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.
John Makinson, CEO of book publisher Penguin, unveiled to a crowd this week his vision for the iPad and how be plans on pushing “books” and other content to it. I say “books” because these demos look more like applications to me. In fact, Makinson says, “for the time being at least we’ll be creating a lot of our digital content as applications for sales in app stores in HTML, rather than as ebooks. The definition of a book itself, as you can see, is up for grabs.” As demonstrated in the video above, Penguin plans on bringing children’s books with support for embeddable sound, touch interactivity, and accelerometer (shaking/tilting) implementation; interactive textbooks (human anatomy, shown here); an “online community for vampire lovers” (OK?); a travel companion with an itinerary and maps; and lastly a far-out “intergalactic GPS system” that uses the GPS chip and augmented reality to reveal star constellations when you point the device to the sky. That last one will likely remain a concept for a while. It’s good to see a company really looking ahead into the future of print/digital media. The iPad has the power to do these things; it’s up to the developers (here, book publishers) to make it happen. ‘Nother video of Makinson speaking to the crowd about his ideas after the break.
Watching these demos makes me wish I had a kid so I could buy him an iPad and watch him interact and learn in ways I never imagined were possible when I was a toddler.