Android this week: Nexus Prime launches; tablet sales data; Android 4.0 arrives

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Google’s next flagship phone, long called the Nexus Prime, was introduced as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Wednesday morning this past week. The phone debuted at a Samsung press event in Hong Kong and confirmed many rumors circling around the handset’s hardware. Even so, the news has led to some questioning how cutting-edge the Nexus actually is.

A quick run-down of the specifications for those who missed the announcement:

  • 4.65-inch 1280 x 720-pixel Super AMOLED HD with curved glass
  • TI OMAP 4460 dual-core Cortex A9 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz
  • 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage
  • 5 megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capture, 1.3 megapixel front facing camera
  • LTE / HSPA mobile broadband
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, NFC support, barometer sensor

The Galaxy Nexus is the first handset to use a Samsung Super AMOLED display that’s 4.65-inches in size. With a computer-like resolution, the screen should be stunning. However, detailed analysis of the technology by FlatPanelsHD shows that the display uses sub-pixels, which means some pixels are shared. I’ll have to see the screen for myself, but I suspect only the most discriminating users will see any issues.

Some enthusiasts are also disappointed by Samsung’s choice of a 5 megapixel rear camera sensor. I agree that Samsung missed an opportunity here — at least for those who care mostly about megapixels — but as the iPhone 4 has shown for more than year, with the right image processing software and camera sensor, a 5 megapixel camera can shoot excellent pictures. We’ll get a better feel for the camera quality soon, as Verizon has announced it will carry an LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus before year end.

Hardware of course, is only part of the equation for any  mobile device. Along with the new phone, Google introduced Android 4.0, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, which is the version that will run on the Galaxy Nexus. Everything you need to know about Android 4.0 is here, but a basic summary from what I saw during the introduction includes:

  • A cleaner, more consistent user interface
  • Roboto, a new system font
  • Notifications in the lock screen
  • Facial recognition for unlocking the phone
  • Improved cut/copy/paste
  • Voice recognition in near real-time for text input
  • Updated core apps, i.e.; Gmail, Calendar, etc…
  • Detailed data usage monitoring with customizable alerts
  • Contacts are now People, with social network integration
  • Android Beam: a method to share data wirelessly via NFC proximity

Android 4.0 looks far more like a finished product than Honeycomb, or Android 3.0 and it should unify Google-powered smartphones and tablets. Ultimately, that could help Android tablet sales, although some think they’re selling just fine.

A research report from Strategy Analytics this past week suggests that Android tablets now hold more than a quarter of the tablet market and are quickly eating into Apple’s iPad sales. Upon closer inspection of the analysis, there are several discrepancies and interpretations that simply don’t make sense to me. I outlined some data points that indicate Android tablets still aren’t selling well.

Perhaps with Android 4.0 in combination with quad-core chips, we’ll see an uptick in Android tablets next year.

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