Internet giant Google fielded a new champion on the mobile phone market battlefield on Monday, a “Nexus S” smartphone made by South Korea’s Samsung.
Google said the Nexus S, which comes nearly a year after the Nexus One, which was a critical success if not a huge commercial hit, is powered by the latest version of Google’s Android mobile operating system, “Gingerbread.”
Google vice president of engineering Andy Rubin said the Nexus S would be the first Android device to ship with the new version of the Android platform, used by handset makers around the world.
“Nexus S delivers what we call a ‘pure Google’ experience: unlocked, unfiltered access to the best Google mobile services and the latest and greatest Android releases and updates,” he said.
The Nexus S will be available in the US from Dec. 16 from Best Buy stores and from Dec. 20 at Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy retailers in Britain, Rubin said in a blog post.
The Nexus S will be offered in the US with a service plan from US wireless carrier T-Mobile or “unlocked,” Rubin said.
Unlocked Nexus S phones that can be linked to any telecom network simply by inserting SIM cards will be priced at US$529 while people opting for two-year service contracts with T-Mobile will get the gadgets for US$199.
The touchscreen Nexus S features a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, front and rear facing cameras and 16 gigabytes of internal memory.
It is also equipped with near field communication (NFC) hardware that turns the device into a virtual wallet, allowing users to “tap and pay” for financial transactions.
NFC chips store personal data that can be transmitted to readers, say at a shop checkout stand, by tapping a handset on a pad.
Google launched the Nexus One in January of last year in a bid to challenge Apple’s iPhone and the Blackberry from Research in Motion but closed its online store offering the device four months later.
“The year opened with a bang with Google launching Nexus One and it is going out with a bang with the launch of the Nexus S,” said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. “The Nexus S will set the stage for what Android devices will look like in 2011.”
The Nexus line is becoming a product that demonstrates Google’s vision of how smartphones can perform with Android software, the analyst said.
“The Nexus S will be Android as Google meant it to be seen,” Gartenberg said. “To that degree, the Nexus One was a success; it was a place where you could get a pure Google experience.”
The Nexus One didn’t catch on with consumers but was a hit with software developers and other technophiles.
It remains to be seen whether Google will face a backlash from electronics firms making handsets based on earlier versions of Android.