Google's New 'Phablet' Will Face Stiff Competition From Apple, Samsung

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- We're just one day away from the official release of what could be the best Android smartphone ever made. On Wednesday, the floodgates will open for reviewers to tell everyone what they think of the Nexus 6, the latest in Google's (GOOG) flagship series of phones and tablets.

Launched in 2010, Google's Nexus series of phones always contain the best hardware available and the latest edition of the Android operating system. Starting with the Nexus One, these phones (and tablets) have been showcases for Android technological breakthroughs. They're coveted by Android fans who appreciate that the devices run well and use a "pure version" of the operating system with little or no "bloatware" apps that are often added by phone carriers. Pure, simple and fast.

The new Nexus 6 is no exception. Although Google wants reviewers to wait until Wednesday to give their "in-depth" opinions of the phone, there are a lot of things we can tell you right now. First, the phone was designed by Google in cooperation with Motorola Mobility, a former division of Google that is now part of Lenovo (LNVGY) . Engineers took a lot of design and operational cues from Motorola's fabulous, second-generation Moto X as well as Verizon's (VZ) version of the X, called the Droid Turbo. That's a very good start.

Google shares were changing hands up $2.99, or 0.6%, at $550.48 late Tuesday morning in New York.

As you might have guessed from the name, the Nexus 6 has display around 6 inches (5.96 inches, to be exact), which gives it the unofficial classification of a "phablet." The screen is capable of displaying a dazzling 2560 by 1440 pixels. Inside is a very fast Qualcomm (QCOM) processor mated to 3 GB of RAM and either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage. The rear and front-facing cameras are 13 and 2 megapixels, respectively. The big battery uses Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology offering as much as 6 hours of battery life after 15 minutes of plug-in time. Phablets are big cell phones, and the Nexus 6 is no exception.

In addition to all the new hardware, the Nexus 6 is the first smartphone to come loaded with the Android 5.0 (Lollipop). Many other phones will receive Android 5.0 as an update in the next few weeks. Lollipop is a huge rewrite of the software and changes the way the system looks, feels and works. Expect to find lots of improvements, big and small, and a slight learning curve as well. We'll have a lot more to say in our full review. Together with the new Nexus 6 hardware, Android 5.0 lays the groundwork for the next generation of Google smartphones.

Nexus 6 will have huge competition. First and foremost there's Apple's (AAPL) new iPhone 6 line of devices. The iPhone 6 is one of the few great new smartphones with a screen smaller than 5 inches, but its big brother, the iPhone 6 Plus, is the direct competitor for the Nexus 6. Both are big, bold hardware designs. Both run on new, state-of-the-art operating systems. Both are cutting-edge devices. It should be an interesting battle.

Samsung's (SSNLF) entries are the Galaxy S5 and the recently released Galaxy Note 4 "phablet." Both are still very popular devices. Samsung also has a new phablet design called Galaxy Note Edge with specifications similar to the Note 4 and a new type of wrap-around touchscreen design with bits of information displayed on the screen edge.

Other terrific top-end models such as LG's G3, HTC's One (M8) and some lower-priced, higher-end phones from Chinese manufacturers (such as the hard-to-find OnePlus One) are also direct competition for the new Nexus model.

Out of the box, Nexus 6 will be capable of operating on all the 2G, 3G, 4G and LTE networks from all the major U.S. carriers. Insert the proper SIM card and the phone will know what to do. You can expect to see Verizon, AT&T (T) , T-Mobile US (TMUS) , Sprint (S) and U.S. Cellular (USM) offering the Nexus 6 for sale as well as Best Buy (BBY) retail shops and the online Google Play store. Prices for unlocked Nexus 6 devices range from $649 for the 32 GB and $699 for the 64 GB models.

There are rumors that the Nexus 6 might be in short supply in the short term. But that's nothing new. New Nexus models have historically been in short supply upon release. When all the full reviews are published Wednesday, hopeful buyers might just find that the Nexus 6 will be in short supply for a lot longer period of time.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

At the time of publication, Krakow had no positions in stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's Senior Technology Correspondent.

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