Google Announces New Nexus Phone and Tablets

Although Hurricane Sandy wiped out Google's big New York press-event plans, the company went ahead and announced its new Nexus phone and tablets anyway.

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Although Hurricane Sandy wiped out Google’s big New York City press-event plans, the company went ahead and announced its new Nexus phone and tablets anyway.

The lineup includes the Nexus 4 smart phone from LG, the Nexus 10 tablet from Samsung and updated Nexus 7 tablets from Asus with double the storage of the previous version and optional 3G. Google’s also adding new features to its Android operating system and beefing up its music, video and magazine services with more content.

Here are the details on Google’s new hardware and software:

LG’s Nexus 4

The Nexus 4 has a 4.7-in., 1,280-by-768-pixel resolution display, a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor from Qualcomm, 2 gigabytes of RAM, an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 1.3-megapixel front camera and either 8 or 16 gigabytes of storage. It also has NFC, a micro USB port and micro HDMI output. For bells and whistles, Google is touting built-in wireless charging (though you’ll need to supply your own compatible charging mat) and a Photo Sphere feature that can shoot 360-degree panorama photos.

In terms of tech specs, the Nexus 4 is close to the high end for today’s smart phones, but it has one major drawback: it doesn’t support 4G LTE, only the slower HSPA+. As the Verge explains, Google wants to sell these phones unlocked and without wireless contracts, which isn’t possible with Verizon or Sprint without their permission. That leaves AT&T, whose LTE frequencies are different than the rest of the world’s. Rather than make a separate, and more expensive, 4G LTE phone for AT&T users, Google went with a single HSPA+ model that works everywhere.

The result is a phone that’s inexpensive considering that it’s not tied to a contract — $299 for the 8-GB version and $349 for the 16-GB version — but whose data speeds are surpassed by the majority of smart phones on the U.S. market. Also, in the U.S., the unlocked version will work only with AT&T or T-Mobile, but the latter carrier will sell a subsidized Nexus 4 for $200 with a two-year contract. The phone launches on Nov. 13.

More Storage for Asus Nexus 7

Nothing major here. Google and Asus simply doubled the storage on the Nexus 7, to 16 GB for the $199 version and 32 GB for the $249 version, and added a 3G option for $299 with 32 GB of storage. (It’ll work with AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.) The much needed storage boost helps bring the Nexus 7 in line with other cheap tablets.

Aside from the storage bump and optional 3G, the new Nexus 7 is the same as the old one, with a 7-in., 1,280-by-800 resolution display, a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 1 GB of RAM, a 1.2-megapixel front-facing webcam and a micro USB port. It weighs 0.7 lb., measures 0.4 in. thick and gets about 9.5 hours of battery life on a charge.

Samsung’s Nexus 10

This is Google’s first Nexus tablet to compete directly with Apple‘s iPad, and it offers a Retina-beating 10.1-in., 2,560-by-1,600 resolution display as its claim to fame. Other specs include a dual-core A15 processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera, a 1.9-megapixel front camera, micro USB, micro HDMI and NFC. The tablet also supports multiple user sign-ins, with separate home screens, apps, e-mail and photos for each. The 16-GB model will sell for $399, while the 32-GB model will cost $499, starting Nov. 13.

Android 4.2

Google calls Android 4.2 a “new flavor” of Jelly Bean — the code name previously reserved for Android 4.1. That’s probably because it’s not a huge update, but it adds a handful of features that should make Google’s operating system more enjoyable. In addition to Photo Sphere and multiple user sign-ins, Android 4.2 includes Swype-like gesture-typing support for Miracast, an AirPlay-esque standard that lets users beam audio and video to televisions. (At the moment, there aren’t many Miracast devices, but the hope is that it’ll eventually be a standard feature in TVs and set-top boxes.)

Google Now, a virtual assistant that tries to automatically provide helpful information, is also getting more features in Android 4.2. For Gmail users, Google Now can gather details on your upcoming flights, hotels, restaurant reservations, events and package shipments and provide reminders as dates approach. It can also let you know of attractions or photo spots nearby.

More Content

Music and movies have been a weak spot for Google, but a few new deals with content creators should help. Last month, 20th Century Fox agreed to provide movies and TV shows to Google Play, and on Monday Google announced a partnership with Warner Music Group, so the underappreciated Google Play Music now has the support of all the major record labels.

Google’s adding a scan-and-match music service as well, so any songs you store online will be matched against the Google Play catalog and made available to stream from anywhere without uploading. Unlike Apple’s similar iTunes Match service, Google’s scan-and-match service will be free. It’s heading to Europe on Nov. 13 and to the U.S. soon after.

For magazines, Google struck a deal with Time Inc. (which obviously owns this blog) so periodicals like TIME and People will be part of Google’s magazine app.

The announcement didn’t have any big surprises that hadn’t been rumored for while, but it’s good to see more Nexus devices from Google. Android is often at its best when it’s not modified into oblivion by phone makers and wireless carriers, so while the new hardware many not set the tech world on fire, it at least provides a few more options for users who want the pure Android experience.