Google (GOOG) is back in the phone business. The company announced its Nexus S as well as Gingerbread, otherwise known as Android 2.3, the latest release of its operating system. The latter will likely see at least as much success as previous versions, but the phone? This "next Android device from the Nexus line of mobile products" shows that Google learned some lessons beyond product features from the licking it took with the Nexus One. However, it may not have learned enough to make the S a hit.
The Nexus S (built by Samsung) has much of what you might expect from phone hardware these days:
- 1 gigahertz Samsung Hummingbird processor
- new user interface, via Gingerbread
- VoIP capabilities
- front facing camera for video conferencing as well as rear-facing camera
- 5 megapixel rear-facing camera that can also shoot HD video
In addition, there is also near-field communication (NFC), so the phone can pull data from NFC product tags, as well as act as a payment device rather than a credit card. Nevertheless, more important are some of the changes that Google has made since trying to bring the Nexus One to market. Google decided not to sell online -- a wise choice, given folks' inclination to want to see and touch products that run $200 or more. To say nothing of the number of irritated consumers who had problems dealing with Google's online order and support systems.
Instead, both T-Mobile stores and Best Buys will carry the Nexus S from the start. The cost at retail will be $199, rather than the $300 that T-Mobile charged for the One back in May. Also, the S is a quad-band phone, which means that it should, in theory, work on AT&T (T), as well as partner T-Mobile
Google executives should still hold off from a happy dance. There are enough problems left to put a big question mark on Google's potential success. Gingerbread, for instance, is available as a downloadable upgrade to Android phones. So people who really want to try it don't need to buy upgraded hardware, robbing the Nexus S of one potential edge.
Furthermore, like its predecessor, the Nexus S isn't cheap. Although it's available at $199 with a T-Mobile plan, if you want to use the phone elsewhere, the unlocked version is $529, and it's not available in the U.S. until December 16. That's before Christmas, but not much before, and a lot of people will have made many of their big purchases by then.