Google Nexus S smartphone: Nine facts you need to know

Google Nexus S smartphone: Nine facts you need to know

Google yesterday unveiled its latest handheld, the Nexus S. The high-end Android smartphone, made by Samsung in conjunction with Google, offers users a "pure Google experience," according to the company, and it is expected to become available within the coming weeks. What follows are nine key facts all potential Nexus S buyers should know about the new gadget.

1) Google Nexus S is First Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) Smartphone

Along with the Nexus S, Google announced the latest version of its mobile OS, Android v2.3, or "Gingerbread." Gingerbread will eventually make its way to additional handhelds, but right now, the Google Nexus S is the first and only device to run Android 2.3.

New features and enhancements within Android Gingerbread include faster overall performance on compatible devices; a sleeker, more fluid UI; a new on-screen keyboard; a new text selection tool for improved copy-and-paste functionality; gyroscope sensor support; and much more.

Download the Android 2.3 user guide for more details on Gingerbread.

2) Nexus S Comes Factory Unlocked...But Only Supports T-Mobile 3G in U.S.

The Google Nexus S offers users "unlocked, unfiltered access to the best Google mobile services and the latest and greatest Android releases and updates," according to Google's VP of Engineering, Andy Rubin.

That means the device comes factory unlocked, so it will work on any compatible GSM network. However, the Nexus S only supports T-Mobile U.S.A. 3G frequencies. So while you could purchase the current version of the Nexus S and use it on AT&T's network in the United States -- or elsewhere overseas -- you'll only have access to AT&T's subpar 2.5G EDGE network and no 3G.

Furthermore, even though the Nexus S supports HSDPA speeds up to 7.2Mbps and HSUPA to 5.76Mbps, it cannot take full advantage of T-Mobile's HSPDA+ network, which offers faster data-transfer speeds.

3) Google Nexus S is a Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

In addition to being a standalone mobile Web surfing machine, the Nexus S can serve as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot for up to six separate, Wi-Fi-enabled devices including smartphones, laptops and other gadgets. When connected to the Web using another device, via Google Nexus S, you won't incur any additional Internet-related data charges, according to Google. Bye-bye, Mi-Fi!

4) New Support for Near Field Communications (NFC)

The Nexus S with Android Gingerbread has new support for near field communication (NFC) technologies. NFC is a short-range, wireless technology that allows for quick and easy data-transfer between devices and objects with embedded NFC-tags. And NFC can be used for a variety of purposes, including gaining additional information about a product or service by "scanning" it's respective NFC tag, and enabling various forms of mobile payments.

The Google Nexus S is one of the first high-end smartphones to hit the market with NFC support, but handhelds from other major manufacturers, including BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM), will also likely get NFC functionality.

5) Google Nexus S Does Not Support Bluetooth 3.0

Google's new Nexus handset uses the now-common Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR standard, but it does not support the newer, faster Bluetooth 3.0 standard. This is noteworthy because many of Samsung's new devices do support Bluetooth 3.0, but it's notably absent in the Nexus S. That means no faster, more reliable -- and Wi-Fi bolstered -- Bluetooth data transfers for Google Nexus S users.

6) Google Nexus S Has 16GB of Internal Storage, but No Memory Card

With 16GB of iNAND Flash memory for internal storage, the Google Nexus S should have plenty of room for keeping music, video and other multimedia. But it's mysteriously lacking a microSD card slot -- or support for any sort of memory card. Most modern high-end smartphones, with the notable exception of Apple's iPhone, support some sort of memory card, and the fact that the Nexus S does is sure to frustrate many future users. (The original Google Nexus One did come with a microSD card.)

7) Google Nexus S Initially Available Through Best Buy Stores

The Nexus S should become available on December 16 through Best Buy stores and in the United States for $529 unlocked and with no contract, followed by a U.K. release on December 20 via Carphone Warehouse stores, according to Google. It's unclear at this point whether or not an additional version of the device will eventually be available through other wireless carriers, but T-Mobile is expected to offer the device for $199 along with a new, two-year contract.

8) Google Nexus S Sports Curved, "Contour Display"

The Nexus S will be the first smartphone to launch with a "Contour Display," made by Samsung, according to Google. Benefits of such a curved, or contoured, screen could include enhanced comfort when holding the device to your face during a call, and a more natural/comfortable typing experience while holding the device horizontally, or in landscape mode.

The Nexus S Super AMOLED capacitive touch screen (235ppi) also has a finger-print-resistant coating.

9) Google Nexus S Supports VoIP/ SIP Calling

Nexus S users will be able to place VoIP calls, or calls made over the Internet, without the need for any third-party client, like Skype, thanks to new SIP support in the Android Gingerbread OS -- though you'll need a SIP account and you'll only be able to call others who use SIP. SIP can help save on your monthly allotment of voice minutes, since your calls go directly over the Web and not through typical cellular channels.

Nexus S users also will be able to associate a SIP address with contacts for easy calling directly from their address books.

Read more about Android 2.3 Gingerbread and SIP on the Android developer site.

And learn more about the Nexus S on Google's website.

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Al at

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