Google Dec. 6 formally introduced the Samsung Nexus S, the first smartphone fitted with the long-awaited Android 2.3 operating system.
Google said the smartphone, which has a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen like the members of the popular Samsung Galaxy S family, will be available Dec. 16 online from T-Mobile for $199 with a two-year service plan, or unlocked for $529.
On that day, the Nexus S will also be sold at Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile retail stores in the U.S. Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy retailers in the U.K. will sell the handset beginning Dec. 20.
Co-developed by Google and Samsung, the Nexus S has a 4-inch Contour Display “designed to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand and along the side of your face,” said Google Vice President of Engineering Andy Rubin in a blog post.
The Nexus S is powered by a 1 GHz Hummingbird processor, includes a 5 megapixel rear camera and VGA front camera video chat and runs Android 2.3, the Gingerbread build optimized for running applications on tablet computers.
Gingerbread boasts user interface refinements. There is a new keyboard and text selection tool; Internet (VoIP/SIP) calling; and better copy/paste functionality and gyroscope sensor support for better gaming.
The real gem in the Nexus S may be the NFC (near field communication) chip hinted at by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Web 2.0 Summit three weeks ago.
The chip leverages the short-range wireless technology to let users use their Nexus S devices as clients for swiping against point-of-sale terminals to make purchases.
NFC chipmaker NXP is providing and open source software stack for the NFC chip in the Nexus S.
Android 2.3 supports these activities, communicating with the NFC chip in the Nexus S and future Android handsets. Developers will be able to write mobile payment apps with Android 2.3.
Google’s price point and carrier model for the Nexus S is similar to the one with which it offered the inaugural Nexus One device last January.
However, that model failed because Google sold the device exclusively through its dedicated Webstore and users could not test the device with their own two hands.
Rubin also maintained that Google and its partners are seeing more than 200,000 Android devices activated daily worldwide.
That’s spread across more than 100 different devices, from smartphones to tablets to Google TV-connected devices such as the Logitech Revue and Sony Internet TVs and Blu-ray players.
Samsung is a big beneficiary of Android’s rise, selling more than 3 million Galaxy S phones, and capturing the mantle as leading Android handset provider in the U.S. by accounting for a third of all Android phones sold in the country.