Analyst: Nexus smartphones reveal direction of Google's Android development

Google's latest Nexus-branded smartphones offer hints on the future direction it will take in developing its Android operating system (OS), according to IHS Technology's director of mobile analysis Ian Fogg.

The U.S. company this week unveiled the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X smartphones, which are being produced by Huawei and LG Electronics respectively and will be sold alongside the Motorola-made Nexus 6 smartphone.

Each of the new smartphones runs Google's Android 6.0 operating system and features a 12.3 megapixel camera, fingerprint scanner, and compatibility with the company's Android Pay mobile payment service.

In an emailed statement, Fogg said Google "specifies the requirements of its Nexus smartphone to fit its mobile goals," noting that the devices' "strong focus on imaging" supports the company's "recently launched Google Photos" service. The analyst added that the fingerprint scanner will be used for user authentication, which he noted "supports mobile payment services," and that "a new sensor core" will benefit "Google's wearable strategy".

Those features stand out for Fogg as indicators of the future direction of Google's Android OS.

"The number of Nexus phones which are sold is unimportant compared to the clues that they provide to Google's future direction with Android. Because other smartphone makers take months, sometimes years, to offer the latest version of Android on their smartphones, Nexus phones provide early indicators of the features and experiences which will arrive on the majority of smartphones six to twelve months later," Fogg said.

Fogg also pointed out that choosing Huawei as one of the manufacturers of the latest Nexus devices could benefit Google if it relaunches its services in China. The device and infrastructure manufacturer has "mobile operator relationships as well as its own expertise in selling smartphones direct to consumers" in China through its Honor brand.

Google also unveiled the Pixel C, the company's first 2-in-1 tablet PC that aims to tap a form factor that most analysts agree is growing amid an overall slowdown in global standalone tablet sales.

The device features a magnetic connection between screen and keyboard, offering a key point of differentiation from rival products from Apple and Microsoft that utilise docking mechanisms.

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