LG Nexus 4 details emerge, but what about Samsung, HTC and Motorola?

At long last – almost a year after the release of the Samsung/Google Galaxy Nexus – details of Google’s upcoming Nexus smartphone have started to emerge. Or, if the rumours are to be believed, we should say smartphones, plural.

It now seems quite certain that LG will release the Nexus 4 (pictured above), a smartphone based on the Optimus G. The Optimus G has a Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC (quad-core Krait clocked at 1.5GHz, Adreno 320 GPU), 2GB of RAM, a beautiful 4.7in 1280 x 768 LCD display, and quad-band GSM/HSPDA/LTE connectivity (with Qualcomm’s delicious 28nm radio).

The Optimus G has an 8 or 13-megapixel shooter on the back, there’s a 2100 mAh battery, and the whole thing is 8.5mm thick and weighs 145 grams. The Nexus 4 is expected to have very similar specs, but it will come with a vanilla version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (while the Optimus G comes with Android 4.0 ICS).

If a string of rumours are accurate, though, the Nexus 4 won’t be the only Nexus device to be released this winter. Back in May, the Wall Street Journal published a report that Google would work with “as many as five manufacturers” on the next generation of Nexus smartphones and tablets.

Last week, Digitimes corroborated the WSJ by reporting that Google has allowed “branded vendors to set hardware specifications as well as looks of the forthcoming Nexus smartphones,” as long as they use a vanilla version of Android (i.e. no OEM or carrier bloatware). The same Digitimes report says that Samsung, HTC, and Sony are all rumoured to be readying Nexus handsets for release. Curiously there’s no mention of Motorola, which was recently acquired by Google.

Unfortunately we have absolutely no idea what these non-LG Nexus smartphones will look like. In reality, they will probably all be superphones similar to the LG Nexus 4, and armed with the Snapdragon S4 or Exynos 5 SoCs – but it would also be quite neat if one of the OEMs brought out a low or mid-range Nexus device.

After all, Nexus devices are oriented towards developers (who are mostly targeting the mass market, rather than superphones), and consumers who want the “true” Android experience (which doesn’t necessarily require the fastest CPU and largest screen on the market). Imagine if you could buy an unlocked, off-contract Nexus smartphone for £200.

It’s purely circumstantial, but if you look closely at the photos of the Nexus 4, it says “with Google” on the back – while the Nexus One, S, and Galaxy all simply say “Google.” While Google had a very hands-on approach with the development of the first three Nexus smartphones, this could suggest that upcoming fourth-generation devices are mostly being designed by the OEMs themselves. This fits neatly with the fact that Google’s main concern is providing the real, unadulterated Android experience to consumers, rather than a specific hardware configuration.

In the long run, if the multiple-Nexus-device stratagem pans out, we’re looking at the beginning of a Google land grab. It has long been a bone of contention that carriers load up Android phones with a boatload of cruft and bloatware, while Apple and Microsoft retain full control of their mobile operating systems (and thus the end-user experience).

As far as release dates go, the LG Nexus 4 will almost certainly be released/unveiled on 29 October, at the All Things D: Dive Into Mobile (D: Mobile) conference by Android chief Andy Rubin. Presumably Samsung, Sony, and HTC will also release their phones on the same date, though the lack of leaks could suggest that they’re behind schedule. Google will sell all of the Nexus devices on its Google Play store, much like the Nexus 7 tablet and Galaxy Nexus – and they’ll probably be available from some mobile carriers, too.