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Nexus 5 Launches on Google Play with New Version of Android

Douglas A. McIntyre

Google Inc. (GOOG) has released the Nexus 5 at its Google Play website, using words like "stunning," "powerful," "colorful" and "slim." It is, in other words, like almost every other tablet or smartphone launched into the consumer market since the introduction of the Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPhone in 2007. Unfortunately, it cannot pick the lock and gain share from market leaders Apple and Samsung. Companies with better smartphone design resources, more powerful brands than Nexus and closer relationships with major carriers have stumbled again and again.

Google's run at the smartphone market with the launch of the new Nexus 5 should have more momentum than many other recent releases from competitors. It has the new Android 4.4 KitKat OS. However, it may be hard to explain to the public why this is any better than earlier versions of Android, some of which run on hundreds of millions of smartphones around the world. Android comes in a number of flavors and is used by half a dozen of the market leaders, the most important of which is Samsung.

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There is not much to recommend the Nexus 5 over any others in its class in terms of weight or dimension. Like virtually every other product in the market, this phone has the means to run multimedia entertainment and connect to 4G networks.

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The gating event in terms of the chance that new smartphones have in their early days on the market is the support of large carriers, particularly AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ). The online store run by AT&T promotes the new iPhone and products from Motorola, Samsung, HTC, LG and Nokia Corp. (NOK). Google can only sell a limited number of the Nexus 5 online. Without carrier support it will be a bust. And at the most important moment -- the moment of the launch -- carriers are not behind it.

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The Nexus 5 may be extraordinary in Google's view. From the standpoint of the largest carriers, and probably most customers, it is barely ordinary.

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