First came the HTC-built Nexus One in early 2010. Then it was Samsung's turn with the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus in the years that followed. And in recent days it's become pretty clear that Google’s 2012 Nexus partner is LG, with the upcoming fourth-generation Nexus phone being based on the Korean manufacturer’s Optimus G.
Photos have leaked showing a curved design with a glass back, and reported specs include a beastly 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 CPU, a 4.7-inch IPS display and, as ever, a "pure Google" vanilla Android experience. And there's been plenty of discussion and speculation over on the Android Central forums. But there are a lot of rumors circulating as to the exact nature of LG and Google's upcoming high-end smartphone, and it's not always easy to separate out the facts.
So just what do we know about the upcoming 2012 Nexus phone? We’ve collected all the most reliable leaked information into one handy report, which you can check out after the break.
Update, Oct. 15: This article has been updated with the latest information on the LG Nexus that's come to light in recent days.
The design: a steamrolled, glass-plated Galaxy Nexus
Sources tell Android Central that the many leaked images of the LG-E960 that have emerged are indeed of an upcoming LG-built Nexus smartphone. The images show a device very similar in appearance to last year’s Samsung Galaxy Nexus -- an all-glass front, curved design and textured back. There are several differences worth commenting on, however. The front face appears to be less curved than the Galaxy Nexus -- if anything, it’s tapered downwards towards the plastic trim like the Galaxy S3. And around the back, the “hyperskin” textured battery door has been replaced by a fixed back, as the phone’s battery isn’t removable, and there’s no microSD card slot either.
The back panel appears to be furnished with LG’s “crystal reflection process” texture, which is also used on the Optimus G. This results in a smooth, glass-like surface that has the appearance of texture behind it. Our own Phil Nickinson was mightily impressed with the back panel used on the Optimus G, saying it made the phone feel more substantial and less plasticky. The other side of that equation might be increased weight, as whatever LG’s making it out of (don’t call it glass) is likely to be somewhat heavier than a traditional plastic battery door.
Also on the back panel are your Google and LG logos, but no giant Nexus logo like on the Nexus 7. As we’re dealing with prototype hardware in these leaked images, we have to wonder whether that might change before release. There are, of course, cut-outs for the camera's LED flash and microphone, along with an LED flash.
The trim appears to be a Galaxy Nexus-like metallic grey deal, which we’ll presume to be plastic. A headphone jack can be seen up top in one of the leaked photos, along with a power button on the right edge. Presumably the volume rocker will be located around on the left. Along the bottom there’s a microUSB port, next to the microphone hole. Newer leaked images reveal an iPhone-style SIM card slot, and we have it on good authority that the device takes microSIM cards, rather than the newer nanoSIM standard. There appear to be no pogo pin connectors on the new Nexus, unlike its predecessor the Galaxy Nexus.
Overall, it looks like we’re dealing with a thin device with a lot more glass than previous Nexus models. The larger 4.7-inch screen and lack of any “hump” around the back should make the LG Nexus larger, but thinner than last year’s model.
The specs: killer hardware, with a few caveats
The most reliable list of purported specs comes from MoDaCo’s Paul O’Brien, who's been passed the following list from a "very reliable" source --
- Quad Core Snapdragon S4 processor
- 2GB RAM
- 1280x768 True-HD IPS screen
- On screen soft keys (of course)
- 8 Megapixel Camera
- No microSD slot
- 8GB and 16GB versions only (at least initially)
- Non-removable battery
- Wireless charging built in
This information matches the device we’ve seen in leaked photos, and information that’s shown up online in benchmark results. The inclusion of a quad-core Snapdragon S4 chip is a huge deal for this year’s Nexus, and should provide plenty of horsepower. Qualcomm’s quad-core “Krait” is considered to be the most powerful mobile chip out there, and we’ve been salivating over the chip since we first reported its existence early last year.
Two full gigabytes of RAM also places the new Nexus at the high-end of the Android smartphone scale. With more memory-intensive apps like Google Chrome coming pre-loaded, having 2GB of RAM is a smart move.
An 8MP camera isn’t surprising -- the Optimus G ships in 13MP and 8MP flavors, however we have to wonder about the quality of an 8MP LG shooter. We haven’t had the best experience with LG phone cameras over the past year. The Optimus 4X HD suffered from poor image quality and autofocus issues, so we hope the Nexus uses a different camera module. Nevertheless, it should be an improvement upon the fairly dismal 5MP shooter of the Galaxy Nexus.
The lack of a microSD card shouldn’t be surprising. Google doesn't like insecure removable storage. The reports of relatively meager helping of internal storage could present some cause for concern, though, if accurate. This could be a sign that Google wants to remain competitive on price when it ships the LG Nexus through the Play Store. But even with cloud storage options available, an 8GB starting point is going to be hard to swallow, as anyone with a Nexus 7 will tell you.
Some may also take issue with the reported non-removable battery, later confirmed by leaked images. However, that’s just the way things are moving in the smartphone world. For what it’s worth, the fact that the battery is fixed should allow a larger-capacity battery to be used.
Wireless charging is a significant development, if accurate. Hopefully compatible wireless charging pads will be available at launch. Anyone remember the eternal waiting for official Galaxy Nexus accessories?
The software: Android 4.2, Jelly Bean?
The software in the leaked photos shows Android 4.1.2 running on the LG Nexus, however we understand this is an old build, and we’re hearing that the device is currently being tested with Android 4.2.
There’s no word on exactly what’s new in this version, but we’d imagine it’d be a minor update to Jelly Bean rather than a major software revision. So don’t expect to see any sweeping changes to the Android 4.x design language. The “Jelly Bean” moniker might even continue into a second point release, as Eclair did for Android 2.0 and 2.1.
The name: Nexus 4 most likely
The device is almost certain to come to market as "Nexus 4". The name is backed up by a Carphone Warehouse inventory listing, a mention in a French newspaper and EXIF data from test photos taken by LG and Google employees.
Announcement and availability: Play Store and beyond
There’s speculation Andy Rubin may reveal more about the new LG Nexus at Dive Into Mobile conference in late October. That should give us our first indication of how the upcoming Nexus launch plans will proceed. French newspaper Le Figaro is even reporting that the device will become available globally on Oct. 29, the first day of the Dive Into Mobile conference. On a similar note, Google is alleged to be preparing to staff a dedicated Nexus call center to handle customer support for the new phone, a facility that's reportedly due to be fully staffed and trained by late October.
If accurate, those reports would point to a launch primarily via the Google Play Store in the U.S.
Price-wise, Google will want to remain competitive, just as it has been with the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 over the past year.
On-contract availability with U.S. carriers is considerably murkier, though. The current LG Nexus hardware that recently passed through the FCC -- the same one currently being tested by Googlers -- only supports AT&T and T-Mobile HSPA+ bands. Presumably there’ll also be support for Europe-friendly frequencies too, but LTE could present a significant problem due to its closed nature.
It wouldn’t be impossible to pack 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz LTE support into a variant of the device and support burgeoning LTE markets in Europe. However, if Google wants U.S. LTE on its Nexus, it’s going to have to work with the carriers. Given the shambolic Verizon Galaxy Nexus launch, we think Sprint might be a more likely launch partner this time around, though we’re speculating here.
However things proceed, it’s going to be an exciting couple of months. Keep watching Android Central for all the latest Nexus news as it emerges.