Most tablets and smartphones are powered by Google's open-source Android operating system these days; even the Nook HD and Kindle Fire HD are. But the Nexus brand is reserved for Google's best Android devices, made in partnership with select manufacturers and designed to be "Pure Google." They use Google Play as their app market, instead of Barnes and Noble's or Amazon's smaller selections, and they have lighter and leaner home screens and receive frequent feature updates.
Right now, the Nexus 7 is Google's flagship tablet. At $199 for an 8 GB model or $249 for a 16 GB model, it's about half the size and half the price of Apple's lowest-end 16 GB iPad. But reports are coming in about a new Nexus tablet which may be about the size of the iPad, as well as upgraded and redesigned versions of the Nexus 7.
The 10-inch Nexus tablet
Dan Graziano of BGR News sums up a Digitimes report which claims that Google recently placed an order for a large number of tablet screens which could be used in making a 10.1-inch device, with a screen that's a tiny bit larger than the iPad's 9.7 inch one. Meanwhile, The Week looks at insider exclusives and analysts' remarks published by CNET, which claim that the 10-inch tablet will "be a high-end device" with a screen even sharper than the iPad's Retina Display.
If the reports are true, it will be made by Samsung, the Korean tech giant known for its popular Galaxy S series of smartphones and (much less popular) Galaxy Tab tablets. Samsung has already worked with Google to produce two Nexus phones, the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus. No 10-inch tablet has put even a dent in the iPad's sales figures yet, but the Nexus 7 had a surprisingly strong showing for an "Android tablet" and not a Nook or Kindle device. Google may believe that now is the time to tackle the iPad head-on.
The $99 Nexus tablet and the 32 GB Nexus 7
A 32 GB model of today's Nexus 7 is widely reported to be in the works; a Japanese Google customer even claims to have gotten one by accident when he ordered a 16 GB Nexus. The release date is said to be Oct. 24, and it may cost only $260 according to leaks obtained by Kellex of Droid-Life, giving people the chance to get a tablet with twice the storage space of the cheapest iPad at roughly half the cost.
If that's not cheap enough for you, BGR News' Zach Epstein reports on a Digitimes exclusive which claims that a $99 version of the Nexus 7 is in the works. It will be thinner than the existing one, if it comes out (Digitimes is not a completely reliable source). It will almost certainly be less powerful, however, as an iSuppli teardown revealed that the current-generation 8 GB Nexus 7 costs about $160 to make. Either way, it may have to contend with the "iPad Mini," a smaller iPad which Apple is widely expected to unveil later this month.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.