The upcoming Nexus S, announced today, isn’t just another Android phone. It’s “the new Android phone from Google.“With its release, Google is taking another stab at the perception (encouraged by competitors) that Android is a fragmented platform with too little consistency between different hardware and versions.
The Nexus S is the first phone to run Android 2.3 (formerly known as Gingerbread), and Eric Schmidt showed it briefly on stage at last month’s Web 2.0 Summit. Gingerbread has some cutting-edge features, like support for voice-over-IP (there goes your voice plan) and near-field communications (NFC, which turns your phone into a device in-store purchases).
But the key is that the new version of Android is launching first–and so far exclusively–on the Nexus S. Google notes that it codeveloped the Nexus S with Samsung, and the phone offers what the company calls a “pure Google” experience. In other words, it’s got all the Google Apps preinstalled, and you won’t be seeing Bing as the default search engine.
This shows Google’s split strategy with Android. It has to let carriers and handset makers build a bunch of different Android phones at different price points and with different features. That variety and choice is how Android’s been able to grow so fast.
But Google understands that infinite choice can also equal confusion for consumers, so it also wants to create a premium-level Android experience to keep the brand strong and compete against more integrated and consistent phone platforms, particularly Apple’s iPhone.
Google tried the same thing with the Nexus One earlier this year. Google also tried to sell an unlocked version of that phone through its Web site, but shut that initiative down because of insufficient customer demand, and because it peeved carrier partners like Verizon.
With the Nexus S, Google is once again offering the phone unlocked, but through regular retail partners like Best Buy. It’s also selling it through T-Mobile with a contract.
The Nexus S goes on sale December 16 in the U.S. and December 20 in the U.K.
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