Google’s new Nexus smartphones, unveiled Tuesday, both look pretty nice. There’s the Huawei-made Nexus 6P, a 5.7-inch device, and LG’s Nexus 5X, a more affordable 5.2-inch phone. Both do everything a modern smartphone should: There’s mobile broadband, there’s a nice camera, there’s a fingerprint scanner.
So should you buy one of Google’s new Nexus devices over, say, an Apple iPhone 6S? That depends on you more than it does on the phones.
These days, buying a smartphone is a lot like buying a car. Whether you get a Ford Focus or a Toyota Corolla doesn’t really matter in terms of sheer utility. Both will get you from A to B with similar price, performance, mileage and so on. They’re likely to have similar perks for a similar price, too, like Bluetooth connectivity or GPS. Which one you ultimately choose depends mostly on just one factor: Which one you like better on a primal level that’s hard to communicate other than “this feels right.”
That’s now true of smartphones, too. If you’re deciding between an iPhone and an Android, it really comes down to whichever feels best in your hands. Every modern smartphone does the basics: They’ve got high-speed Internet, they run apps and play movies, they take pretty good pictures and videos, they let you Snapchat silly pictures to your pals. And for the most part, every major feature on an Apple device has an equivalent feature on an Android phone, and vice versa. Want mobile payments? There’s Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Wallet. Smartwatch connectivity? There’s Apple Watch and Android Wear. In-car infotainment controls? There’s CarPlay and Android Auto. And so on. (Android fans do, however, often have the luxury of getting new stuff first).
This Rule of Feel is even more helpful if you’ve decided to go with an Android device. After you’ve made that choice, you’ll face what seems like a near-infinite number of smartphone options. So how do you figure out which Android phone is right for you? Start with the specs that are important to you — say, a great camera — and whittle your way down the list from there. And as with cars, try to take one for a test drive before buying, because it’s all about feel. A helpful tip: Google’s Nexus phones are pretty much the only devices out there that are “pure Android.” That means the company making them didn’t load them with any extra stuff you might not want. Most other Android phones, from brands like Samsung, LG and HTC, are crammed with manufacturer add-ons you might love or hate.
This carbuying analogy holds up in another way, too. Lots of phone makers and wireless carriers are now offering payment plans that look an awful lot like a lease. Apple, for instance, will let you upgrade to a new iPhone every year for a starting price of $32 a month, with AppleCare+ thrown in for good measure. And most of the major carriers are doing away with two-year contracts and subsidized phones, instead offering monthly payment plans for devices. So not only are you facing lots of good options for hardware, you’ve now got to pick how you’d like to pay for that device, too. Good luck!