Update: Android 7 Nougat is out now. If you own a Nexus device you'll be able to download it in the coming weeks, but if not don't worry – this is the software Google is sure to include in both its new Nexus devices. The new Nexus handsets however may launch with Android 7.1 according to recent rumors.
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 that 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 about 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.
More specifically the Nexus Sailfish and Nexus Marlin could be arriving on October 4, or at least that's what one source reckons.
Google's next iteration of Android is already out, despite the fact the new Nexus devices haven't been announced yet. If you're those rocking a Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 9,Google Pixel C, Nexus Player or an Android One device you can download Android Nougat right now.
Google's Nexus launches usually coincide with the official rollout of the next version of its mobile platform, with the new handset(s) championing the new software - but it wasn't the case for Android 7.
The good news is the software will be on the new Nexus devices. 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 design and screen
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 build.prop file for the Nexus Sailfish suggests the smaller phone might be slightly bigger than 5 inches though, with a roughly 5.2-inch 1080 x 1920 screen, which would be a match for the Nexus 5X.
One benchmarking result also suggests the Nexus Marlin device will come with a 2K display, but the size of the screen is currently unclear. Upping the resolution to 2K would be a first for the Nexus range.
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".
New Nexus OS and power
The new Nexus handsets will of course launch with Android Nougat, but rather than Android 7.0 they might land with Android 7.1. The 7.1 update is almost certainly in the works, especially as it's been spotted on Google's developer console and it's been rumored that it will launch with the Nexus Sailfish and Marlin handsets.
That would make some sense, as the LG V20 will beat the new Nexus to the Nougat punch, so this way Google's handsets would have something new to launch with. What Android 7.1 will contain is unknown, but it's possible that it will include support for Daydream VR.
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. A build.prop file for the Nexus Sailfish suggests the same.
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. But don't hold your breath - the benchmarks suggest it'll be the 820.
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 and based on a leaked image it looks like they'll be on the back of the phones once again, but complete with a new feature, allowing you to reveal your notifications by sliding a digit across it.
New Nexus camera
Camera specs are few and far between for both Nexus phones. GFXBench details suggest it'll have a 7MP selfie shooter and an 11MP rear facing camera. That's a strange set up that we haven't seen before so it may turn out these details are a little bit off.
The back camera is said to have all the features you'd expect such as 4K video recording as well as a flash LED, face detection software and autofocus tech. As for the larger Nexus phone, we're going to have to wait for more details.
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.
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