The Galaxy Nexus’ one year launch anniversary is fast approaching, and as if on cue, the geekier parts of the web have gone abuzz today with rumors of a new Nexus device (and possibly a new version of Android) that could hit the streets “in the next 30 days.” The timing certainly helps explain things — tablets and funky, arguably misguided media streamers aside, Google’s Nexus-branded smartphones always seem to trickle out toward the end of the year, and we’re very nearly there.
It’s no surprise to see Android devotees itching for some new hardware to ogle, but what kind of hardware should we expect to see? As usual, Google wouldn’t officially comment on rumors or speculation, but here’s a quick rundown of what Google and friends are reportedly working on. Got those grains of salt ready?
What’s most interesting to me is that AndroidAndMe’s source claims that the new Nexus device has “already leaked” to some unnamed websites. Exactly how true that is remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure — there are plenty of suspects.
Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus was no runaway hit here in the states — the Korean company’s own legal team stated that the device “at most captured 0.5% of the market” while all that legal unpleasantness was going down — but it seems that a Samsung-sourced Nexus follow-up may be in the cards. True believers have more than a few bits of potential proof to point at.
A device referring to itself as the GT-I9260 (in case you hadn’t guessed, the original Galaxy Nexus was the I9250) apparently snapped a photo of some woman’s back. What’s more, a device claiming to be the Galaxy Nexus Plus has temporarily popped up on a few UK phone retailer websites, and a supposed spec sheet (see above) for a Galaxy Nexus follow-up points to the inclusion of an updated processor (1.5GHz dual-core A9, up from 1.2GHz) and camera (8-megapixel sensor instead of 5).
Also rumored to be working on Nexus-branded hardware is Taiwanese mainstay HTC, which hasn’t collaborated with Google like that since the heady days of the Nexus One. If these wild-eyed rumors are to be believed, then HTC may well be working on a phablet-sized device with a 5-inch screen running at 1080p, albeit without the sort of pen-based input that made the original Galaxy Note a surprise success.
Interestingly enough, the so-called HTC One X 5 has also been referred to (possibly erroneously) as the Droid Incredible X in some circles, which would clearly imply some connections with Verizon Wireless a la the CDMA Galaxy Nexus. If rumors hold true, the One X 5 (which some claim will be rebranded as the Nexus 5) will feature a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 12-megapixel rear camera.
Easily the most unlikely name on the list of potential Nexus hardware partners is LG, a company that has struggled for months to get its smartphone strategy settled. Even after devoting half of its capex budget to reviving its flagging smartphone business this year, the other Korean electronics giant saw fit to push out me-too products like the underwhelming LG Intuition/Optimus Vu.
That seems to have changed these past few weeks as LG officially revealed its latest flagship, the surprisingly-not-bad Optimus G. A handful of sources are claiming it’s that device — along with its 1.5GHz quad-core S4 Pro chipset, LTE support, and 13-megapixel camera — that will serve as the base for Google’s next Nexus phone. For what it’s worth, if there were ever any LG phone worth bearing the Nexus name, it’s this one.
You would think now that Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility is over and done with, and the search giant’s newly bolstered mobile division would get cracking on some new hardware. Interestingly, there hasn’t been much buzz around a Nexus-branded Motorola device this time around — AndroidCentral’s Jerry Hildenbrand reached out to the usual unnamed sources and came back with the only Moto-Nexus report of note. Here’s what he had to say:
We got wind of a Motorola built device with the model defined as “RNEXUS”. The few bits we have say it has a 1080p screen of undisclosed size, a keyboard, and will use the Z2580 Intel Atom SoC.
Motorola’s Intel push is an intriguing one, even if the first bit Intel-powered hardware Motorola has pushed out looks awfully familiar. It’s a fairly new rumor, which could indicate one of three things — 1) Google indeed plans to push a Motorola Nexus device out in October and has done a great job of keeping it quiet; 2) Google plans to push out a Motorola Nexus device at some point down the line; or 3) the news is total crap.
Though there’s not much more than secretive whispers from sources and oft-repeated rumors to go off at this point, the possibility remains that all of these devices could be real. The Wall Street Journal reported back in May that Google would work “with as many as five manufacturers at a time to create a portfolio of ‘Nexus’ lead devices that include smartphones and tablets,” and if true, the devices listed above could make for a compelling product lineup in Google’s (mostly empty) Play Store Devices section.
As I’m always so fond of saying, hardware is only ever part of the equation — among this crush of rumors is one claiming that Google is also preparing to unleash yet another Android build (4.2) shortly. That’s probably the hardest claim to swallow so far, and it’s not just because it will inevitably cause people to cry “FRAGMENTATION!” At this point, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is still less than four months old — for Google to push out another update so quickly would be to throw another curveball at consumers. How many devices right now are still waiting for Ice Cream Sandwich? How long will it take for consumers’ handsets to finally be up-to-date?
Then again, such a move wouldn’t entirely be out of character for Google, as it regularly pushed out new updates every five to seven months for a long while. Google seems to have bucked that trend with more recent releases — Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and now Jelly Bean have enjoyed a bit more room to breathe. For the curious, eight months elapsed between the Android 3.0 and 4.0 launches, and nine months separated the 4.0 and 4.1 launches. Whether that’s just a happy coincidence due to production schedules or a concerted effort to space things out a bit more isn’t known, but it could mean that the next big version of Android is still a ways away.
In the end…
…there’s no telling whether or not Google’s newest Nexus will be one, all, or none of the devices listed above. Really, the only thing that can be said for sure is that the Nexus brand ain’t what it used to be. What once was a product line meant for Android hobbyists and the contract-averse has now made a major mainstream impact in the hardware market with devices like the Nexus 7. The natural follow-up question to ask is what role this supposed Nexus phone is supposed to play now that the brand it represents has evolved — is it going to be a nerd’s device? A mass-market crowdpleaser? With any luck, that answer and more should become apparent before the month is over.