Google Nexus S gives Apple huge headache

Gingerbread Android at a price

Google has dived back into hardware, formally announcing its second smartphone, the Nexus S for US and UK consumers.

The Nexus S could mark the first point in history when the iPhone could be said to be technologically inferior.

Built by Samsung, the unusually curved Nexus S has a number of unusual features that mark it out from the crowd of Android phones currently available.

It's the first smartphone to run Android 2.3, aka 'Gingerbread', and makes full use of the extra features in this release to debut new capabilities. Chief among these is support for Near Field Communication (NFC), a radio system that allows phones to be used as smartcards but also to gather data from NFC-enabled objects in the environment.

The screen is a 4 inch, high-luminance Super AMOLED unit, which Google claims will make it easier to use outside in daylight without increasing battery drain. There are two cameras, one each facing front and back, which record at 5 megapixels for stills.

Internally, the S uses the 1GHz Cortex A8 'Hummingbird' processor with 16GB of internal memory, enough power to enable to it receive voice-control commands from its owner.

The S can also function as a portable WiFi hotspot, able to connect up to six users to mobile Internet, as far as we know the first phone ever to do this. Currently, this feature is restricted to a handful of standalone devices.

Many Android phone users will rejoice that one-touch word selection and simple copy and paste is at last a standard feature, another benefit of Gingerbread Android.

Criticisms: Near Field is not something that will be very useful to early adopters because it barely exists. It will, however, encourage developers to start using the technology. It is also, at £549 ($860), a very expensive device if bought SIM free to run on any carrier.

In the UK, two suppliers have been announced Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy, with the former offering it on a £35 per month tariff. The exact date the S will go on sale has yet to be clarified but is imminent.

Which mobile carriers will offer it and on what terms is unknown.

Google's original Nexus helped kickstart the Android market that has now overtaken Apple as the number one smartphone platform. The old Nexus was discontinued last summer.

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