Rumors have been floating about an HTC tablet that could end up being the Nexus 9. Previously hidden with code names such as Volantis, Flounder, and T1, we now know that the partnership between Google and HTC is real, and the Nexus 9 is nearly upon us. It marks HTC’s return to the tablet market and the first time Google has partnered with the company since the Nexus One.
We’ve been tracking the development of this device for some time now, and here’s everything we know.
HTC has been linked to the Nexus 9 project for a while. Early on, rumors linked the Volantis tablet with the Nexus 8 project, which may have morphed into the Nexus 9. While the Nexus 7 was built by Asus and the Nexus 10 by Samsung, this would be the first return of an HTC device to the Nexus line since the Nexus One in 2010.
After much secrecy, we now know that the device that HTC and Google have been working on is indeed the Nexus 9.
This is the first larger tablet update from Google since the Nexus 10 in 2012, and may come alongside a refresh of the larger tablet later this year. Rumors at one point suggested the Volantis will be released as an HTC-branded tablet, but that clearly isn’t the case. Oh, and for those wondering, Volantis is latin for “flying.”
Next page: HTC’s involvement
Thanks to a Wall Street Journal report from September, we knew HTC engineers had been working closely with Google on the Nexus 9 project, with teams routinely flying from Taiwan to Google’s San Francisco headquarters for several months. Neither firms would comment on the rumors, but the news certainly fit in with what we had been hearing. Now we know for sure HTC and Google have been putting together the Nexus 9.
Before the reports, a set of court documents revealed in an ongoing legal battle between Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Samsung unofficially confirmed the Nexus 9 tablet’s existence. The documentation stated the tablet will be built by HTC, and should use Nvidia’s Tegra K1 processor. It also suggested that the slate will launch before the end of September, but the wording did suggest the date wasn’t final. According to an anonymous tip received by tech site MoDaCo.com’s founder, the Nexus 9 was set to launch on October 16.
Announced by Google on October 15, the reports didn’t miss the mark by much.
Next page: The new Tegra K1 Processor
Tegra K1 Processor
Reports from now-defunct Twitter account @UpLeaks suggested in early August that the Nexus 9 would be powered by the 64-bit Tegra processor from Nvidia.
This has been confirmed with Google’s announcement of the device. The Nexus 9 uses Nvidia’s Tegra K1 chipset, a 2.3GHz 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 processor. It’s the first of the Nexus devices to utilize the 64-bit architecture. The powerful CPU tops the popular Snapdragon in most benchmarking tests.
Next page: An 8.9-inchcreen
An 8.9-inch screen
While most sources have to agreed the Nexus 9 would have an 8.9-inch screen, there have differing reports about the resolution. The Android Police report says the display will have a 2048 x 1440 pixel resolution, which comes out to 281 pixels per inch (ppi). It isn’t as pixel-rich as the iPad Air, but it’s close. A second Volantis leak said the tablet is being tested with a 1680 x 1050 pixel resolution, but will hit retail stores with an impressive 2560 x 1600 pixel count. That would be the same as Samsung’s Galaxy S range, some of the Galaxy Pro models, and coincidentally, the Samsung-built Nexus 10 tablet. However, the source has been outed as a fake, leaving us to take these specs as fantasy.
The screen size, as many assumed, is in fact 8.9-inches. As for the resolution, we now know thanks to Google’s announcement that the Nexus 9’s screen resolution is 2048 x 1536 pixels. That puts the pixel density at 287ppi — plenty rich enough to compete with most tablets in its range.
Next page: Design and construction
Design and construction
Rumors surrounding the body of the Nexus 9 have been some of the most diverse, but with the official release of information and images by Google, we shouldn’t be surprised with how the HTC-made tablet appears. It has the trademark build of an HTC device, with a premium metal body in a similar vein to the sleek looking HTC One M8. It’s “built with a thin bezel, brushed metal sides, clean lines and unique colors” and offers “soft grip back and subtle curves” according to Google.
The first batch of Nexus 9 devices will come in two colors: Black and white. A gold-like “sand” model will also be made available later this year.
An early mockup based on a product concept image was leaked early in 2014, and you can see it at the top of this page. However, an @evleaks report, subsequently retracted, said these early renders were “fake.” A close-up shot of the tablet came with another codename, the less complimentary Flounder – which has also been spotted in relation to future Nexus hardware, just to confuse us even more – but the image’s authenticity has since also been questioned.
At the beginning of October, another picture supposedly showing the Nexus 9 – under HTC’s T1 codename – was leaked on Twitter by @upleaks. The picture shows a tablet-sized device with HTC and Nexus branding, a camera lens with a flash, and a matte-style finish similar to the Nexus 5 smartphone. A second tweet says the body will be plastic, rather than metal. We now know that to be false, as with several other pieces of information that had leaked about the device.
Next page: Android 5.0 Lollipop
Android 5.0 Lollipop
As expected, the Nexus 9 will run the latest version of Android, 5.0 — otherwise known as “L” or Lollipop. With a new, powerful processor on board, the device should be built to show off the capabilities of the operating system, which includes a plethora of new features and tweaks.
The OS offers continuity between Android devices — including new functionality for devices running Android Wear – improved interface functionality, changes to notifications, better security measures, improved performance and power usage, and more. As with all Nexus devices, the Nexus 9 will receive updates to Android quicker than any other Android products.
Next page: Confirmed specs
Leaks of the specs for the Nexus 9 turned out to be fairly on point, with many predictions coming true. According to Google’s release on the Nexus 9, the device will be powered by the 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 processor and 2GB of RAM. Accompanying the 2.3GHz processor is the Kepler DX1 GPU. A 6700mAh battery will provide users with up to 9 hours of life with the tablet. The 8.9-inch display will feature a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels. The Nexus 9 comes equipped with an 8-megapixel lens on the back and 1.6-megapixel lens on the front. Models with 16GB and 32GB of internal storage will be available.
A benefit of working with HTC, the Nexus 9 will also include the company’s BoomSound technology. The front-facing speakers promise distortion-free sound and more immersive audio. The BoomSound speakers are generally well-received in HTC devices and should be no exception in the Nexus 9.
The leaker referred to the tablet as the HTC Nexus 9, but said that it is also known as HTC T1. The tablet will supposedly feature a MDM9x25 modem on the LTE version, 4GB of RAM, NFC, GPS, and Android L. The Nexus 9 will also supposedly come with an 8-megapixel back camera and a 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera. However, arguably the most impressive spec listed was the 64-bit Tegra K1 processor, a feature subsequently confirmed by Nvidia. The 64-bit chip made its debut inside the Xiaomi MiPad tablet back in May, and early benchmark figures show it trumping the most recent Snapdragon chips in almost every category.
Next Page: Accessories
The Nexus 9 will come with a variety of different covers, but perhaps the most interesting is the one Google featured prominently on the Nexus 9 information page. It’s the keyboard cover, a protective cover with a magnetically attached keyboard that is designed to be used at a variety of angles. The five row QWERTY keyboard features a dedicated “Home” button, as well as what appears to be a key for emojis. It will be sold separately, though no price was provided, and is designed to make the tablet a more viable work device.
Next page: Price and availability
Price and availability
As was thought because of the new processor, the Nexus 9 will carry a larger price tag than previous models. The Nexus 9 will start at $400 for a 16GB model. The 32GB version is priced at $480, and the LTE-enabled 32GB device will retail for $600. There is no option to expand memory via MicroSD. The Nexus 9 will be available for pre-order starting on October 17, 2014. The tablet is slated to arrive on November 3, 2014.
T-Mobile became the first retailer to sell the LTE version of the Nexus 9 in its online store in mid-December. The LTE version costs $0 down on the Uncarrier’s network, but you’ll have to pay $25 a month for 24 months to own it. The final retail price works out to almost $600 — $599.76, to be exact. It costs just $10 to add the tablet and match your data on T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan. You’ll get up to 5 GB of data a month for your tablet alone and T-Mobile also offers Free Data for Life, which gives you 200 MB of free data a month for the entirety of the time you have the tablet on T-Mobile’s network.
Over the coming weeks, the new, HTC-built Google tablet will be made available in 29 countries. Retailers in the United States that will carry the device include Best Buy, Amazon, GameStop, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, Walmart, and Radio Shack. The Nexus 9 will also be available through the Google Play Store.
Up until now, Google’s Nexus devices have always offered great specs for a low price. Based on leaked pricing information obtained by Caschy’s Blog from German retailer Saturn, it appeared as though the Nexus 9 would cost significantly more than its predecessors. The next Nexus tablet was listed with a price tag of 400 euro for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model. The 32GB Nexus 9 was rumored to cost 489 euro and the 32GB version with 4G LTE onboard, was said to be 569 euro. All of Google’s earlier Nexus tablets were much cheaper, with the Nexus 7 2014 edition starting at $230 and topping out at $350.
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Price and Availability
We’ll be updating this article with more news on the Volantis/Nexus 8/Nexus 9/Flounder as it’s revealed, so check back often.
Updated on 10-15-2014 by Malarie Gokey: A new report hints at huge price increase for the Nexus 9.
Updated on 10-06-2014 by Andy Boxall: A new picture of the Nexus 9, under its T1 codename, has been leaked. Could it be another fake?
Updated on 09-22-2014 by Andy Boxall: WSJ report says HTC engineers have been meeting Google for months, working on the Nexus 9 project.
Updated on 09-18-2014 by Andy Boxall: Anonymous tip puts the Nexus 9 down for a mid-October launch.
Updated on 09-11-2014 by Andy Boxall: Nvidia has unofficially confirmed the Nexus 9 exists, it’ll use a Tegra K1 chip, and will be built by HTC.
Updated on 08-08-2014 by Malarie Gokey: A new report reveals several key specs for the Nexus 9 “Volantis” tablet, including Tegra processor and Android L.
Updated on 07-03-2014 by Andy Boxall: Expanded the original article to include new details, and a new image.
Updated on 07-03-2014 by Andy Boxall: @evleaks has published a retraction of sorts, saying the information he gained on the Volantis was a hoax. While this calls into question the specs and the image, previous reports may still be accurate.