Thoughts on Google Press Event 2015

Dull presentation, cool stuff.

Just like Apple events, I managed to endure and immerse myself in watching the entire (dull) event on YouTube’s Live Channel. Here is my quick summary and the highlights that excited me the most:

1. Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P (or Plus)

Let’s start with the fact that the LG Nexus 5X is going to be my next daily driver. It boasts a better camera with laser autofocus, a 64-bit Snapdragon 808 without any heating issues, front-facing speakers, and a 3.5mm audio jack at the bottom. I’m already sold on these features. Although I would have preferred an AMOLED display over LCD, the 5.2-inch 1080p screen is more than sufficient for me. My eyes can’t perceive anything beyond 300ppi anyway. With a 2700mAh battery, it shouldn’t be a problem to last all day. Let’s not forget the fingerprint sensor located at the back, known as Nexus Imprint, and the low-power Sensor Hub co-processor (similar to Apple’s M-series processor) that tracks user activity and adapts the system accordingly.

This is the phone Cyclops in X-Men would use in real life.

As for the Huawei Nexus 6P, I’m not a fan of the black bar at the back of the phone, but it is necessary due to the all-metal construction to allow radio waves for communication. In terms of specifications, it boasts a Snapdragon 810 v2.1 (still known for its heating issues), a 5.7-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, front-facing speakers, and a larger 3440mAh battery that could set a new standard for longer battery life among Nexus devices. The Nexus 6P shares the same optical sensor as the Nexus 5X, both lacking Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) found in its predecessor, the Nexus 6 and 5. From my experience, unless you frequently record videos, you won’t miss it. Google even took the opportunity to showcase how impressive their sensors are:

This won’t sit well with Apple fans, for sure.

An exclusive feature on the Nexus 6P is Smart Burst, which competes with Apple’s Live Photo. It captures multiple pictures with a single shutter press and combines them into a GIF. I’m not sure if you can set it as wallpaper yet, but we’ll get there eventually. Both Nexus models come with the future standard USB Type-C. We’ll surely transition to that slowly but surely.

Now let’s talk about the price. Last year, the Nexus 6 set a new shocking standard by being the most expensive Nexus phone, starting at $649 for the 32GB model. However, this year we’re returning to more consumer-friendly prices. The Nexus 5X starts at $379 for the 16GB model and $429 for the 32GB model. It will be available in three colors: black, white, and greenish blue. No gold option, but you can always find a way to customize it with dBrand skins. The Nexus 6P, being the premium version, starts at $499 for the 32GB model, $549 for the 64GB model, and $649 for the 128GB model. The available colors are silver, black, and white. No gold once again, unfortunately.

As I’ve mentioned countless times before, if you truly desire a pure Android experience, you should go for a Nexus device.

2. Android 6.0 Marshmallow

So what’s new? Let’s begin with the most noticeable changes for the majority of users.

Yes, the new animations are the mandatory wow-factor. Don’t forget about them when designing the user interface.

Google confirmed that Android 6.0 Marshmallow will start rolling out to Nexus devices next week. I’m eagerly waiting for the over-the-air update captured in a zip file. I’m not sure about Google Play Edition devices, but they shouldn’t lag far behind the Nexus lineup. As for other devices, you’ll need to check with your manufacturer. However, if you own a device from the midrange of 2014 or the flagship of 2013 and purchased it unlocked, chances are you’ll also receive the update.

Moving on, we have better App Permissions and Fingerprint support. Fingerprint support is now up to the manufacturers on how they implement it. With native support built directly into Android, this functionality allows for wider system integration, such as authenticating purchases in real life or within the Play Store. With improved App Permissions, you’ll be asked only once during app launch if it wants to access your data, like location or camera. Gone are the confusing App Permission Requirement reviews during installation. Don’t you think that’s a relief?

Of course, a new version of Android wouldn’t be complete without optimizing it for better battery life. The new feature in Android 6.0 Marshmallow called Doze promises to improve standby time up to twice as much as Lollipop. By using motion detectors, it smartly reduces background processes when the registered user hasn’t been actively using the device for a while. In simple words, it means that if you go to sleep with 90% battery left, you’ll wake up with around 88%. For the record, my Nexus 6 drains about 8% overnight and 4% in battery-saver mode.

I could list almost all the new features in Android 6.0, but to be honest, I don’t think most end-users will fully experience them due to customizations made by manufacturers. Features like Google Now on Tap, Visual Voicemail, and rotating home screens are only beneficial to those with nearly stock Android experiences, such as Motorola or OnePlus users. If you’d like to find out more, you can always search for it. I’m certain there are already dozens of articles out there.

3. Chromecast and Chromecast Audio

As you probably know, I’m a huge fan and user of Chromecast. I use it at home to cast content from YouTube, Plex, and Spotify Web via Chrome. When I see apps with the cast icon, I can’t help but get excited.

It’s like Beats without the “B logo.”

After two years on the market, with 20 million units sold, Chromecast finally receives a much-needed upgrade and makeover. The new generation supports both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands, enabling better quality and higher definition casting with faster performance compared to its predecessor. Unlike the first-generation Chromecast, which required a complimentary extender cable for installation and improved Wi-Fi reception, the new model incorporates these features directly into the device.

However, the most significant improvement is the ability to use Chromecast for gaming, with your phone acting as the controller. I’ve tried this once with my current Chromecast and Nexus 6, playing several games that were already available for Chromecast. While the experience wasn’t optimal due to severe lag, I understand that it’s primarily due to limitations of the current Chromecast device itself.

For those who aren’t interested in casting videos or playing games, there’s good news. Google has introduced a second product called Chromecast Audio. As the name suggests, it features a 3.5mm audio jack instead of HDMI. Simply plug it into any speaker, connect it to Wi-Fi, and you’re ready to go. It’s as straightforward as Apple Airport Express. Android audiophiles, rejoice!

Lastly, you have the option to choose from three colors: yellow, black, and red. Although this device will be hidden at the back of your TV, it will still make for a nice presentation, especially if you plan to gift it to someone. Both Chromecast and Chromecast Audio are priced at $35. I’m planning to replace my aging Chromecast with one of these, although I might save up a little more for the Nexus Player instead.

4. Google Pixel C

I have no idea why they decided to name this device the Pixel C instead of calling it the Nexus 10P or X. It’s the first product in the Pixel line that runs on Android instead of Chrome OS. I am genuinely confused. What about the Nexus 9? Fragmentation seems to have found its way into the Nexus and Pixel lineups.

No comment. I’m simply at a loss for words.

But once again, from what I can gather, this is Google’s official response to the iPad Pro. It wouldn’t make sense to compete with iOS using Chrome OS when Android is the key to success.

That’s all for now. Oh, and there’s one more thing - it would be great if Google provided a Press Kit, just like Apple does after their events.

Posted September 30, 2015