Google's Nexus programme has given birth to a pure Android smartphone or two every year.

The idea behind the Nexus was always to showcase Android in its purest form, away from the poking and prodding of manufacturer skins. Importantly, Nexus has always been a chance for Google to say "this is what Android is".

But 2016 promises to bring in some big changes. The biggest change might be a shift from the Nexus program entirely and into the Pixel side of the company. The message is clear running towards the Pixel launch: in 2016, it's all about being "made by Google."

This is what we know so far.

There are currently two Nexus smartphone models. The Nexus 5X is the cheaper and smaller of the two available. It's manufactured by LG. The Nexus 6P is the larger and more premium device made by Huawei.

The weight of rumours suggests that HTC will be the next Nexus manufacturer. Firstly, MyDrivers claimed that HTC signed a contract with Alphabet for these devices, an idea then supported by Evan Blass, who claimed HTC will indeed be making Google's next Nexus devices and that they are called M1 and S1 internally. Android Police backed up the codenames in a separate report, claiming M1 refers to Marlin and S1 is Sailfish.

There have been continued leaks about Marlin and Sailfish, adding weight to the argument that HTC is making these 2016 Nexus handsets.

However, the weight of rumour now suggests that they won't be Nexus handsets at all, and that they will be Pixel devices, taking the names Pixel and Pixel XL. The shift away from Nexus was floated by Android Central, with Android Police then going on to suggest the Pixel names. Although these developments in late August are difficult to verify, they follow a line of rumour that's been running for some time.

Sources talking to The Information earlier in 2016 claimed that Google was looking to play a much greater role in the hardware design, as well as software, which would make the smartphone manufacturer more of a contractor than a partner, which leads us full circle to the current idea of a Pixel and Pixel XL handset.

Reports also claimed Huawei would be involved in Nexus, following a statement from one of the Chinese company's executives. Charlene Munilall, who is Huawei's general manager in South Africa has said "we're doing the Nexus again this year, by the way." That throwaway statement may simply have confirmed that Huawei is making a new Nexus 7 tablet.

As it stands, HTC looks like the strongest bet, and we currently believe that the next Nexus will in fact be a Pixel.

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Design leaks started for the Nexus/Pixel handsets in the middle of 2016, but one of the earliest indicators was a concept render from Android Police, which was inspired by details from a reliable source. This has since been backed-up with some low-quality photos of the device believed to be the HTC Sailfish/Pixel, the smaller of the two devices.

This sees the Sailfish as a mostly metal device, but with a third of the rear offering a glass panel at the top. There's a deep chamfer at the edges, as you'll find on the HTC 10, suggesting that family link between the Pixel device and the manufacturer. The Pixel has now been fully rendered in 3D video, so your closer examination, by Android Authority and @onleaks.

For the Marlin we know a less. It's been claimed by one source that the Marlin, the larger of the two handsets, will be based on the HTC 10. A recent leak suggests we can expect speakers at the bottom of the device and a fingerprint sensor on the rear. This has been supported by a report from TechDroider also claiming a HTC 10-like design with a fingerprint sensor on the rear and no camera bump.


Another render to have emerged, which was based on a blurry alleged hands-on shot with one of the phones, shows a similar design albeit with straighter edges. The image posted on Reddit also features a super slim bezel, which would be great if true.

Certainly the more rectangular shape of the Reddit render is most likely, as it accurately matches an outline drawing supplied by Google itself in the video portion of its launch event invite.

The distinct shape also matches some leaked handset hands-on images sent to Android Police. They show 5.5-inch and 5-inch devices and the design of the ear speaker grilles and sensors look a lot like HTC's work - as seen on the HTC Desire 10 devices

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There's a good chance that these devices won't carry the Nexus branding any more, just with a G for Google instead.

Since Daydream is going to be a big deal this year, it's safe to assume that the Pixel devices will sport high resolution displays with fast refresh rates. Google has promised that its virtual reality solution is much better than Cardboard, and part of this is down to the quality of hardware.

The company recently suggested that none of the current phones will be compatible with Daydream since they don't have the screen quality or powerful enough sensors to cope with the system, suggesting the 2016 Nexus family will feature some enhanced motion sensors and a fast screen.

Both handsets are likely to have fingerprint sensors on the rear, if the leaked photos sent to Android Police in September are anything to go by. They show the rear casings of the two phones and match other previous leaks.

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It's been suggested that the Marlin will be the larger and more powerful handset, possibly equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset. This is a tweaked version of the 820, offering a 10 per cent performance increase over the Snapdragon 820. Qualcomm itself mentions virtual reality several times when talking about this chipset.

A pretty substantial leak claims the Marlin will feature a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution AMOLED display, 4GB of RAM and 32GB or 128GB of memory.

The leak also suggested there would be a 12-megapixel rear snapper, 8-megapixel front camera and a 3450mAh battery with USB Type-C charging.

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For the Sailfish, the smaller of the new handsets, there's also been a huge spec leak, as well as a AnTuTu Benchmark leak.

The Snapdragon 820 chipset, 4GB RAM, and 32GB of storage have all been claimed. There is also said to be a 2770mAh battery and USB Type-C charging. In terms of camera, the leaked benchmark claims there will be a 13-megapixel rear snapper and an 8-megapixel front snapper.

The display is said to be 5-inches, with a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, which might mean that this isn't the best device for Android's future vision of VR with Daydream.


The Pixels will come with the next version of Android, which has been named as Android Nougat. The Nexus is usually used as the launch platform for this new version of Android before it is rolled out to other devices, but for Nougat, it's being pushed to existing devices first.

To add some spice to the mix, it's thought that the Pixel and Pixel XL will launch with Android 7.1 Nought, stepping up a point and offering a slightly different experience to the version of Android Nougat that's already publicly available.

One of these elements will be a different launcher. This first appeared with Android Police, but then the APK for the Pixel Launcher leaked, pretty much confirming both the name and the new look to the face to Android that will appear on the Pixel phones.

You can even install it onto current Android devices to give it a whirl yourself.

There have also been rumours of new navigation buttons with a flower-like home button that could be used to launch Google Assistant, but nothing has been confirmed by Google.

Android Police has also reported that the two new Pixel devices could sport a new gesture for opening notifications using the fingerprint sensor. The GIF suggests users will need to swipe down on the fingerprint sensor on the rear of their device to check notifications. This is something that Huawei offers on its phones, and it's really useful.

The Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P were both announced on 29 September 2015, hitting the shelves in October. This was timed to coincide with the release of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, making its debut on the two new devices. In 2016, however, Google has shaken things up entirely.

Android 7.0 Nougat saw an official release on 22 August, rolling out to Nexus devices from this date. The push for Android 7.1 perhaps explains this software dalliance, so the new phones will have a separate launch event, which Google has confirmed will take place on 4 October.

There's also talk of a Nexus 7 replacement tablet from Huawei, although this might be launching in December instead.

Get ready to pay up big time if you want Google's HTC-made 2016 phones. According to Android Police, Google's upcoming Pixel phones will start at $649, which is a price range usually reserved for devices like the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7. The Pixel XL, which is thought to be the higher-spec'd of the two Pixel phones, will likely cost even more, too. Keep in mind the high-end Nexus 6P only cost $499 when it was new.