At the forefront of Google’s big reveal next week are two new smartphones in the company’s flagship Nexus line as well as the commercial release of the next version of Android: Android 6.0, or Marshmallow.
The inevitable leaks in the days ahead have uncovered a lot. But a curious thing came to light during the parade of PR pics and spec sheets seeping out from behind the curtain: the presence of another curtain.
It’s more of a mask, actually. And it’s on the rear of the larger Nexus phone. Stretching beyond the traditional flash and camera is a strip of what appears to be dark glass running across the entire width. It looks sort of like the tinted visors some football players put in their facemasks. With so much now uncovered about the new phones, what’s lurking behind the smoky strip remains an unknown that has some Android watchers scratching their heads.
I suspect that, as with football visors, we’ll learn that something akin to a pair of eyes is peering out from behind the smoky strip, helping our smartphones gauge our surroundings. That’s a capability many Android developers are working to incorporate into all sorts of cool new apps. Like measuring tools that can, for example, pinpoint exactly where to drive in the stakes for a game of horseshoes. And tracking apps that can help you retrace your steps to keep from getting lost on a hike.
I’ll talk more about that. But first, here’s what we know so far. Google will introduce two Nexus phones on September 29, the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P. Both phone are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.
The 5X is made by LG. It reportedly has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, a 5.2-inch, full HD (1080p) display, rear fingerprint reader, 13MP camera and the new USB Type C connector. The new connector will make charging and data sharing much simpler because you can turn the cable upside down – and even use the other end – and it will still plug in and work.
The 6P is made by Huawei. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, a 5.7-inch, quad HD (1440p) display, rear fingerprint reader, a USB Type C connector and up to 128GB internal storage. Presumably the camera is at least as good as the one in its little brother.
And potentially a lot more capable. According to Google, thousands of developers are using an Android development kit called Project Tango to develop apps that give smartphones and tablets the ability to understand your environment, like where the walls, objects and people are. It’s a technology that game developers, e-tailers, manufacturers and others are anxious to incorporate into a wide swath of apps.
At Google’s developer conference in May, the search giant and Qualcomm unveiled the second-generation Project Tango development platform, which is a smartphone built around the Snapdragon 810, the same processor inside the Nexus 6P. In addition to a traditional camera, Qualcomm’s developer phone also has a depth camera and a motion-tracking camera integrated onto the back.
I’m betting that the two additional cameras on the Project Tango platform are exactly what’s hiding behind the smoky strip on the rear of the Nexus 6P. One thing’s for sure, we’ll soon see.
And if I’m right, so will the new smartphone.
Mike Feibus is principal analyst at TechKnowledge Strategies, a Scottsdale, Ariz., market strategy and analysis firm focusing on mobile ecosystems and client technologies. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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