The Nexus Q was such a misguided product that Google determined to drag the plug earlier than the machine was ever launched to shoppers. Ten years to the day after its introduction at I/O 2012, the $299 media participant positioned as a “social streaming machine” stays a singular debacle in Google’s {hardware} story. Say what you’ll about Google Glass, however the firm’s first foray into wearable tech a minimum of bought folks speaking. The Nexus Q, in distinction, was an instance of what can occur when an organization turns into very misplaced in its personal walled backyard.

There have been promising facets to the Q; in hindsight, you’ll be able to clearly see the groundwork and early DNA of Google’s Chromecast inside it. However all the things in regards to the execution was essentially shortsighted — and slightly bizarre. Within the under promo video that Google launched on the day it introduced the Nexus Q, somebody describes the product as “this dwelling alien object.”

“There’s one thing inside it. It desires to get out.” Completely regular stuff. Sixty seconds into the video, you’ve nonetheless bought no clue what this factor is or what the hell it even does. Ultimately, we study that the Nexus Q is “a small, Android-powered laptop” that may play music or movies from the cloud.

Over-the-top advertising and marketing apart, the Nexus Q wasn’t well-received. David Pogue wrote in The New York Occasions that it was “baffling” and “wildly overbuilt.” We gave it a 5. Critiques from CNET, Engadget, and others all shared the identical consensus: for nevertheless spectacular its {hardware} was, the Q simply didn’t do sufficient to justify a worth a lot larger than a Roku or Apple TV on the time. A tool that solely labored with Google providers simply wasn’t sensible or interesting for many individuals.

The streaming participant was to be manufactured in the US, which little doubt contributed to its staggering worth.

Designed by Google, made within the USA

However rattling did it look cool. The Nexus Q genuinely gave off sci-fi vibes (particularly when banana plugs and different A/V cables have been operating out of it) due to its orb-shaped industrial design and glowing LED ring. This was lengthy earlier than Amazon’s Echo got here alongside, bear in mind. The Q regarded like one thing that might jack you into the matrix. And it was all unique. In contrast to different Nexus units, which have been collaborations with companions like LG, Samsung, Asus, Huawei, and others, the Nexus Q was conceptualized completely by Google.


It’d look acquainted now, however the Nexus Q had an extremely cool design for its time.
GIF: Google

Most stunning of all is that it was designed and manufactured in the US. Google by no means actually highlighted or performed up the US manufacturing bit — maybe to keep away from any notion that it will turn into a pattern — nevertheless it undoubtedly contributed to the Q’s deliberate $299 worth. (The unique Moto X would later be assembled within the US, however that initiative didn’t final lengthy.)

Contained in the sphere was an “audiophile-grade” 25-watt amplifier that might energy passive audio system — this stays the Q’s most unusual {hardware} element — together with connections for optical, Micro HDMI, and ethernet. A Micro USB port was current “to encourage basic hack-ability,” in line with {hardware} director Matt Hershenson. The Nexus Q was powered by the identical smartphone chip because the Galaxy Nexus. You possibly can rotate the higher half of the sphere to regulate quantity or faucet it to mute no matter was taking part in. All of the makings of an amazing lounge machine have been there. However confining software program limitations ruined that potential.

The Nexus Q’s built-in amplifier was an uncommon inclusion. You don’t discover banana jack connectors on many streaming gamers.
Picture by Chris Welch / The Verge

The Nexus Q solely supported Google providers together with Play Music, Play Motion pictures & TV, and YouTube. There was no Netflix or Hulu, and no Spotify. Google went to the difficulty of placing in an amplifier, but audiophiles had no manner of getting lossless audio from the analog connectors.

The Q lacked any on-screen consumer interface and didn’t include a distant; you would solely management it utilizing a devoted Android app. A few of that may sound acquainted to Chromecast house owners. However there have been main variations between the Nexus Q and Chromecast, which arrived a 12 months later, that made the $35 streaming dongle so successful. Having discovered a tough lesson from stubbornly favoring its personal software program, Google corrected course and made a heavy push for well-liked third-party apps to undertake casting. And crucially, the Chromecast additionally supported iOS.

Social streaming

Apart from the Nexus Q’s core performance of taking part in music and movies, Google additionally tried to pitch the product as a social expertise. A number of folks would be capable of contribute to music playlists with out passing somebody’s telephone round or jostling over management of a Bluetooth speaker. Buddies may share YouTube or Play Motion pictures content material on the TV display screen similarly — so long as they have been in your Wi-Fi.

That every one sounds nice in idea, however once more, this was pre-Chromecast. The method for “social” streaming was… let’s say, inconvenient. If you happen to truly needed to make the “everybody on the get together can DJ” state of affairs occur, your whole associates would additionally have to obtain and set up the Nexus Q app earlier than they might add songs to the queue. Even then, opinions complained in regards to the software program being unintuitive when it got here to managing music playlists. It was too simple to by accident play a music and blow up the collaborative combine that was within the works.

Quick ahead a couple of years and, finally, the highest streaming music providers discovered they may simply remedy this on their very own. Now, you can also make a collaborative playlist on Spotify (or YouTube Music) — no particular machine or random apps required.


You possibly can spin — or caress, on this case — the Nexus Q’s high half to regulate quantity.
GIF: Google

Finish of the queue

Google heard the damaging opinions and “that’s all it does?” criticisms of the Nexus Q loud and clear. By late July 2012, only a month after its announcement, the corporate introduced it was suspending a client launch of the product “whereas we work on making it even higher.” Early preorder prospects would obtain the machine free of charge as a present of thanks for his or her early curiosity.

However the Nexus Q by no means made it to retailer cabinets. By the top of 2012, Google quietly eliminated the product from its web site. In 2013, the corporate’s apps began breaking compatibility with the machine altogether. With so few Q models out on the planet, Google didn’t waste time leaving it within the rearview mirror.

A minimum of this catastrophe led to the Chromecast a 12 months later.
Picture by Chris Welch / The Verge

After Google deserted the {hardware}, tinkerers and mod builders spent a couple of years attempting to offer the Nexus Q a brand new lease on life. It made it onto the CyanogenMod circuit, and one individual even managed to flip it right into a USB audio machine to benefit from that built-in amp. However there simply aren’t many units in circulation, so these efforts have largely pale into historical past.

The Nexus Q was a whole failure of a product, however Google wasn’t incorrect a few “third wave of client electronics” that may make better use of the cloud to maintain your whole leisure (music, films, TV) shut at hand. We’re seeing that in every single place at present, and now you’ll be able to add gaming to the equation. It was an embarrassing misstep, however Google’s canceled $299 media participant confirmed that customers have excessive expectations of lounge leisure units — and never even big tech firms can afford to go it alone.



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