SAN JOSE, Calif. –Early reviews are mixed on the Nexus S, Google's second effort at an integrated smartphone co-designed with Samsung and based on the next release of Android. The phone and software support near-field communications, more sensors and larger screens, drawing both praise and criticisms of being an incremental upgrade.
"This is a very significant update to Android because it branches the OS out into new territory" such as tablets, said a BetaNews report.
The handset "is so similar to the [Samsung] Galaxy S line, that I am surprised Google choose it to be the next marquee handset with the latest version of Android," said a reviewer from InformationWeek.
"All in all, the Nexus S is very similar in design and IC selection to the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant which makes sense given the Galaxy S was a huge hit for Samsung," said Allan Yogasingam, a technical marketing manager who does handset teardowns.
"I can see this disappointing mobile purists who were probably expecting something new and bold, perhaps using a higher-res AMOLED or Samsung’s upcoming dual-core Orion processor," said Yogasingam. "But this phone’s key attraction will be the use of the Gingerbread, and Android fandroids have been chomping at the bit to get their hands on it," he said.
The Nexus S uses Gingerbread, version 2.3 of Android, which will be released as open source code "in coming weeks," said A software developer kit for Gingerbread is available online.
NXP said it is providing open source code for NFC as part of Android 2.3 and presumably got the NFC design win in the Nexus S. Google chief executive Eric Schmidt showed an early version of the Nexus S with the NFC support at the Web 2.0 event last month.
The chief executive of Research in Motion said future Blackberry phones will also support NFC. Ultimately NFC is expected to be one approach for making mobile payments, but initially uses will include a variety of short data exchanges.
Gingerbread also supports Session Initiation Protocol to enable voice over IP links. In addition, the software is expected to support gyroscopes, rotation vectors, accelerometers, barometers and gravity sensors.
Android 2.3 also supports a new class of larger displays, but just how large is still unclear. The Nexus S uses a so-called Contour four-inch active-matrix OLED display, compared to a 3.7-inch display in the original Nexus One. Google has been promoting its Chrome OS as the preferred environment for tablets.
Google said the Nexus S display sports a 50 percent improvement in luminescence as well as crisper text. In addition, the Gingerbread software offers an enhanced user interface and keypad and faster performance based in part on a new concurrent garbage collector in its Dalvik virtual machine and faster third-party video drivers.
The Nexus S handset, the first to use Gingerbread, runs on a Samsung GHz Hummingbird processor--also used in Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets--and includes 16 Gbytes internal memory. The previous Nexus One released in January used a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 512 Mbytes of RAM, 512 Mbytes of ROM, and a microSD slot with a 4-Gbyte card, expandable to 32 Gbytes.
Google said the handset includes a dedicated graphic unit but didn't specify which one. Presumably it is the same graphics block used in Samsung's Hummingbird-based Galaxy phones.
The handset uses front- and rear-facing 5 Mpixel and VGA cameras to support video conferencing. It comes pre-loaded with a range of Google applications including Google Search, Google Maps with Navigation (Beta), Mobile Instant, Voice Actions, Gmail and Google Earth.
The Nexus S is designed to provide "a 'pure Google' experience: unlocked, unfiltered access to the best Google mobile services and the latest and greatest Android releases and updates," said Google's Rubin in his Web post.
Videos of the phone show it supporting voice and image recognition as well as automated language translation.
The phone will be available after December 16 unlocked to any network for $529 or with a two-year contract to carriers including T-Mobile for $199, about the same costs as the previous Nexus One launched in January.
Google discontinued the Nexus One in July after lackluster sales. Analysts said part of the problem was users were not sure whether Google or Nexus One maker HTC would support this device. Samsung is expected to provide support for the Nexus S.
The Google Nexus S co-designed with Samsung