Google's Nexus programme gives birth to a pure Android smartphone every year, sometimes two. The idea behind the Nexus is to showcase Android in its purest form, away from the poking and prodding of manufacturer skins.
Importantly, the Nexus is the chance for Google to say "this is what Android is". With 2016 well under way, we're looking forward to the next Nexus, in a year that's rumoured to be bringing some big changes and introducing two new Nexus handsets.
Next Nexus (2016): Release date
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 thrown a spanner in the works.
Android Nougat is further ahead than previous Android versions, seeing an official release on 22 August, rolling out to Nexus devices from this date. That leaves us lacking Nexus handsets to go with that software, so the timeline is something of a mystery.
Launch is getting closer, as the FCC has inspected the new Nexus devices. We expect a late-September announcement for the new handsets to fit with previous launches.
Next Nexus (2016): Manufacturer
There are currently two Nexus smartphone models. The Nexus 5X is the cheaper and smaller of the two available, 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. MyDrivers claimed that HTC has signed a contract with Alphabet. This idea is supported by Evan Blass, who claims HTC will indeed be making Google's next Nexus devices and that they are currently being called M1 and S1 internally and Android Police backs up the codenames in a separate report, claiming M1 refers to Marlin and S1 is Sailfish.
However, reports have since claimed Huawei will be involved 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." So things are a little unclear - perhaps Huawei is referring to a different Nexus product. The one thing we do know is that LG won't be manufacturing the next Nexus.
It is also unclear whether the companies will have design control or participate in more of an OEM role. Sources talking to The Information claimed that Google is 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.
As it stands, HTC looks like the strongest bet, and that's also reflected in the FCC filings.
Next Nexus (2016): Design
Design leaks have started for the next Nexus handsets, 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, 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 Nexus device and the manufacturer.
For the Marlin we know a lot 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, but we're still clueless as to what it will actually look like.
Next Nexus (2016): Hardware
Since Daydream is going to be a big deal this year, it's safe to assume that the next Nexuses 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.
Nexus Marlin specs
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.
Nexus Sailfish specs
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.
Next Nexus (2016): Software
The next Nexus 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.
We know a lot about Android Nougat already, thanks to the public beta program that it's been through. Android Nougat sticks mostly to the material design of Marshmallow, but bubbles up more information in things like settings, so requires less digging for important details.
Notifications are more useful and dynamic, there's customisation of quick settings and whole range of other useful tweaks and changes. Android Nougat should be more power efficient and it is designed with Daydream - Google's new VR platform - baked right into its core.
There has also been talk of Google working on a new launcher design. According to GIFs on Android Police, the new launcher appears to replace the app drawer's icon with a frosted section that is expanded by the user swiping up or tapping the arrow.
The GIFs also show disappearance of the standard Google Search widget with a calendar widget taking its place and a "G" toggle-like icon on the left. 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 Nexus 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.
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Next Nexus (2016): Conclusion
The pieces of the next Nexus puzzle are starting to fall into place, with a number of specific leaks corroborating earlier suggestions. It's likely that HTC will be producing two new handsets. Both will be powerful, but one will offer a compact 5-inch display, so perhaps won't lead the charge for a VR future.
The software experience will enhance that started by Marshmallow, and first impressions of Android Nougat are already good. We're still yet to see the full design of the new handsets, but if HTC is involved, we'd expect them to reflect the HTC 10 flagship and early indications suggest that's the case.
We will update regularly with information that appears, running up to an expected Nexus launch date around September/October 2016.