Flashback: A decade of Google Nexus/Pixel prices and software updates

The Nexus 4 was a revolutionary phone – a near flagship for $300. Ok, it had its quirks, eg no LTE support (although it wasn’t as big in 2012), storage was also limited. Instead of focusing on just one phone, we wanted to look at trends in Google’s phone lineup.

We’ve mentioned the price of the Nexus 4 and we’ll see what happened to the series’ flagship killer status. This series is all about exploring a well-recognized trait of a particular brand or series – and we think software support is one of the defining features of Nexus and Pixel phones.

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Nexus phones were affordable at first, especially if you waited a few months. The Nexus 4 dropped as low as $200 at one point. The Nexus 5 also got price cuts. Then came the Nexus 6 – its $650 price tag made many fans unhappy. It was still a great phone and that influenced Google’s approach to handsets.

The following year, 2015, the Nexus range was split into two models which we’ll call ‘base’ and ‘pro’ for consistency. It was also the last of the Nexus line, Google started from scratch with the Pixel phones.

These have gradually increased in cost over the years, peaking in 2018 and 2019 with the $800 Pixel 3 and 4 and $900 Pixel 3 XL and 4 XL. After that, Google changed course and lately the price of the smaller model has come down, dropping to $600 with the Pixel 6. The Pixel 6 Pro is still $900, though.

Flashback: A decade of Google Nexus/Pixel prices and software updates

Interestingly, the price increase has not hurt the performance of Pixel phones in the market. The opposite, in fact, as Google’s shipments in 2019 far exceeded previous years. Note that the image below shows the cumulative shipments of all Pixel phones, but it clearly looked like Google was on the right track. The company also reportedly had big plans for the Pixel 6 series, planning to produce 7 million, more than any other series. However, Google isn’t one to talk about sales, so we don’t really know how well the Series 6 performed (we’ll have to wait for analysts to figure that out).

Flashback: A decade of Google Nexus/Pixel prices and software updates

We’ll get to the pricing in a moment as we haven’t covered the ‘Pixel a’ series whose main focus is on delivering a low-cost Google phone. How much would you pay for this legendary software support from Google? In fact, what is the quality of this support?

We tried to convey this by means of an array. The red line indicates the period in years during which a generation of phones received operating system updates (including minor updates). The blue line corresponds to the period during which security patches were issued.

Flashback: A decade of Google Nexus/Pixel prices and software updates

On average, Google offers 3 years of operating system updates. The Nexus 6 stands out, but it was actually an older update that came late – early Android 7.1.1 broke Android Pay and it took Google a while to find a fix (during that time, users were downgraded to version 7.0).

The Pixel 3 generation also stands out – it received 4-year security patches instead of 3 years as originally planned. In fact, the latest update for both 2018 phones rolled out at the end of June this year (Android 12 arrived last year).

Note that the Pixel 4, 5, and 6 series are currently running Android 12. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL will receive their final guaranteed OS update in October this year. At first glance, it will be just long enough to install Android 13.

Starting with the Pixel 6 generation, Google changed the strategy a bit. It still promises only 3 years of OS updates (competitors like Apple and Samsung offer more), but it’s committed to 5 years of security patches. According to the Help Center, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro will receive their last guaranteed OS update in October 2024 and the last guaranteed security patch in October 2026. “Guaranteed” since, as you’ve seen with the Pixel 3, there are a few exceptions.

Before we wrap up, let’s take a quick look at the Pixel a phones. We grouped the Pixel 3a and 4a as relatively small phones and the Pixel 3a XL, 4a 5G and 5a as larger phones (with 5G in the latest iterations). As you can see, the price is quite stable at around $400 for the first band and $500 for the second.

Flashback: A decade of Google Nexus/Pixel prices and software updates

We don’t have software support plotted on a chart because that would have made for a boring chart – ‘a’ phones get 3 years of OS updates and 3 years of security patches.

2019 2020 2021
Telephone 3a and 3a XL 4a & 4a 5G 5a
Start OS ver. 9 10 & 11 11
End of operating system ver. 12
When? 2022 2023 2024
Operating system updates 3 years 3 years 3 years
Latest security patch 2022 2023 2024
Fixes 3 years 3 years 3 years
Price (basic) $400 $350 $450
Price (professional) $480 $500 $450

There’s a Pixel 7 series coming later this year, but Google hasn’t revealed too much about it yet. Considering previous models, however, we can say that the phones will likely get 3 years of guaranteed OS updates and 5 years of security patches. And we wouldn’t be surprised if Google kept starting prices at current levels, either.

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