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With Galaxy S3 rumors over, let the next Nexus rumor party begin

May 16, 2012

For more than half a year, we’ve had more than enough Galaxy S3 rumors. Some of them were pretty crazy, like the 1080p screen, while others were predictable (the quad core Exynos 4412 chip). Samsung delivered some of the more predictable ones, while  it failed to hit the target on others (Pentile screen), and also disappointed some people with the design and build quality. These have been some of the major flaws of all Galaxy S devices, and yet Sammy didn’t do much to address them.

So with that in mind, you should always be at least a bit skeptical about all rumors, especially the ones appearing months ahead of the supposed launch of a device. But as the Galaxy S3 launch proved,  it’s well possible that the following early information on the upcoming Nexus devices will be spot on.

The first clues

Some developers found  hints about a certain device that will have an Exynos 5 processor, a 5 MP camera, and a 1280×800 resolution. This is a very strange combination of specs, which is why it’s hard to tell if it refers to the Google tablet we kept hearing about (supposed to come out at Google I/O next month), or about a Nexus phone this fall.

The reason it’s strange is because Asus is supposed to make the tablet, and Samsung the smartphone (for the 3rd time in a row). So then, if it’s Samsung, then it makes sense for the Exynos 5 Dual processor to be in there. It’s actually something I’ve been hoping for, because I might be interested in buying the next Nexus phone, but only if it has a chip with a dual core Cortex A15 CPU. The fact that Exynos 5 Dual will contain the new Mali T-604 GPU is just an amazing bonus, considering the overclocked Mali 400 in Galaxy S3 is already the most powerful GPU in a phone right now.

Unlikely combination?

But here’s where it doesn’t make much sense. Why a 5 MP camera? Is Google really that short-sighted to let a 5 MP camera in their flagship phone, again? By fall, I’ll be expecting at least a 12 MP camera with better quality pictures, or, at the very least, an 8 MP one with some amazing new technology that takes much higher quality pictures. The 5 MP camera in the Galaxy Nexus was a mistake the last time around, and a lot of people called Google out on that one.

In a way, I understand why they did it. They really wanted to show off that “zero shutter lag” feature – which is great, and I’ve been hoping for a while that phones get much faster cameras. But the quality of the pictures was pretty disappointing, and it didn’t have much to do with the number of pixels, but with the fact that the zero shutter lag was not optimized properly to take pictures without making them a little blurry in many cases. But even so, 5 MP just seems too low for a flagship phone these days.

Another thing that seems strange is the 1280×800 resolution. Google really likes the resolutions to be as close to 16:9 as possible, because of Youtube. This one is 16:10, and they only use such resolutions for tablets because they want them to be used in landscape mode, and in that mode, the bottom bar occupies a bit of that space. So far the only phone that uses the 1280×800 has been the Galaxy Note. All the other new flagship phones have been using the 16:9, 960×540 or 1280×720 resolutions.

Maybe not

Both the resolution and the camera lead me to believe that this really is about an upcoming Google tablet. The only thing that makes less sense in this case is the Exynos 5250 processor. This processor should be ready for shipping this summer (has been in production this quarter), when Google might sell this tablet, but it’s made by Samsung. Will Samsung give Google and Asus the opportunity to be one of the first to use their most powerful chip?

It seems unlikely, but I wouldn’t really bet against it either. We know Google took out the Tegra 3 processor in its rumored tablet, but at the time we thought it was about price. Maybe it wasn’t about price, and Google just wanted a better chip. It was Eric Schmidt who said a few months ago that we will see a tablet “of the highest quality” in the next 6 months, so that could be the explanation. Samsung has also started selling their Super AMOLED displays to other manufacturers last year. We also know that the Meizu MX Quad-core uses the same Exynos 4 Quad chip found in the Galaxy S3, and will launch at the same time with Sammy’s hero device.

Biggest bang for the buck

That means that the Google tablet, supposed to cost somewhere around $150-$200, might actually have this very powerful dual core 2 Ghz Cortex A15 CPU with the Mali T-604 GPU. It would be an amazing value proposition for the price, especially if it uses an 1280×800 resolution for the 7″ display, like this rumor implies. The rest of the specs are pretty much irrelevant, especially if it has a microSD slot, so you can expand the storage if you want. All this tablet would need is a great worldwide marketing campaign, and to be sold through the Play Store, and millions will get it.

[Update] Since Lucian wrote this post, we learned that Google will work with several manufacturers for its future Nexus devices coming this fall. It may well be that Samsung and Asus will get to make a “Nexus tablet”, which complicates the problem. We’ll keep you posted.