" either lol.

You can't please everyone. There are plenty of consumers who would love to buy a Razr HD Maxx on their carrier...but they can't. Google is going where the largest market is. They can sell ONE SKU for a phone and sell it worldwide. If that means that the few CDMA carriers in the world like Verizon, Sprint & China Mobile can't use it, oh well. Billions can, and that helps keep the cost down.

Maybe if more folks would direct their ire where it belongs (the CARRIERS) so that they would treat Nexus phones the same way they treat iPhones in regards to updates, Google would then be able to make a business case for a CDMA model. MTCW

Except that China Mobile still has it's GSM EDGE network active, so it's customers CAN use this phone on the network, just on 2G. This is what most iPhone users in China were doing for years before China Unicom got their 4S deal last year. It's a sucky way to go about things, but it WILL work, which is more than one can say for Verizon or Sprint in the USA.

I am under Verizon with an SIII and a G Nex. I'm selling my SIII to buy the Nexus 4. I'm selling my G Nex for a Nexus 7. I'll pay the $700 in ETF's that I'll incur but in the year that I'm only paying $50 a month instead of $180 will make up for it in full

I think this will be the direction I go in also. I will let my son take over my line with my GNEX. Love that Note 2.

I would have loved a Nexus phone by Asus, especially as they have done such a great job with updates in the past.

Yes Padfone does not have a skin, but a few propriety widgets and apps

4.1.2?? Why does my GSM unlocked Nexus still show Android version 4.1.1?? And my phone says that the system is up to date. What am I missing?

Uh, nope. Not sure how to do that. Can you tell me how, please? Thanks.
Edit: ok, I found where to do that, but if I hit "Clear Data", Is that going to delete any of my personal data?

Everything will be fine.

Settings>Apps>All>Google Services Framework>Clear Data

After doing this, go to search for an update again. It should say last checked 00:00 1979 or something similar... this is normal.

I agree with both of you but, i would prefer that they just put the X on the back. The X in the NEXUS word of course.

My Sprint Gnex will have more life in the hands of my gf. Also it will be introducing her to the Nexus line after she has been a recipient of my Evo which I still love today. I wish Google would pick a form factor and run with it. I would like some standardized accessories to go with my n4...when I get it.

So completely incorrect and truthfully yhe only way to can make that statement is if you've OWNED each Nexus phone. if not then you're just assuming

I disagree. The Nexus One was the most impressive at the time. The Nexus S was the least impressive. The Galaxy Nexus got slightly better. The Nexus 4 doesn't have all the best internals (some phones have better cameras, some have bigger batteries, more internal storage, etc.) but it's finally got high end specs again whereas the Samsung Nexuses weren't any better than the Galaxy S's that came out half a year before it besides the screen on the Galaxy Nexus. Currently, you can't buy a phone with a faster processor or more RAM. It's also the best phone for the price by a long shot.

I disagree about the Nexus S. Truthfully I think ALL of the Nexus phones have been the best looking and without a doubt the best performance wise. With the exception of the Nexus One (had the G1 back then) I've had ever Nexus phone Google has created and they have been nothing but awesome! Of course I gotta ROOT them all just to make sure I am in full control but Google I must say're OS is the best around and only keeps getting better. You're devices (phones & tablets) are wanted by ALL true Android fans and you guys really listen to your customers when you impliment your OTA's. Keep up the great work Google and just make sure you keep your old flagships up to date; there's nothing that hurts an Android lover more than being left out of an OS update. LG...I hope you kept your build on par with the likes of Samsung and HTC because the nexus family of phones up to this point have been amazing for the most part. Anyone got a Nexus $ they wanna let me borrow?

i agree with many of the postings, The nexus 4 is a home run for me i highly suggust that everyone buy this and support google. LTE is overrated and way overprice. yes i loved the speeds with Verizon but i left cause of the bill, iam with straight talk and i couldnt be happier. leave your contracts and buy this sucker, had the Gnex(best phone in a long time) and i'm sure i'll love this

Nexus 1 specs are less than mediocre, even at release there was one glaring issue with the phone.

512MB of internal storage. (italics)Five Hundred and Twelve(/italics) MB. that was it!!!!

I had to share as much crap on the storage card from apps as I could, and still only could install about 30 apps on it before I was sitting at about 40MB of storage left, which for Froyo was as low as you could go before things got real buggy.

This was the Achilles heal of the N1, disgustingly bad. daily rotations of clearing cache from every program, uninstalling one program to install another.

I'm not very smart, so some one please help me out; I jumped ship a while back to Windows Phone and now I'm dying to go back to Android. Since this is unlocked, I could us it on AT&T, right?

AT&T's 4G network is LTE, so no. I do know the phone is compatible with TMo's HSPA+, but I'm not sure about HSPA w/Backhaul (whatever the frig that means) on AT&T. Either way, it's all still 3G. AT&T did the consumer market a *huge* disservice by deceptively calling it's HSPA network "4G" prior to going live with LTE. The only 4G on any of the carriers is LTE, or the WiMax on Sprint (although not nearly as fast and being phased out).

Ok, I ask because on my windows phone I get 4G in my town and then when I travel to areas that have LTE available, I get that. So I assumed there was a difference.

Seeing that Nexus One pictured is making me nostalgic to buy a used one. It was that phone that got me into the Android world, and I've never looked back. :-)

I love the Nexus line - these phone are amazing - Google has done such a great job with the base Android OS. I really like the new LG unit, but LG's build quality kind of scares me off a bit. I'll still be buying one after the initial shipments blow over and they are in stock again, but I'm nervous.

I liked my nexus one. The only that was bad was the lack of internal space and the wonky touch screen. I always had to fight to keep right amount of updates and apps on the phone. On the touch screen I had to keep locking and unlocking it to work. I reminds me of the htc one s. I wish htc made a google development phone like using the one v or one s.

I at once both hate and love that Google's so caddywhompus with the names.
It's like Google adheres to the video game system of naming things.
One, S, Galaxy Nexus, 7, Q, 4, 10. Named for being the first, named for...well someone just liked the letter S I guess, named for the OEM who made it apparently, named for the size of its screen, named for...the same guy with the letter fetish again, named for being the fourth phone, even though it's the sixth device, and back to the screen size, respectively.
Wonder if in a few years we'll see a pattern arise.

Nexus 4 is named for the size of the screen also, this season's nexus are all named for screen size(4,7,10). Nexus 4 sounds better than Nexus 4.7 just like Nexus 10 sounds better than Nexus 10.1, in my opinion.

True, but in this case, it's better to name it the Nexus 4 and people know that it's .7 inches bigger than it being named Nexus 5 and people know that it's .3 inches smaller.

I agree. Making it seem like the phone has a 5 inch display will immediately turn a lot of people away without even considering it.

except perhaps for the very first nexus, I've never really seen those nexii devices as being bleeding edge technology. They've always been cutting some edges some where, and the nexus 4 continues down this road.
The specs will be very similar on all top notch phones for the coming six months, but being a nexus device I would expect this phone to have the edge on speed and general smoothness. (That's what I would expect, but I've heard rumors that this might already not be the case. Let's hope that isn't right)
none the less, I'm seriously considering buying this phone, just because I'm so sick of the manufactures own skins ruining the android experience

Off the 3 current Nexus phones, the Nexus S was the I didn't get, I just didn't like the look of it at the time, nor did I consider it as an upgrade from my Nexus 1.

I will be getting the Nexus 4 and have no intention of getting rid of any of my other Nexus phones. Currently the GF has my Nexus 1 and loving it (rooted naturally and running A2SD script to overcome the lack of memory issue).

I have overall been impressed with the Nexus range from Google and despite what I said above re the Nexus S I may get one just to complete the line up.

It's hard to choose a favourite, I loved the Nexus 1 especially as it was the first and for introducing me to the Nexus ethos, but I love the Galaxy Nexus because it just works as a complete package

I am still rocking my Nexus One + JB! To me it will always be the best Nexus phone in terms of design and hardware.
I will not buy another Nexus unless it has removable battery AND micro SD slot.

Guess you'll never be getting another Nexus phone again. Oh well. Keep splitting your app data between internal and external storage. Keep getting a partial Jellybean experience. Good for you. You're such a maverick.
You want an SD slot- we get it. Your life is meaningless without one--we know.
Hang on to that N1 forever, and keep talking about the "good old days". Just don't expect every person and every company to wait for you though. Software will only get more complex. Ideas change. Removing the battery and having an SD slot is not as much of a friend to modern design as it used to be.

Damn im very regret to buy galaxy nexus, i just bought it 1 month ago ! i thought the lg nexus 4 was going to be expensive, above 500 bucks, and then...bamm, it's 349 bucks...i don't know what am i supposed to do, confused :(

My first smartphone, first android was a Nexus one. It was a great phone, with my only complaint being the touch sensor.

In all Nexuses, I don't like the Nexus S the most. I couldn't justify it enough over a SGS here in Aus. The NS was exclusive to one carrier and even then, we got the SLCD version rather than AMOLED. For the same price, the SGS was available on every carrier.

The Gnex was a substantial jump in terms of hardware which is why I got one (well the N1 was 2 years old by then).

I'd really like a Nexus 4, but seeing my Gnex is only 1 years old, i don't think i'll be getting one soon (maybe a Nexus 4 next year for cheaper $$)

Please allow me to ask you:

With an unlocked Nexus 4, what SIM would you use? I am not Stateside these days and I really don't know about the Prepaid Systems there. Would you use prepaid? No? What then? The 3rd world country I am in has several prepaid networks to choose from so it would be very easy to use this phone here.

Thank you,


I LOVE the Nexus 4, but I was a tad bit disappointed at it's specs. I was hoping for a 1.7GHz, LTE, an AMAZING display, a 13MP shooter like the OpG... The Nexus One was something that completely changed the direction of Android. It had an unprecedented spec sheet. While the N4 is certainly one of the best Androids on the market now, it wasn't what I had hoped for. The main thing (most) people look at is the processor w/the number of cores. In the eyes of most, the int'l One X and GS3 did this already. Then the 4X HD was released, then the J Butterfly/Droid DNA, and few more quads in between. Not to mention the One X+ and Galaxy Note II, the firsts to go above 1.5GHz at 4 cores.
LTE is already making it's mark internationally. In Europe, LTE has already made it's way into some countries. It would've costed extra for the modem and radio and everything, but isn't a Nexus supposed to be premium and high-end??
The screen, well it's really good as is now, but I would've liked for it to be ground-breaking. Flexible, 1080p, edge-to-edge, something like that, you know?
While the camera of the Nexus 4 is great, again, it's nowhere near ground-breaking. Sure, photo-sphere is epic and all, but it's something that more devices will receive once 4.2 starts rolling out.

Although I'm not completely an extreme fan of the Nexus 4, I'm still debating on buying one. No doubt, it's a fantastic, epic phone.

As someone still using a Nexus one, I must say things have come a ways. The Nexus 4 will probably be my next phone come spring when it's back in stock... hopefully. Otherwise I guess it's wait for the Nexus 5.

i couldnt open my nexus one...but when i plug to charge it gets charged but nothing in the can i recover this problem..please help