With August fast approaching and Google having just released the fifth and final Developer Preview for Android N, it feels like it’s getting closer to a launch of Android 7.0 Nougat, which also likely means announcements for this year’s Nexus devices as the pair usually go hand in hand. While nothing has been confirmed just yet, the rumor mill has shown no signs of slowing, and in fact there has been a pretty consistent crop of rumors coming in for months on the Nexus phones that are to be launched this year. The keyword is “phones” as the rumor has long been that Google will be releasing two devices again this year just as they did with the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P in 2015. The rumors have also long been circling the notion that HTC is to manufacture both devices. There are loads of rumors that have surfaced since the initial speculation that HTC would be the company behind the build, so let’s jump into what those rumors are.
While this was not the first rumor surrounding the 2016 Nexus lineup, it seems fitting to begin with the name since most people will refer to these devices by their names, as they should. Having said that, official names are still unknown, but as anyone who has followed the Nexus line over the years can tell you, Google likes to use the names of fish for the internal codenames of the Nexus devices. This year is no different, and the codenames this year are Marlin and Sailfish. Marlin being the top-tier model of the two, akin to the Nexus 6P, and Sailfish being more in line with the Nexus 5X, supposedly. Initially these were referred to as M1 and S1, but that has since switched up to Marlin and Sailfish after a reference to Marlin was discovered in the AOSP Gerrit code review tool. Marlin and Sailfish also somewhat match up with M1 and S1, and although there is no way of knowing what the “1” refers to the “M” and “S” likely refer to the beginning letters of the codenames we now know of.
While there is not much to say on this particular subject, perhaps the beginning of the Nexus rumors this year was that HTC would be the company to build both devices. The rumor popped up in the beginning of the year back in January, and this is also where the rumor began that there would be two phones again this year, although many had already suspected this would be the case given that was what Google did in 2015.
While there wasn’t much on the grapevine for a while after the initial rumor started, the codenames surfaced in April, and nearly two months later the alleged processor for Marlin was leaked via chromium. Based on the screenshot of the discovery, Marlin is to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, which at the time was still unannounced. A couple of weeks after the chromium leak, a partial list of specifications leaked for Sailfish, followed by a partial list of specifications leaked for Marlin about a week after that. Both phones are rumored to be running with 4GB of RAM, while the processors were expected at the time of the specs leaks to be different. Sailfish is expected to come with a 5-inch display with a Full HD resolution while Marlin will potentially carry a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of Quad-HD. USB Type-C is expected to make a return on this year’s devices, as are the front and rear cameras, which are rumored to be a 12MP setup for the rear and an 8MP set for the front. This is of course speculation and is based on the specs leak and partly on the cameras Google used in both the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P last year, and even if Google changes the cameras for the 2016 Nexus devices, they are likely to be the same in both new phones so as to offer the same camera experience no matter which model you go with.
This way consumers get a stellar camera experience with either phone, but can choose to go with Sailfish if they don’t mind (potentially) having slimmed down specs elsewhere if it means saving a little bit of money. Those who want to pay a little more can go with Marlin and get better hardware. At least, that’s the speculation, as no one outside of Google and the company (most likely HTC) making the phones knows what the official specs are going to be. Aside from the few specs mentioned above, it’s also largely expected that Sailfish will come with a smaller battery, around 2,770 mAh, while Marlin comes with a larger battery to support the larger display and more powerful processor, set at around 3,450 mAh, based on the leaked specs. In regards to storage, Sailfish is rumored to be coming with at least a 32GB option, while Marlin is rumored to have a 32GB and 128GB option, with no mention so far on a 64GB model.
A few days after the specifications for Marlin were rumored, a leak of the device benchmark showed up on Geekbench around the July 4th weekend, which listed not only 4GB of RAM, but a 1.59 GHz Qualcomm ARMv8 processor with four cores on board. About a week after the Geekbench leak, Qualcomm officially announced the Snapdragon 821 processor, confirming that there were going to be devices with this chip, which further fueled the rumors that HTC was going to be using this CPU for the upcoming Nexus.
That same day it was also rumored that both phones, Marlin and Sailfish, are likely to use the Snapdragon 821 instead of just the larger of the two - Marlin, which could mean that Google is going to have to do some optimization to the software on Sailfish to account for the smaller battery. Then again maybe the processor will be different on Sailfish or perhaps it will come with a larger battery, or it will stick with the battery capacity that was rumored and have a slightly shorter battery life. While this raises a little bit of confusion on what Google may do to keep the price down on the smaller of the two devices, if the Snapdragon 821 ends up in both devices, then both phones are likely to provide a fast and powerful experience. It's also worth considering that both devices are rumored to be powered by a quad-core processor, and the Snapdragon 821 is a quad-core processor. Qualcomm has also not announced any phones that will be carrying the chip just yet, and it just makes more sense for this year's Nexus phones to be powered by the improved Snapdragon 821 which is more or less an improved Snapdragon 820, and given the timing of the announcement, it fits somewhat in line with a Nexus announcement that's been rumored to come in August.
Next up is the design of the devices, or at least one device. Back in the beginning of July a render surfaced that is suggested to be the final design of the Sailfish and Marlin Nexus devices, and is what's to be expected once Google and HTC announce then launch the two Nexus devices later this year. Although it may not end up this way once it comes off the assembly line and is packaged up, the phone (which you can also see a render of up above this post) is completely free of an HTC branding, although you do see the Google "G" at the bottom, while the fingerprint sensor sits up towards the top like last year's devices along with the camera and flash modules in the top left corner. The antenna lines also make an appearance here as we have seen on quite a few HTC devices as of the last few years, somewhat supporting that this could be the final design if HTC is indeed the OEM behind the phones this year. Just a few days after the first render surfaced, more showed up which showcased the device render in multiple colors, and while the devices are bound to have more than one color, there is no way to know if they will be as bold and vibrant as Red.
Coming up to one of the most recent leaks, a video surfaced which envisioned the design of both phones based on previous leaks, complete with a view of the design in rendered 3D. The earlier leak which is shown up above as well as the one in the 3D rendered video below are suggested to be the design for both Marlin and Sailfish, so it's possible that both phones will look mostly the same save for a slight difference in screen size. What also isn't visible really at all from the leaked render images is that the device could end up having a slight curve to it as shown in the video of the renders, although this could just be the vision of the video's creator. The design in the video also appears to be metal, although the lack of metal and using a material similar to last year's Nexus 5X would make up for some of the cost that would inevitably come along with the use of a Snapdragon 821 CPU in Sailfish.
Since these are Nexus devices we're talking about, the software experience is not going to end up a pure Android experience and, will come running on Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box as the two devices to showcase the software for other devices. Android 7.0 is not expected to be a major step forward in design with large amounts of sweeping changes, but more of the smaller tweaks that optimize the software even further for an improved user experience and better performance. Of course, that doesn't mean that new features won't be present, as the Android Developer Preview has shown that there will be some changes to look forward to, such as Google Assistant, multi-window, and more.
Although there is still quite a bit we don't know about either device, such as price and availability, a good amount of the specs have been leaked and paint a good picture of what people can probably expect if they end up buying one of these new handsets. With both devices potentially coming powered by the Snapdragon 821 CPU, each device it's likely that the cost for both will have a less of a gap as the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. As far as availability goes, past rumors have speculated at an August announcement followed by a launch potentially the same day. As we approach next month there will no doubt be more leaks and rumors that surface which point to a better picture of what the devices will be like officially.