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Google's Nexus 5: a radical move in smartphone ecosystem

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 4, 2013
New Google device runs KitKat and boasts a low $349 unlocked price, to be sold only on aggressive service plans from Sprint and T-Mobile

Sales of the Nexus 5 by both T-Mobile and Sprint won't be constrained by carrier subsidies, which makes the value compared to competitors "very obvious to the consumer," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.

The $349 unlocked Nexus 5 is "good value for the money to get the pure Google experience in the hands of consumers and the latest software, too, with KitKat," Milanesi said. "This is as much about making sure that the right experience is delivered so users become loyal to the Google ecosystem as it is about widening the [smartphone] installed base."

Some analysts noted that AT&T and Verizon still have plenty of top-flight phones to sell -- citing Samsung's Galaxy S 4 and Note 3 and the Apple iPhone 5S and 5C -- minimizing the impact of Nexus 5 sales by smaller competitors.

"I wouldn't read too much into which carriers get to sell the Nexus 5," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "Google is probably just trying to spread things around a bit."

Other analysts had a different take.

Google could be trying to prop up Sprint and T-Mobile with retail sales of the Nexus 5 on their unusual data plans, though it's most interested in making mobile smartphone coverage universal, said Gartner analyst Bill Menezes.

"Sprint doesn't need propping up, per se, given it already has the same marquee devices as everyone else, but it is a big plus for Sprint to have an additional, somewhat more affordable phone that will work on the new Sprint Spark connections in time for the holiday season," Menezes said. "It's a great way to start getting traction among the tech chattering classes so that as Spark availability expands in 2014, there's some buzz about how the service performs on a tri-band phone like the Nexus 5."

Menezes said that T-Mobile's price structures are a "nice fit with a high-end Nexus 5 phone that is $150 cheaper at full, unlocked price than the HTC, Apple and Samsung high end devices."

With the Nexus 5 pricing, new KitKat OS and new service plans from aggressive challengers like Sprint and T-Mobile "this will be an interesting holiday season," Menezes said.


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