Update: With the launch of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 chip, we may now know what will be powering the new Nexus handsets.
Google's Nexus line is still going strong. There was a time when things looked to be on the rocks for the search giant's own-brand handsets, but it's navigated through the treacherous waters, and come out stronger on the other side.
2015 gave us the excellent Nexus 6P, plus the more affordable (and palm-friendly) Nexus 5X, but with the recent arrivals of the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10, LG G5 and Huawei P9, both those phones are suddenly looking a little long in the tooth.
It's time then, to look at what Google has up its sleeve for its next Nexus smartphones. Bigger screens? New Android? More power? Some actual innovation?
One thing we know for sure is Google will continue to leave Nexus manufacturing to established names in the market. CEO, Sundar Pichai has said Google will instead focus on the design and software, hinting that the search giant will be more involved than ever in future Nexus devices.
Could these be the most 'Googly' Nexus devices to date? Quite possibly. Let's see what the rumor mill has churned up so far for the new Nexus handsets…
Cut to the chase
- What are they? Google's next own-brand smartphones
- When are they out? September/October 2016
- What will they cost? Traditionally the Nexus line is slightly cheaper than flagship rivals
Say my name(s)!
Singular or plural? That's the first question we need to tackle when talking about new Nexus phones.
2015 was the first time Google launched two Nexus smartphones side by side, the 5X and 6P. Arguably the Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 were also a pair, but there was a year between their releases and they were rarely marketed together.
A duo of handsets felt right, and we expect Google to repeat the trick this time around. Two new Nexus phones have already supposedly been spotted online – dubbed the Nexus M1 and Nexus S1 – adding more fuel to this particular fire. 'M' apparently stands for Marlin, while 'S' is allegedly Sailfish.
They've also been touted as T50 and T55, with those numbers relating to the screen sizes: 5-inch and 5.5-inch. Those are all said to just be development codenames – so what will Google opt for in the end?
The simplest answer would be the Nexus 6X and Nexus 7P, but those make even less sense than the phones they're set to replace.
There's always the chance Google just sticks with the code names M1 and S1, but how about something a little more straightforward? Nexus 7 and Nexus 7 Plus would be nice – but the former has already been used for the firm's 7-inch slate.
Who's the daddy?
While Nexus devices are routinely referred to as Google's handsets, the search giant doesn't actually make the hardware. That task is shipped out to established handset manufacturers, and in the past HTC, Samsung, LG, Asus, Motorola and Huawei have all been called upon to do the honors.
LG is the company behind the 5X and Nexus 5, while Huawei's first ever Nexus device came in the form of the 6P.
That said, Google is apparently also pretty pleased with the job Huawei did on the 6P, and alternative rumors point towards the Chinese manufacturer getting a second shot at making the higher-end Nexus.
New Nexus release date
Google launched the Nexus 6P and 5X in September 2015, with both devices going on sale the following month, so it stands to reason that it'll follow a similar release schedule with the new Nexus phones.
That's also the time of year we see Google's next Android iteration begin to roll out, and the new Nexus devices tend to be the standard-bearers for the shiny new software.
Google's next iteration of Android has already been announced, and those rocking current Nexus devices (or the Sony Xperia Z3) can download Android Nougat beta right now.
Google's Nexus launches tend to coincide with the official rollout of the next version of its mobile platform, with the new handset(s) championing the new software.
That means you're basically guaranteed to see Android on whatever Google decides to launch, whether that's the Nexus 7P, Nexus 6X or both.
Android Nougat doesn't exactly reinvent the operating system, but new Nexus owners will benefit from a more accessible (and editable) quick settings toolbar, side-by-side app display, fast app switching, an improved Doze mode and a "Clear All" button in the Recents menu.
Check out what Android Nougat has to offer in our beta walkthrough
Something the new Nexus devices are likely to feature heavily is virtual reality (VR). Google announced its Daydream VR platform at its IO conference in May, and you can expect the new service to feature heavily on its new Nexus handsets.
It even teased its own VR headset with controller - and we could well see the hardware launch alongside the new phones later this year. It would make sense, as the headset will be dependent on a smartphone to function - and what better device to use than a shiny new Nexus?
We're keeping our fingers crossed for a "free VR headset when you pre-order a new Nexus" offer come September.
New Nexus specs
With the appearance of those T50 and T55 codenames, it looks like we'll be getting a 5-inch handset and a larger 5.5-inch device.
That would be a downsizing for the larger device, following the 5.95-inch Nexus 6 and 5.7-inch Nexus 6P, and would see the new Nexus slide in comfortably alongside the iPhone 6S Plus (although the iPhone 7 Plus could be out by then) and LG G5.
A leaked render posted online by Android Police seems to suggest a svelte looking aluminum uni-body and a rear facing fingerprint scanner - just like on the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. The source who provided the image also claims the new Nexus phones will be available in silver, black, and "electric blue".
In terms of power, we've seen leaked benchmark tests suggesting both handsets will be sporting Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 chip, which has already found its way into the G5 and HTC 10.
However Qualcomm has launched the shiny new Snapdragon 821, which boosts power up even more and it's certainly not out of the question that the new Nexus smartphones could benefit from the additional oomph.
The chip will likely be backed up by 4GB of RAM, which would give you plenty of grunt under the hood for all the latest Android Nougat has to throw at you, although 6GB of RAM is also possible with the OnePlus 3 sporting it along with a low price tag.
We also expect the fingerprint scanners to return, but rather than the rear placement on the 5X and 6P, they could be found on the front of the new Nexus devices if HTC is indeed at the helm.
New Nexus price
In the past Nexus smartphones have been cheaper than the flagship devices they tend to be put up against, but that distinction become blurred in 2015, with the Nexus 6P sporting a lofty price tag of its own.
The hope is that the smaller of the two new Nexus phones will at least come with a reasonably affordable price tag, much like the Nexus 5X, while the larger, more premium offering is likely to pitch itself closer to Apple, Samsung and co.
Article continues below