Google Nexus AMA Compilation

Google Nexus AMA Compilation

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Four members of Google’s team behind this year’s Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P took to Reddit to answer questions that fans brought to them. You can read the full AMA (Ask Me Anything) and responses here, but if you do not wish to wade through the 3,899 comments (as of writing this), here is a summary of the questions that the team answered:

Hey everyone, this is Hiroshi Lockheimer here with David Burke, Krishna Kumar & Sandeep Waraich from the team that built Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P (proof!): https://twitter.com/googlenexus/status/649278510520008704[1]

We’re here live from the Googleplex to answer questions about the new devices, how they were built, the Nexus program, and/or anything else you might be curious about. We’ll be answering your questions from 11 a.m. to noon PT (1800-1900 UTC) so…Ask Us Anything!

A bit more about us (we’ll initial our responses):

  • Hiroshi Lockheimer, Theoretically in charge of Android and stuff. When I’m not at work I’m definitely not sky diving.
  • Dave Burke, Engineering lead, graphic T enthusiast
  • Krishna Kumar, Product Manager for Nexus 5X. I love to Ski and drink – usually at the same time!
  • Sandeep Waraich, Product Manager for Nexus 6P. Have owned every major phone launched in the last 3 years.

EDIT: We’ve gotta get back to work, but thank you ALL for all your great/insightful/knowledgable questions! See you next time Reddit 🙂 – HL/DB/KK/SW

 

What does the “X” and the “P” stand for?
HL> X for the core of the Nexus brand (plus it sounds cool!), P for premium.

Why use different manufacturers for the 5x vs the 6p?
HL> Always nice to mix things up! Work with different partners, exchange ideas, learn from each other. That sort of thing. That’s what’s cool about Android — so much choice.

What made the team decide to partner with Huawei and LG this year for the Nexus devices?
HL> 5X: We wanted to bring the LG-Google band back together. So many N5 fans, we couldn’t possibly disappoint! 6P: Always nice to work with new players — we have a history of working with a bunch of folks: HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Asus and now Huawei!

Do you guys actually devise the physical design and specs in-house at Google and then ask OEM partners to make it happen, or do LG & Huawei have input in the design process?
KK/SW: Each Nexus product is a collaboration between Google and the OEM – from conception to specs to design to hardware and software development – drawing the best of Google’s and the OEM’s technologies. It essentially starts from clean slate with a vision for what we aspire to bring to you.

How do you feel about all the leaks ?
They’re a bummer. It’s like unwrapping a present…sometimes it’s best to keep a surprise a surprise.

Does the Nexus 5X have USB 3.1?
Nope! Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P supports USB 2.0

Does the 6p have aptx support?
DB> No but aptx support for Android in general is something we’re thinking about.

Will these phones support full hardware based encryption? If yes, will these be ported to the Nexus 6?
DB> Encryption is software accelerated. Specifically the ARMv8 as part of 64-bit support has a number of instructions that provides better performance than the AES hardware options on the SoC.

Is there digital/software stabilization for video at 1080p on either the Nexus 6P or 5X??
DB> 6P has EIS.

Is the internal storage on the 6P UFS 2.0?
DB: Both 6P and 5X use eMMC 5.0

Is the rear camera module found in Nexus 5X and 6P exactly the same? Will users get the exact same image quality when shooting from both phones?
DB> Yea, same sensor (IMX377) and F/2.0 optics. But 6P has more CPU/GPU horsepower so has a few additional features like 240fps slomo (vs 120fps on 5X), Smartburst, and EIS.

Alternatively,

Is the rear facing camera on the 6P and 5X identical?
KK: Yes. Both devices have the same camera – a 12.3MP camera, with a large 1.55um pixels, which works great in all conditions – especially low light. And both have LDAF for fast auto-focus.

about no OIS. Or is there some substitute in the 5X/6P for it?
DB > We’ve done a bunch of things to provide image stabilization:
1. The Nexus 6P/5X has a large 1.55um pixel camera and the amount of motion blur due to hand-shake is lower , when you have large pixels.
2. We have a feature we call “lucky shot” internally. When you take a picture, behind the scenes, we select the best of 3 bursts of images.
3. When you use video, we have optic-flow-based image stabilization.
4. When you use SmartBurst, we select the best image from the burst (for example a shot with eyes open).

DxOMark in its 6P camera review saw a weakness in video stabilization (probably because of the lack of OIS). Do you guys plan to enhance the video stabilization tweaking the algorithm?
DB> Yup 🙂

Do either devices have ir blasters?
DB> What year is this? 🙂 No but we have ““la-ser-s”” (for quick autofocus)
IR blasters are amazing. Don’t knock it until you try it.
DB> Logitech Harmony is a pretty awesome modern solution for living room IMHO. Allows you to control multiple devices and also has a solid Android app. They even support Bluetooth controllers, e.g. Nexus Player now.

Was it a conscious decision to leave out Qi wireless charging, or was it a cost or design necessity?
Thanks for doing the AMA! I’ve been a fan ever since I got my Nexus One years ago 🙂

HL> Thanks for being a Nexus fan! We added Qi wireless charging starting with N4 because plugging in USB micro B was such a hassle! (Which way is up!?) With this year’s Nexii, we support USB Type-C which has a reversible connector so there’s no more guessing. AND it charges incredibly swiftly: 1% to 100% in 97 mins on the 6P for example (the first ~45 mins of charging is especially fast). Meanwhile, wireless charging adds z (thickness). So, ease of plugging in + fast charging + optimizing for thinness made us double down on Type-C instead of wireless!

Will either the Nexus 5x or 6p support HDMI via the USB-C connector?
DB> Nope. But Cast mirroring to ChromeCast or Android TV has got really good. And Chromecasts are only $35. And we have new ones announced yesterday.

What was the rationale behind equipping the 5X with only 2GB ram? Whilst phones that have a similar price have 3GB.
KK: We like to think we’re striking a strong balance between premium features/experiences and affordability.
Was there any thought into giving a premium experience to a physically smaller phone? I’d pay the 6P price for the 5X if it had the same feature set. A lot of us in /r/android[1] are getting frustrated with the trend in only phablets having premium features.
From Nexus Imprint to the best camera we’ve ever put in these phones, we’ve worked hard to include some of the best hardware we’ve ever introduced in both the 6P and 5X.

Why is 16gb still the base model for the Nexus 5x in 2015?
KK: The idea here was to strike a balance between premium features/experiences and affordability.
EDIT: HL> It’s a conspiracy! MOVE TO THE CLOUD!

Any word on what panel is used for the screen in the Nexus 6P?
SW: It has a Samsung WQHD AMOLED panel. We have spent a lot of time tuning the white-point and color gamut for these panels – hope you will enjoy the accuracy of the display.
Follow up question: What gen is this panel?
Yep, confirmed: Nexus 6P has the latest generation panels from Samsung. One of things we deeply care for is the quality and accuracy of the display through which all of us connect with the stuff we care about. We created a very tight spec (white-point temperature, delta-E variance, color-space accuracy, etc) for the 6P WQHD AMOLED panel, so it was important that we use the most cutting edge panel technology available.

How did you feel about the false leaks that portrayed the 6P’s camera bump as much larger than it really is?
SW: The “bump”? We call it a visor internally 🙂 Nice, respectful name, eh. Jokes aside, the blurry-cam leaks (which always are unfortunate) misrepresented the device as most such leaks do. The visor looked distorted, which was sad given how much effort was put into designing it well. The design was driven by major engineering challenges (putting in a great camera with big sensor for amazing low-light performance, LDAF, flash, antennas, nfc coils, wifi 2×2 mimo antennas) and still keeping the form nice looking, and optimizing for thin/light/comfortable feel in hand. You’ll see the high-res images on our sites and the product videos on YT and also great hands-on videos all suggesting the contrary to how things came across when they got leaked. Engadget captured it well – we had a good discussion with them on this topic yesterday.

What was the hardest part during the design process of the 6P? What things did you have to compromise on? What things could not be compromised? For the record, I just preordered mine with Google Fi this morning, I’m already sold.
SW: kind of same as answered for PM_ME_CUTE_PUPPYS’ question re camera visor. But also adding that stuff that we really care about, which we know is lot of stuff that you really care about, is what makes this really challenging and exciting. In no real order these are — Great design (ergonomic, considered, and comfortable), premium materials, high build quality and polish, excellent all-around camera, solid/reliable all-day battery, accurate displays, convenient charging, intuitive access/auth, reliable antennas, great media experience. So designing around all these aspects – we had big camera sensor this year (along with with flash and LDAF) for you guys to capture amazing life moments, wanted to bring you all-metal premium, compact, light and comfortable design, wanted to provide ergonomic authentication experience, and didn’t want to compromise on this essentials such as antenna reliability and NFC experience, etc. And BTW, the challenge is exponential doing this across 100s of components and vendors at scale, to bring you lots and lots of these devices when you want to buy them.
Someone recently commented that building high-end smartphones is as complex and difficult as making commercial airplanes. Ha, that’s a compliment.

What made you choose to have a camera bump rather than flatten out the back of the phone and have more battery or Qi
KK: We wanted the design of the phone to be approachable, easy to hold and easy to use. Overall thickness and feel in hand were important factors in our design decisions. With this year’s Nexii, we support USB Type-C which has a reversible connector and it charges incredibly swiftly: 10 minutes of charging gives you up to 4 hrs of battery life on the Nexus 5X and up to 7 hrs on the Nexus 6P. Therefore, we doubled down on USB C rather than wireless charging. Moreover, with Android M features such as Doze, our screen-off battery life has been vastly improved.

Can you tell us what led to the decision to include the Android Sensor Hub and detail the benefits it’ll give the phones
DB> Android Sensor Hub allows us to do sensor processing in a much more power efficient, always on mode. For example, we use it for sensor fusion (Kalman Filtering to combine accel, gyro, mag). Also activity recognition (walking, running, biking, driving). The pickup gesture is also detected by the Android Sensor Hub to trigger Ambient Display. And we’re using it to detect orientation change and trigger rotation of the display. Android Sensor Hub runs on a Cortex M3 which enables us to run at micro-amps current drain.

Where is the NFC antenna located in the 5X and 6P? I’m asking for ease of use for Android Pay and Nexus Imprint. Hopefully the NFC antenna is at the top. Thanks!
SW/KK: On 6P the NFC coil sits just above the Nexus Imprint fps is exposed behind the camera coverglass (which is GG4 BTW). On Nexus 5X, the coil is wrapped around the back camera. And we have tested it rigorously for payments experience and it works great! And for peer-to-peer and reader mode too BTW.

Given the fingerprint scanner is on the back of the device is there a workaround to unlock it while it is sitting on a desk without having to pickup the phone?
DB> You can nudge the phone to turn on Ambient Display and then enter pin/pattern. Or you can use SmartLock, e.g. for phone to stay unlocked when paired with an Android Wear watch.

Hi. What kind of security goes into keeping our finger prints safe when using imprint? Are the prints encrypted and stored on the device?
DB> Fingerprint features are securely encrypted on the device, and processed in the secure Trustzone protected area of memory. The Android 6.0 fingerprint APIs do not provide any access to the fingerprint material to apps. Fingerprint features never leave the device and are not shared with Google (so for example if you setup a new phone, you need to re-enroll your fingers). If your phone is ever lost or stolen you can easily find, lock, and erase your phone using Android Device Manager.

What’s going on with band 12 support and tmobile? And are there any plans for carriers to sell these as well or will it be exclusive to the google store?
We’re hard at work with T-Mo to get Band 12 on Nexus devices by ship date. In the US, you can buy here ( https://store.google.com/ ). Outside of the US, we’ll sell from a variety of channels, including our store.

Why is the Nexus 5X so expensive in Germany? It’s 480€ compared to 380 USD.
HL> We hear you loud and clear. Pricing is an incredibly complicated thing. (Maybe too long to detail here but factors include tariffs, different distribution channels, cost structures, and exchange rates all of which vary country by country.) We want these phones to reach as many people as possible, so we’re bummed that we’ve disappointed you.

Alternatively,

Do you know the reason for the price difference between the US and Europe? I’ve been rocking a Nexus 4 for three years. I was planning to buy the N5X, but at that price point (480€), I can’t afford it. Even with taxes and the weaker Euro, the phone is way more expensive that past nexuses.
HL> We hear you loud and clear. Pricing is an incredibly complicated thing. (Maybe too long to detail here but factors include tariffs, different distribution channels, cost structures, and exchange rates all of which vary country by country.) We want these phones to reach as many people as possible, so we’re bummed that we’ve disappointed you.

Which of the two of phones will you be using as your daily driver (if any) and why?
DB> I carry 6P in my left pocket and 5X in my right pocket. Seriously. For the last 5 weeks :). I’ll probably graduate to just 6P because I like phablets.
KK> I like both devices. But I will probably go with the 5X as its 5.2” screen is just the right size for me and it has one of the best size/weight , coming in at just 136gm.

What is your favorite new feature about the phone that once I start using I won’t understand how I lived my life without it before?
SW: Nexus Imprint. It is fast (it really is!) and highly accurate. You won’t even see the lockscreen anymore. And the location of the sensor is such that you will get right in your homescreen by the time phone is in front of you. Check out some hands-on videos around this.
KK: The camera on these devices is great – the picture quality is awesome – especially for low light pictures. Sloooo-mo on these devices is a lot of fun.
HL: USB Type-C!
DB: I think the “premiumness” of both phones is my fav feature. Particularly loving the all-metal aluminium – I mean alum-in-um – and the diamond cut edges of the 6P 🙂

Does the new Chromecast have improved wifi connectivity? I love the one I have now but I am constantly having connection issues with it.
DB> Yup – that’s probably its best new feature (has 3 antennas).

With the launch of the Pixel C, Google is entering the tablet market with a device that isn’t co-branded. Can we expect the same to happen for phones?
HL> I can’t even figure out what I’m doing this weekend, can’t think that far ahead. 🙂 We’re really excited about the new Pixel and can’t wait to see what developers create for it and the Android ecosystem responds to it. And we’re super excited to have worked with LG and Huawei on the 5X and 6P, and other partners in the past starting with HTC with the N1 — that’s the Nexus way!

How is the food were you work and what is your favorite part of working there? Thanks!
We take our Android release names from our favorite snacks, so you can tell we may not be eating the most balanced diets.

Who wins the best shirt award on the Android team? Matias Duarte with his colorful dress shirts or Dave Burke with his graphic Ts?
DB> With a shirt like this, is there any competition? https://twitter.com/lockheimer/status/648935061459353600 Come on!

To conclude, the AMA was a fun affair that gave us a chance to know the reasons on decisions that the team had to take. While we may not agree with everything, the fact remains that the new Nexus are THE best development-oriented smartphones right now. If you wish to receive timely updates as well as security patches directly from Google for the next two years at least, you can safely pick this generation of Nexus.