Is it even fun unwrapping your presents on Christmas day when you already know what they are? Of course it is! Today, Google let us unwrap the Nexus 6 phone, Nexus 9 tablet, and the official name for Android 5.0. There are no surprises, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting.
Android 5.0, operating under the moniker “Android L” since Google I/O, will be called Android Lollipop. It’s Android’s biggest release yet, with more than 5,000 new APIs for developers, new battery-saving features, better multitasking, and a brand new visual language called “Material Design.”
Google has been talking about the new features of Android Lollipop since its big summer developer conference, and didn’t share any major new features today. Instead, it focused on a marketing effort to promote the way Android gives customers lots of choice and individuality, while maintaining compatibility and core features. The tagline—“Be together. not the same”—was introduced with an aggressively hopeful YouTube video.
The Nexus 6 phone
It wouldn’t be a new version of Android without a corresponding new Nexus phone. Numerous leaks have spilled all the details of the Nexus 6 over the last few months, and the official announcement leaves no surprises: The Nexus 6 is essentially a giant 6-inch version of the new Moto X.
It features a 5.96-inch Quad HD display, so that’s 2560x1440, or 493 pixels-per-inch. Inside you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor running at 2.7GHz, which is top-of-the-line for Android phones this fall.
Other features are borrowed from the Moto X, including a 13-megapixel f/2.0 rear camera with “ring flash,” a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and dual front-facing speakers. Here’s hoping that they’re both active for stereo playback, unlike the Moto X, where the topmost speaker is only used for phone calls.
Connectivity is robust, as with many Nexus phones. Here in the U.S. you get GSM at 850/900/1800/1900MHz, CDMA band classes 0/1/10, WCDMA bands 1/2/4/5/8, and LTE bands 2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/25/26/29/41. In other words, it should work on every carrier and all over the world. It’s also packing 802.11ac Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO antenna, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, and NFC.
Perhaps most impressive is the whopping big 3220mAh battery, which should give the phone lots of life. Google claims up to 10 hours of internet use with LTE, 24 hours of talk time, and 10 hours of video playback. Of note, it lists two figures for standby time: 330 hours with Ambient Display off, and 250 hours with Ambient Display on. Ambient Display is the nifty Motorola notification pulsing feature from the Moto X, and it appears to be included in the Nexus 6 as well. The phone will support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, just like the Moto X, so 15 minutes of charging that nearly-dead battery will get you 6 hours of use.
The phone will be available in 32GB and 64GB variants, and, interestingly, the spec sheet does not list a micro SD card slot.
The Nexus 6 will go on sale in late October. Logos on the Google site suggest the phone will be available at Google Play, T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular, and Best Buy. Oh, and for once, it will be carried by Verizon.
These specs put it on par with the very best Android phones on the market, but it looks like it will be priced up with them, too. The unlocked Nexus 6 is reported to cost about $650, but carriers will offer subsidized pricing, too.
The Nexus 9 tablet
The Nexus 9 is a device we knew was coming, but didn’t have as much solid pre-release information about. It’s an 8.9-inch tablet with a 4:3 aspect ratio and QXGA resolution. That’s 2048x1536, or 288 pixels per inch (not bad for a big tablet).
It is the first mass-market device to feature the 64-bit dual-core variant of Nvidia’s Tegra K1 processor. This thing should be crazy fast. I was mightily impressed by the GPU’s performance in my review of the Shield Tablet, and this version should have even better CPU performance.
The Nexus 9 features an 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, a 6700mAh battery, and will come in both Wi-Fi and LTE variants.
The design is interesting. At 7.95mm thick, it’s a little thicker than an iPad Air, but it’s not quite as tall or wide. It even weighs a little less than Apple’s most popular tablet, at 425 grams for the Wi-Fi version.
The biggest surprise is the optional official keyboard cover. Google really wants to make Android tablets into powerful workhorses for everyday computing use.
Pre-orders for the Nexus 9 tablet begin on October 17, and it will be sold in stores starting November 3. Official pricing has not been released, but the latest rumors suggest it will carry a premium tablet price: $400 for the entry-level 16GB, Wi-Fi model. Adding LTE or bumping the storage to 32GB will cost you more.