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Here's What Google Inc. Is Likely to Announce on Tuesday

By Sam Mattera - Sep 28, 2015 at 10:00AM

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Two new smartphones and three devices for the living room.

The Nexus 6. Google's current flagship Nexus product.

Google (GOOG -1.47%)(GOOGL -1.35%) is holding a special media event on Tuesday. The company is widely expected to unveil a variety of new Nexus products. Like Google's prior Nexus devices, these handsets will be made by other firms, but carry Google's branding. They might also be compatible with its Project Fi cellular service, and will be the first devices to run Android Marshmallow, the latest version of its Android operating system.

Historically, Google's Nexus devices have never been major sellers, but they do help influence the broader Android ecosystem.

A new Nexus 6 from Huawei
According to IDC, Chinese handset giant Huawei is the third-largest vendor of smartphones in the world. In the second quarter, Huawei sold just under 30 million handsets, giving it nearly 9% market share. Huawei, however, does not really sell any smartphones in North America -- most of its sales come from Europe and its home market of China. Interested American buyers can purchase a handful of unlocked Huawei smartphones through its website, but U.S. carriers and major retailers do not offer Huawei's handsets.

The new Nexus 6 will be a major step for the company, introducing Huawei's hardware to American buyers for the first time. Various reports suggest that the new Nexus 6 will be known as the Nexus 6P. It will likely sport top-notch internals, a giant, high-resolution display, and a rear fingerprint scanner. The handsets, combined with the new Huawei Watch, could help Huawei challenge Samsung and LG in the U.S. smartphone market.

A new Nexus 5 from LG
Since the original Nexus One made its debut in 2010, Google has released only one Nexus handset in the U.S. per year. That's expected to change this year, when Google unveils a new Nexus 5 alongside the new Nexus 6. Like the previous Nexus 5, unveiled in 2013, the new Nexus 5 could be made by Korean giant LG.

If it supports Project Fi -- and it probably will, given that the Nexus 6 does -- it could help Google's MVNO gain additional users. As it stands, the current Nexus 6 is the only phone that officially supports the service, but with a nearly 6-inch screen, it's too big for many. Offering a smaller phone could help Google drive additional users to its service.

An update, and a new Chromecast
It's been more than two years since Google unveiled its low-cost streaming dongle, the Chromecast, in 2013. The device, which retails for just $35, has proven to be quite popular. Last year, according to Parks Associates, it helped the search giant sell the second-most dedicated streaming devices in the U.S., with 23% market share (behind only Roku).

The Chromecast is relatively simple. It allows users to beam content from apps to their Chromecast-connected monitors and televisions. With such limited functionality, the revision is likely to be minor, but the second-generation model is expected to offer better Wi-Fi technology. That should result in more stable connections and a better streaming experience.

Google may also unveil a second Chromecast model, one that uses a 3.5mm audio connection rather than an HDMI port. The existing Chromecast can already be used to stream music to HDMI-equipped receivers and televisions, but this variant could be useful for those looking to send audio to individual speakers.

A new Nexus Player?
Lastly, Google could unveil a second-generation Nexus Player. The original Nexus Player, released last November, is nearly a year old. The price of the current Nexus Player has been slashed at various retailers in recent weeks, and a recent FCC filing from the manufacturer of the original Nexus Player, Asus, suggests that an updated Nexus Player could be on the way. 

Competition in the set-top box space has intensified in recent months, with Amazon launching a second-generation Fire TV and Apple unveiling the new Apple TV. The Chromecast is interesting given its price point, but it lacks a dedicated interface and remote control. The original Nexus Player has both of those things, but was largely panned by critics. Other firms, including Razer and Nvidia, have rolled out their own Android TV-powered set-top boxes, but those have largely failed to catch on.

A new Nexus Player, perhaps with improved hardware and a better remote, could give Google a fighting chance at succeeding in the set-top box market.

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