Google unveils Nexus S smartphone with Android 2.3

VIDEO: Google bills phone as 'pure Google experience'
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Google has unveiled the successor to the Nexus One smartphone, a Samsung manufactured device dubbed the Nexus S which will be the first to run the new Android 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’.

There are no shock new features with the Nexus S but it represents a solid evolution over the previous HTC-manufactured model. The Nexus S includes Google’s new Near Field Communication (NFC) technology which could pave the way for using the phone as an e-wallet assuming appropriate software and financial service support, it seems safe to assume Google have something planned in that department.

The device is based on Samsung’s Super AMOLED display which had been problematic in terms of supply earlier in the year although Samsung has since announced boosted manufacturing capacity. Also notable on the screen is the unusual curved glass display and Google claim improvements in the AMOLED panel means the devices is four times more easily read in sunlight than the Nexus 1 although that’s a bit like saying four times zero.

Samsung were one of the first to integrate ARM’s latest generation of Cortex A8 into smartphone silicon via the Hummingbird 1GHz processor, a similar move to Apple’s speed A4 in the iPad and iPhone 4. Despite the same clocks peed as the Qualcomm unit in the predecessor, Hummingbird is a much faster processor although it should be noted that dual-core ARM smartphones are expected in the next quarter.

Pricing wise the Nexus S is set to be available on a two year £35 contract free of charge, launching before the end of the year. On the same deal an iPhone 4 costs over £100 so it represents a significant saving over the Apple device although specifications wise it’s similar.

Other features include the return of the front-facing camera, something which had gone out of favour until Apple ‘invented’ face to face video calling again with Facetime. Following the recent trend in smartphone development, the Nexus S also has much improved 3D graphics hardware for gaming and in a similar vein also boasts better, more accurate motion sensors.

Most significant is that the Samsung device will ship with the next generation of Android, version 2.3 or ‘Gingerbread’. Perhaps indicative of Google’s focus with the upcoming version of Android is that the Nexus S Backstory video is fronted by Matias Duarte.

Formerly director of human interface and user experience at Palm for the webOS project who joined the Google in May this year to take up a role as the user experience director of Android, Duarte was strangely uncredited in the video along with the rest of the Android team. Perhaps Google has legal concerns following Duarte’s departure from the HP-acquired Palm.

“In Gingerbread we focused on what’s really essential for the smartphone experience, just making the experience clean, pure and polished,” said Duarte in the video.

The focus on a so-called ‘clean’ Google experience is being widely interpreted as a fightback move against the increasing levels of handset and operator customisations which are occasionally useful but often just irritating for customers wanting a proper Android phone.

See below for the Nexus S: The Background video from Google:

Google said that Gingerbread would soon be open sourced which would allow the network of partners manufacturing other handsets to gradually begin rolling out 2.3 updates, or not as the case may be. With the Nexus S, however, Google are promising fast and painless updates to the latest version of Android without any of the operator nonsense.

That fact alone makes the Nexus S not just a desirable smartphone but the mere existence of the Nexus S provides a fresh benchmark for the full Android experience. What will be interesting to see this time around is just how many the Nexus S sells.

If it does spectacularly well then many will view this as evidence of consumers voting with their feet for a more standardised Android experience.

For more information, see the Nexus S web site.

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