Piecing Evidence Together: The Nexus Line, HTC M1 & S1, and an Elusive Tablet
We're building something here, detective... All the pieces matter.
Google I/O 2016 is less than a month away, which means we’ve entered the final bout of new Nexus rumor hype. Today, famed device leaker @evleaks threw the Android enthusiast world into a tailspin with his latest tweet:
HTC is building a pair of Android N devices for Google internally dubbed M1 and S1 #nexus
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) April 27, 2016
Now, Mr. Blass has a penchant for leaking accurate information, so I was already on board with the idea of the HTC Nexus existing. However, these tweets do not tell us much information if at all about the actual devices themselves. Plus, as much as we believe that @evleaks has a solid source, it’s always good to find corroborating evidence to back up his claims. After all, the only thing we have to go on is the reputation of Mr. Blass, right? That’s why we took a look at the evidence, both circumstantial and direct, in order to paint a picture for what Google is cooking up to reveal next month.
How do we know it’s HTC?
We don’t know, for sure. There are only a string of rumors out there, but when many rumors point to the same thing, you start to suspect it might just be true. First of all, HTC made both the
first generation Nexus 7 (correction: the Nexus One) as well as the Nexus 9, so of course it was always a possibility for HTC to again partner with Google. However, the first one to jump on the 2016 HTC Nexus bandwagon was another leaker by the name of @LlabTooFer:
Allegedly related to HTC Nexus devices codenames are:
— LlabTooFeR (@LlabTooFeR) January 19, 2016
This first rumor about the existence of the HTC Nexus devices isn’t very strong on its own. In addition, you might think that the discrepancy in codenames listed here and what @evleaks just posted shows that these earlier rumors to be inaccurate. It’s possible, but keep in mind that over 4 months have passed and it’s possible that the internal codenames have changed. There’s not any evidence pointing to this being the case, but that’s why we’re going to use other pieces of evidence to build our claim.
Like, for instance, the fact that LG is unequivocally out of the Nexus game. LG states the reason being that the company needs to focus on its own brand. This makes sense, considering LG’s momentum coming into 2016 with a slight market share increase. Although, we can’t really say it’s worked out too well for LG given the less than stellar reception to their LG G5 so far, but I digress. We might be reading too much into it, but it’s possible that LG moving away from the Nexus series was also in part due to the fact that Google was beginning to express interest in exerting more direct control over the brand.
It’s hard to imagine why a company would want to bend over backwards to fulfill the whims of their Google overlords, unless, perhaps the company is desperate for cash. Indeed, HTC has not had a very stellar performance as of late. While this does somewhat lend credence to the idea that HTC would partner with Google to garner sales where their own products are failing to do so, keep in mind that Google itself doesn’t see the Nexus brand as a huge moneymaker, so why would HTC? One possible reason is that even though Google doesn’t intend for the Nexus devices to be top sellers in the market, that doesn’t mean they can’t be.
Next, we have a rather admittedly-spotty source in the form of a Chinese leak claiming that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, signed a three-year contract with HTC to partner for the next Nexus devices. That same source claims that the devices will be a pair of 5.0″ and 5.5″ devices, which lines up with the “T50” and “T55” codenames earlier if we are to believe that those names indeed refer to the screen sizes of the devices.
Finally, of course, we return to the original source mentioned in this post, namely Mr. Blass’s own tweet. This is the final piece of evidence we believe points to the fact that HTC will be in line to produce the next Nexus device(s). AndroidCentral makes a pretty good argument that this partnership makes perfect sense given HTC’s string of recent partnerships in other areas. All of the coins spin and point in the same direction, the only thing left is to wait and see until Google I/O 2016.
How do we know it’s a Tablet?
Again, we don’t know for sure. But there are a lot of things that do point to this being the case. For starters, let’s look at the currently released Pixel C device. We’ve talked about this before, but the Pixel C was released at a time when Android simply wasn’t a suitable operating system for tablets. We know, we know, this has been a problem for for ages. However, Google themselves have admitted the failures of the Pixel C tablet and has promised that Android N would be coming with better tablet support.
Speaking of Android N, remember all the multi-tasking improvements they’ve made? Multi-window support? Enhanced stylus support? Many of Android N’s most important software improvements are pretty geared towards tablets rather than smartphones. So it makes sense for Google to push for a new tablet device to showcase their recent tablet enhancements. But that’s not it, it not only makes sense for us to think Google is gearing for better tablet support, they’re practically begging developers to work on new tablet apps before Android N goes live.
Furthermore, consider the fact that Google just today pulled the plug on the Nexus 9. You can no longer find the Nexus 9 tablet on the Google Play Store no matter how hard you look. This is hardly an unusual occurrence, but it suggests that it may be time for a new tablet refresh. It wouldn’t make sense for Google to pull the Pixel C tablet, since it’s still relatively new hardware. But the Nexus 9 being pulled makes perfect sense.
Two Nexus Phones, or a Nexus and a Pixel?
Looking back at the tweet that started all the craze today, there’s nothing in it that actually suggests that the two leaked devices are Nexus phones. All we know is that they are two Android N devices dubbed M1 and S1. A new Pixel could just as readily be one of the devices that was leaked here. Or it could not be, if the very early leaks by @LlabTooFer and the Chinese site MyDrivers are to be believed. One interesting thing to note is that Google has no interest in making a Pixel phone, as they already have the Nexus lineup to cover that. In addition, the Pixel line-up is primarily designed by Google, while the Nexus line-up is always created in collaboration with a partner. Obvious, I know, but it’s important to consider when figuring out what the new device will be.
So what does this mean for us? It means that the two new devices could be two new Nexus phones, or a new Nexus phone and a Nexus tablet, or a new Nexus phone and a Pixel tablet. I’m leaning towards the middle option, here, given the evidence we’ve seen thus far. At the very least, we’re pretty sure that at least one of these devices is a new tablet, but we know next to nothing about the phone.
Finally, some additional tidbits about these rumored devices: the codenames. M1 and S1 don’t tell us much about the devices, but given Google’s penchant for naming their Nexus devices after aquatic animals, it’s possible that the codenames for these devices will also follow a similar pattern. AndroidPolice found some evidence from a Qualcomm senior engineer making reference to a device called ‘Marlin’ in the AOSP Gerrit just about a month ago. Furthermore, as 9to5Google points out, on April 8th a strange device bearing the name of ‘Nexus 6P‘ showed up in a Geekbench benchmark. Strange how, you might ask? Well, the device scores far higher than other Nexus 6P devices, and in fact scores about on par with devices bearing the Snapdragon 820 SoC. The device also has 4GBs of RAM and is already running Android N, too. But the strongest piece of evidence from this benchmark is the fact that the motherboard shows the name ‘Marlin’ in the bench, which is the same codename referenced by the Qualcomm engineer.
As for ‘S1’, we have no idea what this one could be, as we haven’t seen any actual reference to a codename that starts with S in any of the usual places. Your guess is as good as mine, though, again it’s probably going to be named after some kind of aquatic animal.
And there you have it. That’s all the evidence we’ve seen so far. We think it’s highly likely that HTC is involved in making the next Nexus devices, and we also think it’s very likely one of those devices will be a tablet. The only way to be sure is to wait and see. I’m hyped, are you? Let us know your thoughts below!