Last year, Google broke new ground in the mobile space when they announced the “Google phone” which was to become known as the Nexus 1. HTC built the handset but Google took the unusual step of marketing it directly to consumers from their own e-commerce website.
And while this “selling direct” model didn’t last long (Google eventually stopped selling this way and partnered with Best Buy in the U.S. to sell the phone) the Google phone itself has continued to evolve.
And while Canada missed out on the first version The latest iteration is the Nexus S. This time around it’s built by Samsung (that’s the ‘S’ part of the name) and if you’ve ever used Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphone, you’ll feel right at home with the Nexus S. The two phones share much in common, including the dazzling Super AMOLED screen, which is incredibly vivid. But there are some significant differences too. The Nexus S has a slightly curved screen – curved from top to bottom, not side to side. Samsung claims this not only makes the phone more comfortable to hold as it matches the contour of your head and hand, but also helps to improve visibility by better handling reflections off the glossy surface of the screen.
The other big difference is that while the handset itself is 100% Samsung, the OS is 100% Google. Unlike other Samsung phones running Android and in fact unlike *any* other Android phone from other manufacturers, the Nexus S has no 3rd party software on it whatsoever. No TouchWiz or other manufacturer layer on top of Android, no third party app store like Samsung Apps, and no carrier apps (such as carrier-specific GPS apps) pre-loaded.
The whole user interface is unadulterated Android Gingerbread. Now, depending on your experiences with other Android devices this may or may not be a good thing. If you’ve come to enjoy the extras that TouchWiz or HTC Sense bring to Android, you won’t find them on the Nexus S. One of the biggest downsides to this in my opinion is the lack of the superb “Swype” application that gives users a whole new (and I think far more efficient) way of inputting text from the on-screen keyboard.
On the upside – and many folks will be delighted with this – there is no longer an middle man between you and upgrades to your mobile OS from Google. As soon as Google releases an update for Android, it will be available to Nexus S users.
This positions the Nexus S as the ultimate smartphone for those who simply must have the latest upgrades and can’t stand the idea of waiting while the manufacturer figures out all of the compatibility issues with their proprietary software. When you hear people refer to the Nexus as a “Google phone” – that’s why. The hardware might be Samsung, but everything else is Google.
Interestingly, both carriers and Samsung will provide first-line tech support for the Nexus S, only handing off to Google if they can’t resolve the problem themselves.
Speaking of carriers, the Nexus S represents the first time a new handset will launch simultaneously on every provider in Canada. And I mean *every* carrier. In addition to the big three (Bell, TELUS, Rogers) there will be a version for WIND and Mobilicity too and Videotron in Quebec. This is unusual if only because most manufacturers release their GSM (or EVDO) versions first, and then only after an initial exclusivity period move on to the AWS version – that is if they do one at all.
I know you’re probably itching for a firm launch date and price point but Samsung wasn’t offering either up when I met with them today. All they would say is “early April.”
They did mention that in addition to the usual batch of carrier store locations, there would be a big retail partner too. Your guess is as good as mine.
I’ve got a demo unit in my hands as I write this, so you can expect a full review as soon as I’ve put the device through its paces. In the meantime, here are some images to keep you entertained as well as this link to Engadget’s review of the U.S. Nexus S.