Posted in Droid-life's comments section earlier, this photo seems to depict a very large Motorola device next to an AT&T-branded LG G3. The G3 has a 5.5" display. This unknown Motorola hardware thus has a display substantially larger than 5.5", say somewhere in the 5.9" neighborhood maybe? So yes, this very well could be Shamu, the upcoming Nexus phone that we're pretty sure is going to be a thing in the near-ish future. And yeah, that whole 5.9" thing now sounds even more inevitable.
What we don't know is if this photo is actually of Shamu (I'm not one to trust taped-on sticky notes). It does look like a dead-on match for the 'Moto S' backplate that was leaked by Hellomotohk a couple days ago, which is definitely interesting. The phone is largely devoid of branding aside from that signature Motorola 'M' dimple, and appears to have a black soft-touch matte plastic rear cover - something of a calling card for 2013's Nexus devices, the Nexus 5 and refreshed Nexus 7.
While we can't know what this phone is for sure, I have my suspicions.
First, this probably isn't the DROID Turbo, whose rear cover was leaked earlier this week, also by hellomotoHK. It's too big, and the rear cover doesn't have any trademark DROID branding or design. So, what about that whole Moto S thing? This is where we have to go down the rabbit hole just a bit.
Prior to Google I/O, a rumor began circulating that Google might unveil a Motorola smartphone as part of the now seemingly-dead Android Silver program at the show. The phone never surfaced. Even before that, though, @evleaks proposed that the Nexus 6 had been cancelled as well, and seemed to suggest that LG had been tasked with building it. Instead, LG would release a Silver device at a later date. Amir Efrati of The Information backed this statement up, corroborating the narrative that Silver would replace Nexus. At this point, everyone was quite worried about what would happen to the Nexus brand, and many fans were up in arms over its seemingly impending doom.
Then, at I/O, Google's head of engineering Dave Burke shot down those rumors - Nexus would live on.
So, what happened there? I think the timeline is shaping up something like this, but some of this is blatant speculation for the purpose of painting a narrative picture.
- Q1 2014: LG is working on a Nexus 6, or some kind of Nexus phone successor.
- Q1 2014: Android Silver is being built up and gaining momentum inside Google - they want to announce at I/O, maybe ship in fall.
- Q2 2014: The LG Nexus 6 is cancelled as Silver continues to evolve, and Google decides it wants to unveil a Silver handset in its place to get the ball rolling.
- Q2 2014: Silver begins to stagnate, negotiations with carriers and OEMs aren't going as planned. An I/O announcement, possibly partnered with Motorola to be called "Moto S," ([S]ilver? [S]hamu? Come on, this stuff practically writes itself) is scuttled. Head of business affairs and architect of Silver Nikesh Arora begins to plan his departure from Google.
- Q2 2014: Google decides to revive Nexus using Motorola's unannounced Silver handset. Moto S is killed (in branding only), and becomes Nexus 6 (or whatever it will be called).
- I/O: Google announces Android "L," Dave Burke emphatically denies rumors of Nexus phones being at an end, as the deal with Motorola proceeds.
- I/O: Motorola, having expected to have a product to announce at I/O (perhaps even to have given away to attendees at a later date), instead gets a chance to promote and demo the Moto 360 extensively.
- Q4: Nexus phone and tablet launch alongside Android "L."
There are other tidbits that make this narrative fit, too. Isn't it interesting that Google unveiled three visions of a pure, Google-updated and controlled Android powered by various manufacturers' hardware - Android TV, Android Wear, and Android Auto - but failed to introduce a similar initiative for phones, or at least reinforce that Google Play Experience devices existed? GPE devices seem to be dead, and a logical reason for that would be that Silver was intended to replace them (and, allegedly, Nexus phones). Silver would be the unified vision of Android software on handsets, and it would've made for a great reveal at I/O alongside those other "pure" Android experiences, and presented a highly integrated product vision.
Anyway, that's why I don't think it's likely this photo could be anything but Shamu, aka the Nexus 6. The story to date means that we're either seeing a Nexus 6 here, or we're looking at some unannounced Motorola phablet that isn't the Nexus phone we're all very much expecting at this point.
As to the possibility of Google working on a smaller, second Nexus device? We don't know. There's been no real evidence to suggest this aside from an untrustworthy benchmark score, but Google's not completely incapable of keeping secrets. We'll just have to wait and see, I guess, unless it leaks out in the coming weeks.