The recent I/O conference saw a lot of innovation from Google this year, and while their Google Glasses demonstrated how they intend to embrace the promise augmented reality in 2014, the Nexus Q showed their plans for the cloud and streaming multimedia in the even nearer future. Next month in fact.
The device grabs attention right away with its sleek and spherical form that puts one in mind of The Guilty Spark from Halo, and its diagonal blue LED that looks like the rings of Saturn from a distance. Underneath the black exterior though it also packs a bit of a punch, with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of on board flash memory, its own version of Ice Cream Sandwich and a dual core processor. It also boasts ‘audiophile’ quality playback through its own built in speakers, though there’s an audio jack if you have other ideas.
Of course the device also comes with a HDMI output port, and is controlled via any Android device through a Bluetooth connection. If you want to control it by hand though you’ve also got the option to tap the sphere to mute it and to twist the top half to control the volume. Then there’s an Ethernet port if you don’t want to use wireless and a micro USB slot which will hopefully open up a range of options once the folk over at the XDA forums get their hands on it.
And hopefully they will get their hands on it and start thinking creatively too. You see, while the device impresses when it comes to specs and certainly has the look of a premium piece of tech, it doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to features. Unfortunately the device will only stream video and music from the Google Play store and won’t even allow you to stream from your own machines (though it does give you access to YouTube). Want to watch Netflix? Listen to the music on your PC? Stream from Spotify? Nope, nope and nope again. Then there’s the fact that the Nexus Q can only be controlled using an Android device, which sort of leaves you a bit stuck if you happen to own an iPhone or a Blackberry.
This would all be fairly acceptable given how darn cool the thing looks, except for the fact that it costs a whopping $300 – presumably due to the choice to manufacture in the US rather than China. Given that you could just plug your Android phone into the TV with a HDMI-to-Micro USB cable (about $5 on Amazon) and experience only slightly less quality and a better selection of streaming options… it’s really pretty hard to justify.
Seeing as Google has been trying hard to create their own ‘walled garden’ in a manner similar to Apple by integrating their various services rather aggressively, a cynic might even say that the real plan behind the Nexus Q is to get people to use Google Play Music and Google Play TV and Movies more. But for that it would have to be a lot cheaper…
Trevor Smith is a freelance writer and works for HomeWetBar. He writes about upcoming gadgets and technology.