Google unveils Nexus 9 tablet, Nexus 6 phone and -- surprise -- an Android TV player

The products will serve as the showcase devices for the latest version of Android, Lollipop, until now nicknamed Android "L."

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
Expertise Mobile | 5G | Big Tech | Social Media Credentials
  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Richard Nieva
Roger Cheng
6 min read

Introducing the Nexus 9 and Nexus 6, powered by Android Lollipop. Google

Google's Nexus family keeps on getting bigger.

The Internet giant on Wednesday introduced the Nexus 9 , a tablet with an 8.9-inch display manufactured by Taiwanese hardware maker HTC, the Nexus 6 , a smartphone with a 6-inch display made by Motorola Mobility, and the Nexus Player , a streaming media player by Asus and the first device running Android TV. As with past Nexus launches, the devices serve as a showcase for the latest version of Google's Android mobile operating system, dubbed Lollipop , but previously referred to as "L."

The Nexus 9 and Nexus Player will be available for preorder on October 17, and will hit stores on November 3. The 16GB version of the Nexus 9 will cost $399, the 32GB version will cost $479 and the 32GB version with LTE will cost $599. The Nexus Player and remote control will cost $99 with an optional controller for $40.

The Nexus 6 will be available for preorder on October 29 and available in November, sold unlocked or through carriers. Sprint, US Cellular, AT&T and T-Mobile will sell the Nexus 6 in the US. The 32GB version of the Nexus 6 will cost $649 unlocked, while the 64GB version will cost $699.

The phone marks Google's entrance into the "phablet" market, a large-screen device that serves almost as a hybrid phone and tablet. The Nexus 6 -- which was reportedly code-named "Shamu" after the famous killer whale -- is larger than Apple's 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, announced at a splashy press event last month, as well as the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which is launching on Friday. A listing for the Nexus 6 made a subtle appearance on AT&T's website Tuesday night, with a $50 on-contract price. AT&T declined to comment on pricing.

The Nexus line has been Google's attempt to create devices running the "pure" Android experience, in which the hardware manufacturer -- in this case Asus, HTC and Motorola -- is forbidden from making tweaks to the Android user interface, altering the software or preloading custom apps. Nexus products are seen as the closest thing to a "Google" product, and typically garner buzz among the Android fan community, helping past vendor partners such as LG gain credibility.

The Nexus announcements come ahead of an Apple press event scheduled for Thursday, at which the company is expected to unveil new iPads and Macs. For the Cupertino, Calif.-based electronics giant, which last month introduced new larger-screen iPhones and a smartwatch, iPad sales have been a sore spot. The iPad still leads the tablet world with more than 32 percent of the market, but its share has dwindled 40 percent last year. Samsung tablets, which run Android, have gained ground this year with 22 percent of the market, up from 17.5 percent, according to IDC.

The news also arrives as Google tries to take more control of Android, the most widely used operating system in the world for smartphones and tablets, with 80 percent market share, according to IDC. By comparison, Apple's iOS, which powers iPhones and iPads, has around 17 percent of the market.

Last month, Google launched its Android One initiative in India, an effort to bring high-quality affordable smartphones to emerging markets. For the project, Google essentially guides handset makers in which components to use for the phone, which cost around $100. Phones made under the Android One rubric will also run an unaltered version of Android.

The new version of Android illustrates Google's desire to unify Android in its many iterations. When the company introduced it at its I/O developer conference in June, Google showed off "material design," a push to control the visual aesthetics of Android and to make the user interface feel consistent across all mobile products, as well as on the Web.

"Lollipop is made for a world where moving throughout the day means interacting with a bunch of different screens--from phones and tablets to TVs," Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and apps for Google, said in a blog post Wednesday.

The new Android software also gives developers more control over how notifications are displayed on devices, and aims to increase battery efficiency through a project called Volta. Further more, Lollipop includes a battery saver feature that extends the life of a device by 90 minutes.

Lollipop also includes multiple user accounts, a guest user mode and the ability to use different security measures such as a PIN, password, pattern or by linking to a secure device like a watch.

New vendors get their Nexus shot

For HTC, the collaboration with Google is a bright spot as the company has pared down its device offerings and deals as revenue has slumped. The last time it worked with Google was on the original Nexus One in 2010.

Since then, HTC has largely stuck to its own smartphones and its Sense user interface. In March, the company unveiled its flagship HTC One M8, an aluminum-built phone that has received critical praise but has yet to capture mainstream audiences with their eyes on the newest iPhones and Samsung models. Last week, HTC introduced the Desire Eye smartphone, a more affordable option intended to cash in on the zeitgeist of "selfies," with a powerful front-facing camera for digital self-portraits.

It has been more than three years since HTC attempted to breach the tablet market with an Android-powered device. Its first tablet, the HTC Flyer, was sold at Best Buy and at Sprint as the HTC Evo View 4G, and was a flop at a time when the iPad was the only tablet that consumers were interested in.

Since then, Google has been able to make headway into the tablet market with its affordable Nexus 7, made by Asus. At $229, it offers a competitive tablet versus Apple's $299 iPad Mini. At $399, the Nexus 9 falls in between the iPad Mini and $499 iPad Air.

The Nexus 9 features brushed-metal sides, although it lacks the all-metal body of the HTC One M8.

For Motorola, the Nexus 6 is its first device under the program. It previously had two high-profile pure Android products in the original Motorola Droid, which the company worked on with Google and Verizon Wireless, and the Motorola Xoom, which was the first device sold with Android 3.0, also known as Honeycomb, a version of the software specifically designed for tablets.

But Motorola had been taken out of the running for Nexus devices after Google purchased the company in 2012, a move that increased tensions since it put Google in direct competition with its Android partners. But the opportunity opened up again after Google announced that it would sell Motorola to Chinese vendor Lenovo in a deal expected to close by the end of the year.

The Nexus 6 has a curved aluminum frame, dual front-facing speakers, a 13-megapixel camera and a Quad HD display. It also comes with a Turbo Charger, allowing the device to get six hours of use with only a 15-minute charge.

Asus, meanwhile, has had success with Google through the Nexus 7. Google touts the Nexus Player as the first device running Android TV, software designed to power set-top boxes, and a "first-of-its-kind" Android gaming device. Taking the idea of moving from one device to another, Google touts the ability to start playing a game on your TV through the Nexus Player and then continue on an Android phone. The Nexus Player is also Google Cast Ready, allowing any Chromebook, Android or iOS device to send entertainment to the device.

Google also said Lollipop will come to the Nexus 5 smartphone, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets and Google Play edition devices in the coming weeks.