How we'd improve the Nexus Q

The Google Nexus Q is the coolest sphere sitting atop our entertainment center. OK, so it's the only sphere we've got. And despite how cool it looks, and its great build quality, it really doesn't do all that much, especially when you consider its $299 price tag.

Of course, that was before Google decided to shelve the Nexus Q, ceasing sales and giving away a free sphere to anyone who preordered. Now it sits in a state of limbo as Google works "on making it even better." Maybe it'll return. Maybe it won't. We're holding out hope.

So how would we improve the Nexus Q? We've got a few ideas.

First, though, a quick reminder of the three things the Nexus Q currently does/did out of the box:

  1. Plays Google Music. And it does so with a proper TV-designed app. Song titles and albums are smartly displayed, then move out of the way, replaced by on-screen effects. (The effects still feel a little outdated, though.)
  2. Plays Youtube videos. And it does so very well. Find a video on your phone or tablet, hit the Nexus Q button, and it magically flies onto your TV, leaving your phone free to do other things. No muss, no fuss.
  3. Plays Google Play Movies. Purchase a movie on your phone or tablet, watch it on the TV. Simple.

Yeah. That's it. But it looks damn good doing it. Here are a few features we hope to see added:

Display mirroring

This is one that HTC does well with the MediaLink HD (and others do with built-in protocols). Sometimes, it's useful to show what's going on on your display. Demos and the like. Or, even better, playing games like Beach Buggy Blitz on a 50-inch screen.

Toss in Google TV already, but just the good parts

Look, Google TV isn't all that popular, in the scheme of things. We get it. But it's not a bad principle. Never mind the cable stuff. That's old media, and we can imagine some of the headaches it causes. Here's what we want: Chrome. And easy access to services like Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu and the like. No pissing matches. Just make it work.

Photo slideshows/video playback

We're breaking this one out from Plain Jane display mirroring, because it's a rather important feature. It's done decently in Google TV, but it's not great.  We love to return from trips and show off pictures and videos on the big screen. There's no reason the Nexus Q couldn't handle this one, too.

Total volume control

That just sounds good, doesn't it? We're not sure about the feasibility of this one, but picture this: There's a large sphere sitting on your entertainment center, and the top half of it spins to control the volume level of music and video playback. That's all fine and dandy, but when you're watching TV or DVD or whatever, it's worthless. I long for the day when I can casually walk by and turn it to lower the volume on whatever kid shows my kids are blasting their ears with.

Google Gaming

It's attached to your big screen, has all sorts of wireless connection options, so why not hook a couple game controllers up to it and run with it? The Nexus Q has 16GB of internal storage, and a full size USB port means plenty of room for expansion. It probably won't run Crysis, but it should handle plenty of the fun multiplayer games we already have on the Android platform.

A true launcher and Google Play access

Of course to do any of these things we need a proper user interface, and some way to get content on the Q itself that doesn't involve terminals and voodoo. The standard Android phone or tablet interface isn't going to cut the mustard, but something close to the Google TV interface could. The folks in Mountain View are smart, we're sure they could figure something out to give us a way to access these ideas.

Will it happen? Will the Nexus Q fade away? Or will Google bring it back stronger than before? News at 11.

Phil Nickinson