Today turned out to be an announcement-filled day for the hardworking team at Google. The next true “Google phone” was formally unveiled, the next version of Android dubbed Gingerbread was detailed, Google Maps Navigation received a major upgrade, and now the search giant is the latest company to offer a vast eBooks store and ecosystem. Let’s jump right to the facts, shall we?
Nexus S: The Nexus S, a collaborative effort between Google and hardware manufacturer Samsung, is the follow-up device to the Nexus One. In similar fashion to its predecessor, the Nexus S promotes a “pure Google” experience, meaning that it runs the pure vanilla version of Android; you wouldn’t dare find an inkling of customized UI overlays like HTC’s Sense, Motorola’s Motoblur, or even Samsung’s own TouchWiz. Unfortunately the specifications do not push conventional boundaries, although there are some new welcome additions that complement the new Android platform: 4-inch WVGA (480×800) Super AMOLED display (Samsung is touting the new “Contour Display” that’s “designed to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand and along the side of your face”), 1GHz Cortex A8 (Hummingbird) processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage, 5 megapixel rear-facing camera with auto-focus, flash, and HD 720p video recording, front-facing VGA camera (640×480), Wi-Fi 802.11 n/b/g, Bluetooth 2.1, A-GPS, Near Field Communication (NFC), accelerometer, proximity sensor, three-axis gyroscope. Ports-wise there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microUSB 2.0 port. The 1500 mAH Lithum Ion battery boasts the following life support: Talk time up to 6.7 hours on 3G (14 hours on 2G), Standby time up to 17.8 days on 3G (29.7 days on 2G). Interestingly the phone only supports tri-band HSPA, so there’s no 4G support here. Of all the tech specs listed, you may be pondering about NFC. Essentially NFC works like QR codes but better; companies can place NFC chips into objects like movie posters and the user can hold up their phone to the tagged object to extract information from it (there’s no need to open an app or bring up the camera).
So the spec sheet isn’t all that impressive, but there are two things that save this phone from being just another Android device: it’s sexy Galaxy S looks (good job Samsung) and it’s the very first device to run Android 2.3, aka Gingerbread (more on that in a bit). Let’s talk release date and pricing. The Nexus S ships December 17 for $199 with a new 2-year contract with T-Mobile (or $529 unlocked) and it’ll be available for purchase online and in-store from all Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores in the U.S. It lands in the UK on December 20 at Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy retailers.
Android 2.3: Gingerbread is by no means a full system overhaul. In fact, most UI tweaks are minimal; the update boasts faster speeds and support for new functionality. I’ll run through some of the highlights: UI refinements make Android easier to learn, faster to use, and more power-efficient; the on-screen keyboard is redesigned and optimized for faster text input and editing; better copy-and-paste functionality with one-touch word selection; improved power management (the user now has more visibility over the power being consumed by system components and running apps and can manage application activity); Internet (VoIP/SIP) calling; NFC integration with a Reader application; a Downloads application gives the user easy access to any file downloaded from the browser, email, etc.; enhancements for gaming with gyroscope support; and now the OS will recognize a front-facing camera if a device has it. Google will be open-sourcing 2.3 in “the coming weeks”. We know it will first be featured in the Nexus S come December 17, but there’s no word on when it’ll hit existing Android devices.
Maps for Mobile: Though it hasn’t been released just yet, Google’s Andy Rubin previewed the next version of Google Maps for Mobile at an industry event. Version 5 features dynamic map drawing, new multitouch inputs, and offline caching. Maps will use vector graphics instead of flat images and this will provide real-time rendering, smoother zooming, and faster load times. As you zoom into street view level the buildings will appear as 3D models. Over 100 major cities, including NYC, will get the 3D render treatment when the new Maps experience launches. Moving onto new multitouch inputs. You can use two fingers to manually rotate the map in a circular motion to orient it to your liking; or you can tell the app to follow you using the device’s built-in compass much like the iPhone has had featured for some time now. Also, there’s a super cool new two finger swipe action that allows you to tilt the map to get a sense of a building’s height. And finally there’s offline caching; since vector graphics take up less storage than the flat images of yesteryear, Maps will use that to its advantage and allow you to navigate locations even if there’s no data connection. Maps will cache (or save) the locations you navigate to and search for most often, so if you get lost and the data connection cuts out it’ll still be able to reroute you no problem. Google Maps for Mobile 5 is coming soon to the following Android devices: Droid, Droid X, Droid 2, Droid Incredible, Galaxy S, Evo, G2, Nexus S.
Google eBooks: Amazon’s got the Kindle; Barnes & Noble’s got the Nook; Apple’s got its slew of iOS devices; and now Google takes the cloud. Welcome Google eBooks to the e-reading fray. Google Editions is now Google eBooks and it harnesses the power of the cloud for ebook browsing, purchasing, reading, and storing. A new Google eBookstore offers you access to a vast library of over three million titles to sample and purchase (a hefty bulk of them are free, mind you). In addition to the eBookstore Google is touting the openness of their new eBooks ecosystem. When you purchase a book on the computer it gets stored in the cloud (secured under your password-protected Google Account) and is accessible in a myriad of ways. You can read a book on your computer inside Google’s Javascipt-based Web Reader; and since books are stored in the cloud you can read them on any Internet-enabled computer in a browser. You can also read a book on your cell phone using Google’s Android and iOS free eBooks apps, and on any device that supports the Adobe Digital Editions DRM for PDF and ePub files (including the Nook, Sony Reader, and many more). And thanks to the power of the cloud, you can pick up on the page where you left off when switching between devices. Last, Google says that since 2004 when Google Books first launched they’ve “digitized more than 15 million books from more than 35,000 publishers, more than 40 libraries, and more than 100 countries in more than 400 languages”; all of these rich sources will continue to be accessible in the research section alongside the eBookstore.
Well that was a mouthful, now wasn’t it? After you’ve educated yourself with all this Google goodness, hop after the break to watch many videos relating to the topics discussed. You’ll also find some official PR hanging out, too.
SAMSUNG AND GOOGLE TO DELIVER NEXUS S, THE FIRST MOBILE PHONE IN THE WORLD POWERED BY ANDROID 2.3
Nexus S offers the latest version of the Android platform, Gingerbread, 4″ Super AMOLED touch screen with curved design, Near Field Communication (NFC), front and rear-facing cameras and 1GHz application processor
SEOUL, Korea, and DALLAS, US December 6, 2010 – Samsung Electronics, a leading mobile phone provider and the No. 1 mobile phone provider1 in the U.S., and Google™ today announced Nexus S™, the world’s first handset to feature the latest version of Google’s Android™ platform. Powered by Android 2.3, Samsung and Google have packed Nexus S with powerful technology and the latest in hardware features.
JK Shin, President and Head of Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics, said, “Samsung and Google have worked together closely to deliver the best Android smart phone experience for consumers. It has been our ambition in working with Google to continue to push the Android platform forward and create a smart phone that has both superior functionality and a stunning user-experience. It is extremely satisfying to see this partnership again bear tremendous fruit.”
“Samsung was thrilled to work with Google to create the first device featuring the much anticipated Android 2.3 OS. Nexus S is powerful proof of Samsung and Google’s commitment to bringing technology firsts to market and launching products that utilize the open and innovative Android operating system,” said Omar Khan, chief strategy officer of Samsung Telecommunications America. “Nexus S integrates Samsung’s best-in-class hardware and technology with the exciting new features and upgrades of Android 2.3 Gingerbread to give consumers a breakthrough smartphone experience.”
“Google is excited to co-develop Nexus S with Samsung, ensuring solid integration of hardware and software to deliver the lead device for the latest version of Android, Gingerbread,” said Andy Rubin, Vice President of Engineering at Google.
Nexus S is designed with Samsung’s brilliant Super AMOLED touch screen technology providing a premium viewing experience. The 4-inch Contour Display features a curved design for a more ergonomic style and feel when held to the user’s face. Nexus S also features Near Field Communication (NFC) technology which allows you to read information off of everyday objects like stickers and posters that are embedded with NFC chips. Powered by a 1 GHz Samsung application processor, Nexus S produces rich 3D graphics, faster upload and download times and supports HD-like multimedia content.
Nexus S is equipped with a 5 megapixel rear facing camera and camcorder, as well as a VGA front facing camera. In addition, Nexus S features a gyroscope sensor to provide a smooth, fluid gaming experience when the user is tilting the device up or down or panning the phone to the left or right. Nexus S also comes with 16 GB of internal memory.
Android 2.3, Gingerbread, is the fastest version of Android yet. It features support for Near Field Communication (NFC), a new and improved keyboard with multi-touch support, Internet calling (VoIP/SIP support), and a clean new user interface. Nexus S also includes popular Android features such as portable Wi-Fi hotspot, true multitasking, access to Google mobile services such as Google Search™, Gmail™, Google Maps™ with Navigation, Voice Actions, Google Voice™ and YouTube™, and access to over 100,000 apps and widgets on Android Market™.
Nexus S can be purchased (unlocked) online and in-store from Best Buy retailers in the U.S. starting after December 16 and at Carphone Warehouse retailers in the U.K. after December 20.