Google-branded phones haven't sold in the volume one might’ve expected. But with handsets running vanilla Android having grown in stature amid painful OS update delays for third-party kits and rumours that sweet specs are on board, its third effort could change all that.
Here, we’ve fed the top ten rumours doing the rounds about the Nexus Prime/Nexus 3 into our high-tech truth-o-meter. Read on for the skinny…
1 Samsung is making it
The first Galaxy phone made waves in part because of its Super AMOLED display. For the second, Sammy stuck with the successful formula but went one better and opted for Super AMOLED Plus. As a result, the tech is now pretty much seen as a Samsung hallmark.
According to leaks, the next Google phone will pack a Super AMOLED HD display. Reading between the lines, we’d be very surprised if that's not a dead giveaway that Samsung has been enlisted on manufacturing detail this time around. And that was before a loose-lipped tweet from a Samsung Romania rep appeared to all but confirm as much.
2 Or is it LG?
The first reports of a third Nexus phone linked the handset to LG. And there’s some cause for thinking that this might be the case.
The first Nexus phone was manufactured by HTC on Google’s behalf. The follow-up Nexus S saw Samsung take the reins. That’s led some in the sector to speculate that Google is consciously spreading the love around its manufacturer partners for its own branded phones.
With Dell – too unwieldy - and Sony Ericsson unlikely to be chosen, that leaves LG next in line, surely?
Well, maybe. But we’re still backing Samsung to get the gig. Not just because the giveaway AMOLED HD screen. But because Sammy’s Android phones have thus far outperformed LG’s in the reviews and sales stakes. Google, which uses its Nexus phones to set the standard for third-party phone makers, will want to partner with a company that can deliver the best. And right now that means Samsung.
3 4G or not 4G?
Mooted names for the next Google phone include the Nexus Prime, Nexus 4G and Nexus 3. We’re ruling out the 4G moniker, on an international basis at least, on the grounds that next-gen networks are only available in select territories. And there’s the fact that it’s likely to get confused with the Nexus S 4G that’s out now in the US.
Nexus 3 is more feasible. But we’re plumping for the Nexus Prime, which was inspired by the name of a Transformer toy, to go the distance. Partly because Google has form with fancy robot nomenclature, having a) chosen the term ‘Android’ for its OS b) naming the original Nexus after Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – aka cyberpunk touchstone that forms the basis of BladeRunner.
4 Five-megapixel camera and secondary snapper
Leaks suggest that these are both present and correct. Assuming that’s so, it’s something of a shame that Google isn’t plumping for a better rear-facing camera. We’d like to have seen an eight-megapixel snapper
at least, especially since these are front and centre on current-gen high-end Android kits, such as the Galaxy S 2 and Xperia Arc.
But let’s face it, the previous two Nexus phones didn’t set the world alight when it came to imaging capabilities. So it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we’ll have to make do with five-megapixels.
5 More traditional sales model
When the first two Nexus phones failed to set the world alight, you didn’t to look further than the experimental sales models for the reason. These not only confused customers. They alienated carriers, too. For that reason, we figure you can expect Google to stick closely to the tried and trusted this time around.
6 It’s won’t be the only launch phone for Ice Cream Sandwich
If rumours are to believed the one-device, one-carrier model that Google favoured for the first two Nexus phones is being scrapped. This time Ice Cream Sandwich will land on a series of phones from manufacturing partners simultaneously, or so it's claimed. And they’ll opt for a host of networks too.
So what to make of this one? Well, we can see the wisdom in it. Not least because a multiple carrier, multiple model attack on the market in the Christmas run-in would pose a stiff challenge for Apple.
Even so, we’re not buying. And that’s because Google has made it clear with the Nexus and the Nexus S that it sees its own branded devices as a means to show third-party phone makers the way and setting the standard for their kits to live up to. By opening it up to others, it's less likely to be able to guarantee that.
At a time when fragmentation problems means it’s actually even more imperative Google takes control of its OS, it’s also more vital than ever that the debut handset is a wow-some bit of kit and sets down a marker for its partners to emulate. So I'm afraid this one is a no.
7 Q4 release date
Ice Cream Sandwich is confirmed for the last quarter of the year, which tallies with that. However, unlike the last November launch for the Nexus S, we think that the third Nexus phone will land towards the start of the period, to give it a nice long tilt at the seasonal market.
8 1.5GHz low-power CPU
Some say the phone will pack a dual-core 1.2GHz processor. Others are saying it’s a 1.5GHz model that’ll be on board. And it’s this latter group that we’re more inclined to believe.
Snapdragon’s 1.5GHz model would appear to be confirmed already for the Windows Phone 7 Mango-powered HTC Sensation and is rumoured to be present and correct in the next set of BlackBerry kits too. Google won’t want to get left behind in the processing grunt arms race, so will match its rivals’ CPUs sinew for sinew.
9 No physical buttons
No, really. Apparently, the handset won’t have a home key. Or a back button. Or a menu button. Or even a search button.
Certainly the trend in smartphones does seem to be heading towards doing away with physical buttons. After all, the Nokia N9 is home-button-free and, if the rumour mill is credible, so is the next-gen iPhone.
We can definitely see Google opting for fewer physical buttons to keep in line with the ever-more minimalist design culture. But if the ‘no’ bit in ‘no physical buttons’ really does mean ‘no’ that means Google is purportedly planning to do away with a volume rocker and an on-off switch too. That isn’t going to happen yet. But give it a few years and it may well.
10 “Monster-sized screen”
This direct quote comes courtesy of a source from BGR, who estimated the phone's display to be between four and 4.7-inches.
There’s not much monster-sized about a four-inch display. That’s pretty much standard for a high-end smartphone these days. But we can’t see Google going for a 4.7-inch number that almost takes it into tablet territory.
Anyone remember the Dell Streak? Exactly. It was too big for a smartphone. But too small to be a tablet. And if Google went with these dimensions, they'd be making the same mistake.