Despite rumors to the contrary, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Nexus program lives on. Like the Nexus devices that preceded them, the two newest members of the Nexus family -- the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 -- run the latest version of Google's Android operating system.
Although previous Nexus devices didn't set sales records, they were fairly well-received -- the Nexus 7, in particular, fueled Asus' emergence as a top tablet vendor. Budget-minded consumers may have been attracted to the high-end hardware offered at an affordable price.
But it's hard to see these latest Nexuses as much of a bargain. Though both the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 are bigger and more powerful than their predecessors, they're also much more expensive.
Nexus has been synonymous with value
The last three Nexus devices -- the Nexus 4, Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 -- were defined as much by their low price tags as they were by their hardware. The Nexus 4, for example, retailed for just $299 despite offering what was, at the time, one of the fastest available mobile processors. In fact, in terms of hardware, the Nexus 4 was almost identical to Samsung's (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) competing Galaxy S3, but it cost half as much.
The Nexus 5 was slightly more expensive, starting at $349, but offered just as much value, with a large, full HD screen and a high-end processor. Samsung's competing Galaxy S4 offered superior battery life and a better camera, but again, was nearly twice as expensive.
The Nexus 7 enjoyed a similar price/performance gap with its peers when it debuted in 2012. At $199, it was $130 less expensive than Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) competing iPad Mini, yet it offered a faster processor and higher resolution display. The second version of the Nexus 7, released in 2013, continued the trend. At $229, it was a bit more expensive, but the gap between it and the iPad Mini with retina display jumped to a full $170 -- making Apple's tablet almost twice as expensive.
Bigger screens, bigger price tags
But the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 do not enjoy such an advantage. Granted, they're still cheaper than the competition, but not by a great degree.
Google's Nexus 6 starts at $649. It's closest competitor, Samsung's Galaxy Note 4, goes for $749. It's still $100 cheaper, but doesn't come close to the $300 and $350 discounts prior Nexus handsets offered. On its own, the Nexus 6 is an attractive phone, and it may steal sales from Samsung's phablet, but it's certainly not the bargain Nexus buyers may have been expecting.
The Nexus 9 is similar. It's $100 cheaper than Apple's competing iPad Air 2, but the price difference is less significant than the one between the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini. At $399, it's an expensive tablet by almost any standard, as the average tablet now retails for around $300.
Has Nexus run its course?
Unfortunately, investors will likely never know how well the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 perform -- Google hasn't released device sales in the past, and there's no indication it will do so going forward. But prior Nexuses have been influential, ensuring that there were quality, budget-friendly Android devices available.
The Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 are still available for purchase but are increasingly dated. Soon, they will be obsolete, and consumers will have to look elsewhere. Admittedly, with the number of low-cost Android devices increasing, bargain Nexus products may no longer be necessary. Still, the relatively high price tags carried by the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 represent a sizable shift in the market for mobile devices.
Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.