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Google Looks to Play it Safe With Nexus S

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The Nexus One had such ambitious goals: It was going to push the state of Android (s goog) hardware and it was going to establish a direct-to-consumer model for unlocked phones. Now Google seems to be trading its ground-breaking approach for something more familiar, friendly and safe with the Nexus One’s heir apparent, the Nexus S.

Evidence of the Nexus S showed up today on Engadget and Phandroid, which found a Best Buy web page featuring it on sale for the holidays. It’s unclear if this is the same as the rumored Nexus Two though it’s likely they are the same. But while the Nexus S shares the Nexus name, it doesn’t seem to created in the same spirit which makes me wonder why it bears the name at all.

While the original tried unsuccessfully to establish a more European style of buying phones unlocked and unsubsidized, the Nexus S looks like it will be sold initially through Best Buy (s bby), and be locked to T-Mobile. The phone itself, if early reports are to be believed, doesn’t seem like a terribly ground-breaking handset like the Nexus One was at the time of its launch. Except for a possible 1.2 GHz processor, the Nexus S looks like very much like a Samsung Galaxy S phone, which makes sense because they’re both built by Samsung.

In many ways, the Nexus S looks like it’s built to not offend Google’s manufacturing and carrier partners. The phone won’t substantially upstage or compete heavily with most existing phones. That wasn’t the case with the Nexus One, which launched right on the heels of the Motorola Droid (s mot) on Verizon Wireless (s vz), which Om said angered both the carrier and the manufacturer.

So the second generation Nexus handset will just be a Google-flavored phone with a stock operating system, though it will likely be the first to sport Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). Don’t get me wrong — the new Nexus S is good for developers who want to build apps on a device that can get updated in a timely manner. And it’s nice for consumers who want a phone free from all the custom user-interface skins that manufacturers are piling on, or a device that can get updates quickly without waiting for carrier approval. And I understand Google had a tough go of it the first time with its online store. But it’s disappointing that Google isn’t trying to to push the envelope anymore.

I could be wrong, and Google could revive its online store. Andy Rubin, VP of engineering at Google, said the company is still interested in selling unlocked phones, and we could certainly see versions of the Nexus S sold unlocked. But Google seems less interested in challenging the established carriers these days and more interested in partnering with them. Having seen the Nexus One, I wish its successor was a little more ambitious.

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21 Responses to “Google Looks to Play it Safe With Nexus S”

  1. The Nexus S’ display supports 16.7 million colors and 800×480 pixels. Though that’s the same resolution as the Nexus One, Samsung’s display offers a few advantages thanks to its Super AMOLED status (HTC’s display was just AMOLED). more tablet info and smartphone tech at btw Samsung is highlighting the Nexus S’ “contour” design in its promotional materials. To you, that means that the front of the device is slightly concave. The idea is to make it more comfortable to hold the phone against the side of your head

  2. musicalnote

    i think google should license Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One” to promote this new NEXUS S phone

    go to youtube and search Jay-Z x Google Nexus S Commercial by ESF

  3. Google should really focus on taking Android into the feature phone market. Really makes sense :
    – Feature phones are popular in the emerging markets (Asia, Africa) due to their affordability
    – Thats where the major growth for mobile phones is and if Google can get a real competitor in, they could start to eat Nokia’s lunch. If you want market share, THats where you can make a dent! Globally Nokia has 70% market share…. continue fighting for the 30%, but focus on the other 70% where the big guys (Apple, RIM, MS) are notably absent and cannot compete with their current offerings
    – Emerging market consumers are used to having to pay for their devices in full with no contracts (talk to the milkman in India)

    Apple, RIM, MS, Nokia, HTC etc are in the business of devices. They sell hardware. They have a hardware based strategy. Google is in the business of information. Mobile hardware helps them get in with the generators and consumers or information. Sure smartphones are really where the mobile web becomes relevant for Google, but it will not be long before a smartphone becomes the lowest common denominator and the mobile web is suddenly in everyone’s hands. While the big guys try and fight it out for the more lucrative consumers of today, Google should make their inroads into the smartphone consumers of tomorrow – the unsubsidized, feature phone carrying, smartphone consumer of tomorrow in the emerging markets.

  4. I’m the proud owner of a Nexus One with CyanogenMod 6, overclocked, themed and it’s the best phone I’ve owned and I’ve owned plenty. The successor to the Nexus should have a solid design not the plastic we see on all Galaxy S devices. Samsung has good hardware but I hope they pay attention to what people are saying and build a solid alloy uni-body phone. AND STOP MAKING YOUR PHONES LOOK LIKE THE IPHONE! Nexus 2 or S or elite should have a next gen CPU, GPU, more RAM ect… Make it a real upgrade and not a sidegrade.

  5. The Nexus S (sounds like Galaxy S) still applies a whip to the OEMs, because having the latest version of Android is a real incentive to consumers.

    Carriers still abuse Android’s openness, and slow down the update process, angering consumers. Having Android 2.3 will make all the others look old.

  6. at the time the nexus one was pretty reasonable, a certainly a nice upgrade. But it has multiple problems, and it’s quite possible Google should never be allowed to design a phone again:

    – Top hard button (only button that will unlock phone) breaks and requires phone replacement. This happened to me and multiple other people.
    – Missing other hard buttons, this is where their lack of phone experience shows.
    – No sale channel, no accessories, no nothing. Just a phone, nothing else.

    Generally speaking I find my nexus one experience has been tepid at best. However my mytouch 4g experience is great so far. Cases at launch, great phone, hard camera button, etc.

  7. The sad thing here is Google is getting so timid that they dont want to release superior hardware to upstage the bloated galaxy crap. Nexus has and always will only appeal to those on the fringe whether developers or smarter than the average Joe Sixpack. My detest of the current mobile landscape is such that if Google tried to buck the system a second time I would not only jump on board, I would use my considerable rep to push these on friends and family. Step up Google and there will be many more like me.

    • Yeah, I just liked that the Nexus was an exemplar device, showing what could be done. If this is the real Nexus One successor, it’s feels like just another phone, a very good one with a basic OS, but still, less to get excited about.

  8. I think you nailed it on the head. The phone just doesn’t appear to be groundbreaking, at all (based on the available leaked info). If it ends up with the same specs as the Samsung i9000 Galaxy S, with a minor processor upgrade and no HSPA+, it will be a big disappointment to a lot of folks. Also, when you compare it with the specs on Samsung’s Feb ’11 flagship phone (leak reported by Engadget) it could look very last generation in only a couple months.

    As to the problem with full price phones in the US, one huge sticking point is the lack of ~universal carrier band support. Buying at full price doesn’t get you anything. The threat of switching carriers (while keeping my current phone) is the only thing that is going to interject some real competition into the mobile carrier market and drive prices down. The only player that is going to be able to accomplish this is one who can thumb their nose at carriers and still make a killing. Currently, only one company fits that criteria: Apple.

    Also, the phrase “locked to T-Mobile” is a bit misleading.

  9. before large number of american will buy full price/unsubsidized phones a couple things have to change.

    1. we need plans whether prepaid or postpaid that are sold at a significant discount. customers should get some savings for providing their own device.

    2. we need device neutral plans. i want walk into a GSM carriers store and pick up a SIM card with a certain amount of minutes, texts and data or perhaps an unlimited or metered plan. i should than be able to drop that SIM into any phone(basic, feature or smart) or tablet or MIFI or card card.

    the trend is going the other way with carriers mandating data plans for smartphone owners who may be quite happy with wifi only for data(or maybe a very small data plan for very occasional use) and banning users from swapping value data plans into smartphone from feature phones.

    we should not have to provide any device info to a carrier to get a SIM card with a certain allotment.

    • “.. we need plans whether prepaid or postpaid that are sold at a significant discount…”

      That goes hand-in-hand with eliminating phone subsidies, doesn’t it? Americans have *always* paid full price (or more) for the phones but that cost is just buried into the carrier’s 2 year contract price. Americans buy everything with “low monthly payments”

      • the nexus one most be an exception because every attempt i have made to buy a day pass on an android device on t-mobile prepaid has redirected me to a web page saying my phone is not eligible.