Google announces family of new Nexus devices

Hurricane Sandy might have forced Google to cancel its October 29th product announcement event in NYC, but that didn’t stop the search giant from announcing its next generation lineup of Nexus branded Android devices on its official blog.

Available in three flavours – small, medium and large, the new Nexus devices should be available for purchase on November 13th 2012.

Android 4.2: What's new?

All of the Nexus devices will launch with Android 4.2, which Google is describing as a new flavour of Jellybean (and not Key Lime Pie as previously reported). Android 4.2 will reportedly offer a number of refinements to the Android experience to make it smoother and more user friendly.

Most of these refinements are under-the-hood and are more or less invisible, such as automatically resizing widgets to make it easier to customise the home screens, or making more intelligent use of CPU resources to increase battery life.

Other refinements have been made to functionality. From offering more info cards for Google Now, allowing it to return more relevant information, to allowing support for multiple Google accounts to be used on a single Nexus device (currently you’re limited to one).

What’s perhaps more interesting is that Android 4.2 will apparently offer a new stock keyboard which will support gesture typing, in a similar way to SlideIT or Swype.

The most exciting development though is Google’s new Photo Sphere camera app which looks set to compete directly with iPhotos panorama mode. Supposedly this will enable Nexus devices to take 360 degree panoramic photos. You can get an idea of how this works from the short video below.

Click for the full list of new features in Android 4.2.

Nexus 4

The Nexus 4 is the latest Google’s branded smartphone. As with previous Nexus phones, the Nexus 4 continues Google’s tradition of working with 3rd party manufacturers to develop new hardware. This time it’s LG’s turn, following in the footsteps of Samsung who were behind the Galaxy Nexus.

Featuring a 4.7” 1280x768, 320ppi display (putting it just shy of the iPhone 5), the Nexus 4 is powered by a 1.5ghz quad core Snapdragon S4 processor, 2GB of RAM and offers internal storage options of either 8GB or 16GB (apparently there is no microSD slot). All of which puts the Nexus 4 squarely in the top tier of high-end smartphones. Interestingly, the Nexus 4 will also support wireless charging right out of the box.

What’s more, the Nexus 4 will sell for a frankly ridiculous bargain basement price of just £239 for the 8GB version and £279 for 16GB.

Nexus 7

We reviewed the Nexus 7 back in July and had a lot of good things to say about it, despite the drought of content on the UK Google Play store. As anticipated there are no real surprises here – the 8GB model of the Nexus 7 is to be retired, with only the 16gb model and two new 32gb versions on offer, including a ‘high-end’ 32gb model which will also support 3G connectivity.

Pricing-wise, this means a £40 price cut on the 16gb model, which will now sell for £159, the same price as the retired 8gb, with the 32gb models selling for £199 and £239 respectively.

Nexus 10

Developed by Samsung, this 10” tablet is Google’s attempt to compete directly with Apple’s iPad. With a (frankly ridiculous) display resolution of 2560 x 1600 and a pixel density of 300ppi, Google are promoting the Nexus 10 as the highest resolution tablet on the planet. We’re still left speculating about the tablet’s under the hood specs – but it will likely be powered by a high-end dual core processor (possibly the ARM Cortex A15) and 2gb of internal RAM.

Currently Google is only offering two Nexus 10 models, a 16gb version which will retail for £319 and a 32gb model which will sell for £389. Both models support WIFI connectivity only, there are currently no 3G/4G variants. That said, given Google are only now offering a 3G Nexus 7, it’s a safe assumption that we’ll see a 3G/4G model in the next few months.

The tablet will also feature a 5 megapixel rear camera and a 1.9 megapixel front-facing cameras.

We like the sound of the Nexus 10, but whether or not it can steal the iPad’s crown will depend greatly on whether Google can develop Android into a proper tablet platform. There are a distinct lack of tablet optimised apps on Android and without these - can the Nexus 10 be anything more than an oversized smartphone?

What we think

When Google rebranded the old Android Market to it's new Play Store, it's intention was clear: to compete with Apple and Amazon for the provision of digital content. With these new Android devices Google now has a stable hardware platform on which to deliver on that promise.

The new devices are certainly slick and we're looking forward to getting our hands on them, but how successful they will be for Google's strategy long-term is going to depend on whether Google can actually deliver the content it's customers want to buy. Lets not forget that four months after Google brought out the Nexus 7, UK customers still can't buy music, movies or magazines from the Google Play Store.

While there has been some movement on this recently (as of November 13th European customers will apparently be able to buy music from the Google Play Store), the general content experience on the UK Google Play Store falls far behind what Google Play customers in the US currently enjoy, and light years behind what Apple's iPad customers have enjoyed for the last two years. I don't want to moan Google - but if I'm going to buy a tablet from you at the same relative price as a customer in the US, if I can't buy the content I want I don't see why I should pay the same price for the device!

We're also a little sceptical about Android's viability as a tablet platform. While Android works perfectly well as a phone operating system, there still aren't many apps out there formatted specifically for a tablet medium. Sure, the home screens are great and it works well for social media and web browsing, but compared to some of the things Apple and doing in iOS, it's not even close.

And while I like the sound of a 10" Android tablet with a super HD display, will I be as enthused if the user experience is little different to that of an oversized smartphone?

Anyway, what do you think about Google's new Nexus line-up? Why not comment below and let us know!

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