Since 2010 Google has been pumping out Nexus phones every year in partnership with various manufacturers, but 2016 looks set to shake things up. This year we're expecting the very first Pixel phone...
What is the Pixel phone?
Good question! Before now, Google has released a Nexus phone every year. The Nexus range has long been the Big G’s blueprint for Android devices, often running the latest software, with decent hardware, at a reasonable price.
But 2016’s release looks different - enter the Pixel.
While it will no doubt come running the latest software, the Pixel is expected to be a more premium handset with top specs and a slick design. It should be the ultimate Android smartphone, without price getting in the way.
We’re expecting two phones, the Pixel and Pixel XL.
Google will unveil both Pixel phones on October 4th.
How do we know this? Earlier today the company Tweeted a teaser video, saying “October is coming” with the date “4 October” in the video and an outline of the handset.
You’ll be able to livestream the event on YouTube or follow the action here on T3.
The entry-level Pixel is expected to start at $649 (around £500).
That’s quite expensive, especially considering Google’s Nexus phones have always been budget devices. This suggests it isn’t a direct Nexus replacement, instead it’s Google’s entry into the premium segment.
Who’s making the Pixel?
The smart money is on HTC, the Taiwanese company that was responsible for the very first Nexus One in 2010 (as well as the Nexus 9 tablet more recently). HTC has two Google phones in development, codenamed Marlin and Sailfish, and benchmarks from these devices have already been spotted on the web.
That said, a throwaway remark from an executive at Huawei has led some to believe that the maker of last year's Nexus 6P is back for more in 2016.
Whether this means HTC and Huawei are splitting the duties, or HTC is releasing two new Pixel phones and Huawei is just bringing out an updated version of the Nexus with better specs, remains to be seen.
It seems Google will be playing a much greater role in hardware design than previous smartphones. HTC may be more of a contractor than a partner - this is be seen in the madebygoogle hashtag the company is using.
Thanks to numerous leaks, we’re already pretty sure what the Pixel will look like.
Here’s a screenshot from a recent Nest Security Camera advert:
That’s the Google Pixel.
It looks exactly how you’d expect - a pretty standard smartphone. A rectangle with rounded corners and a screen on the front.
The phone’s differentiating feature is the gloss panel on the rear. This houses a circular fingerprint sensor. It’s an odd design choice, but we’re sure all will become clear on the 4th.
The standard Pixel will feature 5-inch screen, the Pixel XL will have a 5.5-inch screen.
Compatibility with Google's new Daydream VR platform is a given, so both 2016 Pixel devices should be able to deal with the demands of running the latest generation of virtual reality apps.
Let’s talk cold, hard specs.
The Pixel XL is expected to be the more powerful handset, possibly equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor. That offers a 10-percent performance increase over the 820.
The 5.5-inch screen is believed be an AMOLED panel with a resolution of 2560x1440.
Other specs include 4GB of RAM, 32GB or 128GB of storage, a 12-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a 3,450mAh battery.
The smaller Pixel is believed to have a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1920x1080. It’ll also have slightly slower Snapdragon 820, with 4GB RAM. 32GB of storage, and a 2,770mAh battery.
All the usual features, like fingerprint scanners are present and correct in the leaks, plus perhaps a surprise or two - waterproofing? Iris scanning? Wireless charging?
We've already heard lots about Google's software plans this year and you can expect to see all of this goodness in the Pixel and Pixel XL. Apps in separate windows, a smarter version of Google Now, better graphics, improvements to the notification system and seamless updates running in the background are all on the way.
- Read all about Android Nougat
Nexus phones are usually the first phones to debut the newest version of Android, but this year that privilege went to the LG V20.
So where does that leave the Pixel phones? The could bring a new version of Nougat, 7.1 for example.
It could also look different to stock Android, thanks to a recent leak we already know what it’ll look like, as an API called the ‘Pixel Launcher’ was accidently released early. You can download it now (unofficially).