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.
We don’t have all the details yet regarding full carrier availability, but for those who are anxious to get their hands on RIM’s latest toy, here’s what we do know:
TELUS, Rogers and Bell Mobility are planning to launch the device on September 24th.(see update below) TELUS isn’t offering any rate plan info yet, but Bell and Rogers have said that it will be available for as low at $199 on a 3-year contract. It’s likely that TELUS will offer something similar.
No word yet on which of the other carriers (Virgin, Fido etc.)
The $199 (see update below) price point is a bit of a surprise given that the iPhone 4 is available for $159 on a similar three-year term and actually comes with more memory out of the box (16GB) than the Torch (combined 8GB). However there is a massive untapped group of users out there who refuse to give up their BlackBerrys – especially the physical keyboard – and are desperate for a modern mobile browser which the Torch certainly delivers.
Marc was impressed but not blown away by the Torch’s specs, and suspects that it’s a case of too little too late. Now that I see the pricing, I’m wondering if it’s going to be a case of too little, too late and too pricey. But that, as they say, remains to be seen since very few people have actually had a chance to try out RIM’s first slider-touchscreen phone.
Update, September 24th: Okay, well here we are on the day that the Torch was supposed to launch here in Canada, but clearly that hasn’t happened. The good news is that all of the carriers have now gotten official with a new date (September 30th) but more importantly, a new price: $179 on a 3-year contract. Now that’s still a premium on the price of a base-model iPhone 4, but only by $20. I’ve had the Torch for just under a week now, and while my initial impressions are good, I think it’s going to be a hard sell if RIM is looking to convert any iPhone users to their platform. Stay tuned, we’ll publish our full impressions soon!
Every Apple Store will be carrying the iPhone 4 tomorrow (July 30th) in both the locked and unlocked flavours. The doors open at 7 a.m. so if you plan to hit one of the popular locations like Toronto’s Eaton Centre you should probably arrive early.
Shopping online for the iPhone 4 is also an option if you want the unlocked edition.
If you don’t require the full Apple experience, then you’ll be able to grab the iPhone at select Bell World locations and Rogers Wireless outlets. Check out these links for pricing info from all of the carriers:
As of the writing of this post, Telus has still not updated their website with pricing information, but it’s a fair assumption that they will be on par with the other two providers.
Good luck and happy shopping!
Update Jul 30, 9:12 AM EST: BestBuy and FutureShop are now reporting that they too are carrying the iPhone 4 today and that you can sign up with any of the carriers that support the device (TELUS, Bell, Rogers, Fido, Virgin Mobile).
Update Jul 30, 3:32 PM EST: TELUS now has pricing info as well. Thanks for the tip Joan.
Disclosure: Sync Blog is owned and operated by Bell Canada.
It’s been a busy day in the tech world. First Facebook announces simplified privacy controls (it’s about time), then Apple’s stock price pushes the company’s market cap higher than that of Microsoft for the first time in history. But hold on to your mouse – it’s not over yet.
On the Canadian side of landscape, we have a new announcement from Bell:
iPad Data Plans
In case you were worried that Rogers would have the monopoly on the iPad the way they did for the first 3 years of the iPhone in Canada, you can now rest easy. Bell has just released the details of their data plans for the iPad. Stop me if this sounds familiar:
$15 for 250Mb
$35 for 5Gb
These monthly rates are non-contract, pre-paid fees that are billed directly to your credit card. Unfortunately these charges cannot be added to your Bell bill. So far, the package is identical to what Rogers is currently offering. But there are a few differences that might sway you one way or the other. First, Bell’s 3G network has a larger footprint than Rogers. Check the coverage maps and see if this will impact you based on where you think you’ll want to use the device most. Second, both of the Bell data plans give you complimentary and unlimited access to a growing network of Wi-Fi hotspots across the country including 700 Starbucks locations. On a related note, if you are already a Bell Internet subscriber, you have access to these hotspots right now.
The data plans can be canceled at any time and are available for purchase as of May 28th.
Full Disclosure: Sync is owned and operated by Bell Canada