One of the unspoken advantages that iOS devices have over Android is their product line ecosystem. While both have handsets and tablets, iOS also has a massively larger portfolio of accessories and companion devices as well as Apple’s Mac lineup. Even the upcoming Windows 8 phones have a comparable ecosystem considering the vast numbers of Windows computers and XBoxes already in consumer’s hands. Android hasn’t had much of an answer for this; Google does have Google TV boxes and sets, but there’s no real synergy between the devices as there is between Apple or Microsoft devices.
Google is apparently making steps to change that with the announcement of the Nexus Q, a “social” media device designed specifically for Android handsets or tablets. The odd looking ball works over your home network, allowing Android users to create video and audio playlists for the media hub. The content isn’t pushed from your handset, the Nexus Q pulls it from cloud. Social interaction is afforded through the device’s reliance on Google Play- anyone can change or add to the device’s queue from their own Play libraries. For the uninitiated, Google Play is Google’s iTunes media store competitor, offering music, TV, movies, and reading material. Play also hosts your home computer’s music library similar to iTunes Match, but providing streaming access to the hosted files instead of Match’s download or streaming (as of iOS 6) capacity. The Nexus Q sports a 25 watt amplifier if you’d like to run speakers directly from it, as well as HDMI and Toslink outputs.
Whatever budding interest consumers may have had will likely wane when the Nexus Q is compared to other media devices. It doesn’t house the streaming media it plays, nor is it capable of accessing media on a PC or local network drive so if you want to hear/see something again it will have to re-access it from the cloud. The Q also isn’t a stand-alone device; there are no controls to use the unit without an Android handset of some kind. Want to use the device to catch up on Hulu or Netflix? Sorry, it’s apparently not capable of that either. There’s no capacity for display mirroring like iOS devices have with the Apple TV, so playing your Android games on a big screen is out as well.
The killing blow comes via the price- $299. While it has the rare marketing advantage of being built in the US (and I’m all for boosting domestic manufacturing), paying triple the price of an Apple TV for a device that offers a fraction of the functionality seems silly. If you would rather stay clear of Apple devices the Boxee or Roku offer more for less as well. Unless you’re a die-hard Android fan, I can’t see a compelling reason to even consider the Nexus Q. There are better (and cheaper) alternatives for both iOS and non-iOS users.