At this year’s Google IO I had the opportunity to ask Andy Rubin about anything, and I chose to pop the question about a possible Nexus device to coincide with the release Ice Cream Sandwich. To my surprise he answered that there will always be new ones [Nexus devices] coming out and we could expect an announcement around the holidays.
Since that day rumors and supposed leaks have been at a fever pitch, but I wouldn’t put much faith in any of the reports. We likely won’t know final details until October. That’s around the time of the year when we reported the first Nexus S details, and we expect it’s when Google will have devices ready for testers if they want to release their next superphone by Christmas.
From what I’ve gathered, Google has a stable of prototype devices they’re currently evaluating, and it will be several more months before they select the winner. HTC made the Nexus One and Samsung produced the Nexus S, but almost any handset maker could hit the next Nexus jackpot.
The Handset Makers
Here are my top 5 picks to produce the next Nexus (in no particular order):
- HTC: These guys made the first Android phone (T-Mobile G1), they scored the Nexus One and are the largest Android developer after Google. If the hardcore Android fans got to decide who made the next Nexus, I’d wager they’d pick HTC by a landslide.
- LG: A reliable source from LG told me they were working on a quad-core phone, so I speculated it could become the Nexus 3. Their Optimus One was a stellar entry-level Android phone, but LG has stumbled so far in the high-end market with their buggy G2x. LG has never had a flagship Android device and they’re desperate to turn around their smartphone division, so I’d think they’d be willing to bend over backwards to make a deal with Google.
- Motorola: You always have to consider Motorola when thinking about the next hero Android device. Google chose Motorola to debut Android 2.0 with the original Droid, and they also were the first with Android 3.0 on the Xoom. We wouldn’t be surprised if they fell into the first device with Android 4.0.
- Samsung: The Galaxy S was one of the best selling series of Android phones, and I think Google made a wise decision to choose it as the platform for the Nexus S. Samsung has the best displays around, and I think the Galaxy S II could easily become the Nexus S II.
- Sony Ericsson: This hasn’t been widely reported, but several sources told me Sony Ericsson was actually in line to produce the Nexus 2 before they somehow screwed up their opportunity and Google went with Samsung. The US market hasn’t seen many high-end Android phones from Sony Ericsson, but I was really impressed with their latest models when I got some hands-on time back during Mobile World Congress.
Prediction: In order to keep everyone happy, I think Google will allow a new partner to shine and go with either LG or Sony Ericsson. If I had to choose I’d go with Sony Ericsson. I believe they can offer a better overall experience with their new Bravia displays and Exmor R-powered cameras.
Again, it’s really a toss up when trying to predict which semiconductor company Google will choose for Ice Cream Sandwich. NVIDIA appears to be in the lead since Google used a Tegra-powered XOOM to demo Ice Cream Sandwich at Google IO. We also reported that NVIDIA’s CEO said they were working very closely with Google on Ice Cream Sandwich.
NVIDIA said they would have their quad-core Kal-El processor in tablets by August and smartphones by Christmas, but there are signs those dates might be changing. Recent rumors suggest the first quad-core tablets might not appear till September or October, so we’ll have to wait and see if the smartphone version of Kal-El is ready in time for the holidays.
Other rumors and industry insiders have hinted that TI’s OMAP4 might be the lead platform for Ice Cream Sandwich, but I’ve seen no hard facts to back that up yet.
I also speculated that Qualcomm’s 28nm, Krait Snapdragons might be ready by Q4, but it turns out that’s when they should be available for OEMs. We likely won’t see them in devices until 1H 2012.
My top processor picks include:
- Texas Instruments 1.5 GHz OMAP4460
- Samsung 1.2 GHz Exynos 4210
- Qualcomm 1.2 GHz Snapdragon MSM8x60
- NVIDIA Kal-El (Tegra 3)
Prediction: All the handset makers have access to pick and choose pretty much any processor they want (with the exception of HTC being loyal to Qualcomm). If Google partners with LG to make their next Nexus, the most likely choices for the CPU are NVIDIA and TI. If we see a Sony Ericsson made Nexus, the top choices for CPU would be NVIDIA or Qualcomm.
Seeing that Google played it safe last year and went with the 1 GHz Hummingbird platform, I think they’ll go with Qualcomm and use their dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon (MSM8x60).
Every carrier was supposed to support the Nexus One, but they all backed out except T-Mobile. Google made some improvements with the Nexus S by getting it on T-Mobile and in Sprint stores. Google desperately wants to get their Nexus lineup on AT&T and Verizon, so I believe they’ll make some backroom deals and figure out a way to make it happen.
Prediction: Look for the next Nexus to appear on every carrier with several versions to support all the different “4G” networks.
The Product Name
This could be the least important detail, but what will the next Nexus be called? Several reliable sources have been telling me it would be called the Nexus Prime, but others have informed me this was just a nickname Googlers gave the phone (based on LG’s Optimus series of phones).
Possible names for the next Nexus include:
- Nexus Two: This might be confusing to consumers, but if Google goes with HTC again, you might consider this the true Nexus Two.
- Nexus 3: It just makes sense.
- Nexus S II: If Samsung makes the next Nexus they might twist Google’s arm and force them to adopt the “S” branding again.
- Nexus Prime: Anything is possible, right?
Prediction: My money says Google keeps it simple and goes with Nexus 3. However, if the quad-core Kal-El processor finds its way into the phone we might end up with a Nexus 4X.
When Can I Pre-Order?
At the end of the day, most people who will purchase the next Nexus don’t really care who makes it. These hardcore users crave a pure Google experience phone with the latest version of Android and the ability to easily unlock the bootloader. I don’t expect the next Nexus will have bleeding-edge specs, but I’ve learned the hard way that the overall software experience almost always trumps pure hardware power.
So which Nexus combination are you rooting for? A T-Mobile LG Nexus Prime with Tegra 3? A Verizon Motorola Nexus 3 with OMAP4? An AT&T Sony Ericsson Nexus 3 with Snapdragon? A Sprint Samsung Nexus S II with Exynos?
Whatever configuration Google goes with, I’ll be standing in line on day one to hand over my money.