Internet giant Google unveiled its second smartphone on Dec. 6, the "Nexus S" made by South Korea's Samsung.
Google said the Nexus S, which follows the Nexus One, which was a critical success if not a huge commercial hit, is powered by "Gingerbread," the latest version of Google's popular Android operating system for mobile phones.
Google vice president of engineering Andy Rubin said the Nexus S would be the first Android device to ship with the new version of the Android platform. "Nexus S delivers what we call a 'pure Google' experience: unlocked, unfiltered access to the best Google mobile services and the latest and greatest Android releases and updates."
The Nexus S will be available in the United States from December 16 from Best Buy stores and from December 20 at Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy retailers in Britain, Rubin said.
The Nexus S will be offered in the United States with a service plan from US wireless carrier T-Mobile or "unlocked," Rubin said.
Unlocked Nexus S phones that can be linked to any telecom network simply by inserting SIM cards will be priced at $529 while people opting for two-year service contracts with T-Mobile will get the gadgets for $199.
The touchscreen Nexus S features a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, front and rear facing cameras and 16 gigabytes of internal memory.
It is also equipped with near field communication (NFC) hardware that turns the device into a virtual wallet, allowing users to "tap and pay" for financial transactions.
NFC chips store personal data that can be transmitted to readers, say at a shop checkout stand, by tapping a handset on a pad.
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said last month that he expects the tap-and-pay mobile technology to "eventually replace credit cards."
Google launched the Nexus One in January of last year in a bid to challenge Apple's iPhone and the Blackberry from Canada's Research in Motion but closed its online store offering the device just four months later.
"The year opened with a bang with Google launching Nexus One and it is going out with a bang with the launch of the Nexus S," said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. "The Nexus S will set the stage for what Android devices will look like in 2011."
The Nexus line is becoming a product that demonstrates Google's vision of how smartphones can perform with Android software, according to the analyst.
"The Nexus S will be Android as Google meant it to be seen," Gartenberg said. "To that degree, the Nexus One was a success; it was a place where you could get a pure Google experience."
The Nexus One didn't catch on with consumers but was a hit with software developers and other technophiles.
The Nexus S "raises the bar" for other handset makers as Android-based smartphones battle to wrest market share from rivals such as the iPhone and BlackBerry devices.
It remains to be seen whether Google will face a backlash from electronics firms making handsets based on earlier versions of Android.
Google gives open source Android software away for free to smartphone makers and "doesn't owe anything to anyone," Gartenberg said of the Nexus S competing with the company's handset partners.
"This shows that Google is once again driving things forward as it sees fit; not waiting for a partner or carrier," the analyst added.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010