The Android community has been astir for the last few months with rumors of new Google Nexus devices. These phones have traditionally been lower price reference phones and tablets available directly from Google and with a couple of caveats have represented the best trade-off of updated Android at a reasonable price. The Nexus 6 changed that a little last year with a marked increase in price and the rumors have indicated that this year we’d get two new Nexus phones, a new Chromecast and whole host of smaller extras.
First we got two new Nexus – the 5X and the 6P.
The 5X is from LG and has a five-inch screen. It has a USB-C charger and has an impressive looking 1.55umP lens which should be much better in low light.
The 6P is from Huawei – it’s a full-metal bodied Nexus with a six-inch screen.
They will be available for pre-order today in the US and the UK via Google. The basic 5X will be $379 (£250) and the 6P $479 (£315) with a $50 (£30) credit included. They also launched “Nexus Protect” giving 2 years protection from mechanical and accidental damage and overnight replacement when needed.
Both phones have the “Android Sensor Hub” built in which is a second low power CPU which is designed to let sensors run in the background without impacting battery life. They have fingerprint sensors built in and improvements their speed and security.
They will launch with Android M or Marshmallow which is also rolling out next week. M has a number of efficiency improvements including allowing faster charging, faster voice search, better animations, high priority notifications. It also has a much more granular permissions system and means that apps will only ask for permissions when required by the app rather than on installation.
Google Now has been improved with better contextual understanding – ask it for directions to Salisbury Cathedral and then as a second question what “it’s” opening time and it will understand you.
Google Play Music has launched a new aspect – family support. Previously it has only supported one stream at once – if my daughter starts playing Pony Music my music stops. Her recommendations mix with mine. The new plan is called Google Play Music Family plan. $14.99 for 6 streams and individual sub accounts for individual recommendations. That will be launching later this year.
Google Photos gets new features again based around sharing photos in a family. It lets you setup albums that people can add images two with a minimum of friction and will come later this year. Search on Photos has also been improved – ask for Maggie Hiking and get all the pictures of Maggie Hiking and sharing to a Chromecast has been made even easier.
The Chromecast got an update as well with a few more integrations from US networks – Showtime and the NBA being the standouts. Google revealed that over 20 million Chromecasts have been sold worldwide. The hardware is getting a refresh the Chromecast is now going to be a circle with an integrated wire. It supports MIMO so should get much better reception on weaker wifi meaning higher quality video and less buffering. A new device called the Chromecast Audio plugs into 3.5mm speakers and lets you cast audio – podcasts and music were demonstrated. This works from apps, Chrome and local data, will sync between speakers and will cost from $35.
The Chromecast software is getting an update to show all the Chromecast enabled apps on your phone and the media they contain. It also lets you link out for content that can be available if you download the correct app. Chromecast Gaming was launched letting you play games on a big TV and allowing multiplayer between multiple phones on the TV. It will still cost $39 and be available soon.
Finally we also got a new Pixel Laptop/Tablet with Android! The Pixel C is a 2 part tablet with a keyboard dock. It holds together with magnets and looks beautiful.
The keyboard is customised with a slightly different symbol layout that lets the main keys be full size. The keyboard charges itself from the tablet. The screen is 2560×1800 or 308 PPI and internally it has a very powerful NVIDIA X1 CPU and four microphones for better voice input. It will be available from $499 for the tablet and $149 for the keyboard before Christmas 2015.