Are we about to witness the future of Android OS? Of Google? Of the entire smartphone ecosystem?!
Google has just turned 18 today (right?), Android just had its 8th birthday, and the rumor mill is firing on all cylinders in the lead-up to the October 4 launch event where they'll announce their latest hardware and software products.
As it goes with all rumors, nothing is certain and everything is subject to change. However, there are a few big things we strongly suspect will be announced.
It's practically guaranteed that Google is launching two premium smartphones on the 4th of October. If you took the massive outdoor ads, the teaser site, the minimalist video spot, and the sculpture in Brooklyn and shook them all together in a figurative Magic 8 Ball, all signs would point to yes.
It's expected that the new devices will drop the Nexus moniker and will be branded as the Pixel and Pixel XL, despite being manufactured by HTC under the codenames Sailfish and Marlin, respectively.
As far as specs go, we aren't holding our breath for a revolution. Even if they're powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 instead of the Snapdragon 820 that Samsung, LG, et al. have used this year, the performance boost will only be around 10 percent. And while that's not likely to blow your mind, it's enough to put Google's debut handsets solidly ahead of the pack in the US—at least for a while.
Then again, a 10% bump over a chip that was designed as a gateway to the next generation of immersive experiences would mean that the Pixel and Pixel XL could be the first phones on the market that are truly "Daydream-ready"—a term that Google revealed (but didn't much elaborate on) to the world back in May. Which brings us to…
Like Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR, but quite unlike high-end VR headsets like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, Daydream won't require a fully loaded PC. Users will simply slot their "Daydream-ready" phones into a headset and the whole virtual experience is handled by the device.
By building the Daydream headset and limiting compatibility to devices certified as Daydream-ready, Google will be able to control every aspect of the mobile VR experience on Android. Additionally, Google has stated that only developers enrolled in their Daydream Access Program (DAP) will be allowed to publish apps for the new platform, at least until 2017.
All things considered, with Google's power behind it and a suite of awesome applications, Daydream could be the tipping point for mobile VR into the mainstream. That's a big deal for all of us.
Another rumor, surfaced by Android Police, and now corroborated by Droid Life, is that Google is planning to unveil a new Wi-Fi router. The new device, known for now only as Google Wi-Fi, is expected to go beyond last year's OnHub router—far beyond. It seems that users will be able to maximize the reach of their wireless networks by installing additional modules that will extend the reach of the base router, forming a "mesh network" around their home. And speaking of that…
Google Home is positioned to be a competitor to the Amazon Echo, bringing Google's voice assistant... home... to assist you. On October 4, Google will likely announce availability of the device as well as pricing, which is expected to undercut the Echo by around $50.
While Amazon's virtual assistant has proved a runaway success, the suggestions and recommendations game is decidedly Google's forte. It will be an interesting battle, to be sure. According to The Information (subscription), Google Home is essentially just "a dressed-up version of Chromecast." Of course, it's also true that a nice outfit can make all the difference.
Fancy clothes or no, the Chromecast is already a slam dunk product for Google. Not much to report here. Android Police claims that the "Ultra" stands for 4K, which is great for early adopters of the ultra HD display technology, but won't mean much for most of us. With a generous bump in resolution comes a significant bump in price. The Chromecast Ultra is expected to be available alongside the standard $35 Chromecast at a price of $69.
What the heck is Andromeda? Much like the spiral galaxy itself, speculations are swirling. So far, it's assumed that Android + Chrome = Andromeda, a hybrid operating system possibly intended to power a whole suite of devices. What started as a vague murmur that Google might tease Andromeda at the October 4 event reached a fever pitch on September 24 when Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior VP of Android, Google Play, and Chrome, tweeted:
We announced the 1st version of Android 8 years ago today. I have a feeling 8 years from now we'll be talking about Oct 4, 2016.
As The Wall Street Journal reported in October of 2015, Andromeda could be the culmination of years of work by Google engineers to merge the Android and Chrome OS into one. This would have obvious advantages over the current state of things. For one, Google would finally have a real contender in the PC market. This would give Android (or whatever it would be called) users a cohesive experience such as they've only leered at through the plate glass windows of Apple's walled garden.
Whether "Andromeda" will be a wholly new OS or simply an extension of either Android and Chrome, along with the dissipation of the other, remains to be seen. Honestly, we don't even know if this will come up at Google's event. Then again, yet another report from Android Police has presented specs for a fairly impressive sounding laptop codenamed "Bison," or "Pixel 3," purported to be the first device running the hybrid Android/Chrome OS. So it's possible that Andromeda really is on the horizon, and not instead light years away.
While Google is rebranding their Nexus phones Pixel, word is that they will be keeping the Nexus name for the upcoming rumored Android tablet. Though, it's entirely possible it will end up being a Pixel. We think it could go either way.
Names aside, this is great news for all of you forgotten about Nexus 7 users, since the tablet is suspected to sport a 7-inch display. Evan Blass said it will be made by Huawei—with twice as much RAM as the last Nexus 7. And 9to5Google thinks it might even be running Andromeda out of the box (at least, for developers).
Fishing for facts amid internet rumors is never easy, especially when faced with the furor surrounding announcements from companies like Google. All the information here is compiled based on our best judgement and absolutely subject to change. Still, it's fun to wonder, isn't it?
What do you think Google is scheming up on October 4 this year?