Android handset

Google’s Android has already overtaken Apple’s iOS in terms of
smartphone marketshare, and the onslaught shows no sign of stopping. The
company launched Gingerbread, the latest version of its mobile
operating system (OS) today, along with a new co-branded phone: the
Nexus S.

The launch strategy behind Gingerbread and the Nexus S reveals how thinking about mobile devices (and how to sell them) is evolving at the Googleplex.

Google learned a tough lesson about phones and ecommerce

Google made headlines when it launched its first co-branded phone, the Nexus One, but it wasn’t for the right reasons. Consumers balked at the hefty price tag that came along with being “untethered” to a specific carrier. They also griped about the lack of customer service via Google’s online store.

The company learned that shoppers didn’t want to buy something as personal, expensive and necessary as a phone without some handholding (or maybe just a tactile experience), and closed up shop this summer. 

So the new Nexus S will be sold in stores as well as online from the onset. The handset goes on sale in Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores in the US on Dec 16; Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy will have them in the UK on Dec 20. 

Google’s open strategy has paid off, but the iPhone market is still in its sights

The company shared strong Android growth stats, noting that there were now over 100 devices running the mobile OS. People are also activating over 200,000 Android-based devices every day.

But even with the increased market dominance, the fact that Google chose to launch a co-branded phone – and not just stick with the OS – shows that the company still has the success of Apple’s iPhone on the brain.

A look at some of the Nexus S’ specs shows just how similar the handset will be to the iPhone 4: 

  • 4-inch touch screen
  • 16 GB of memory
  • 1GHz processor
  • Front and rear facing camera
  • WiFi
  • Three axis gyroscope (in addition to the accelerometer) 

Google Nexus S

Google didn’t announce a price, but $199 range (with contract) wll make it a true iPhone contender. Google also took note of the “wow factor” that Apple launched with the iPhone 4: Face Time. While the Nexus S doesn’t have the dual-calling option of Face Time, it does have its own cool factor: support for near field communication (NFC). 

Google is banking on NFC (or turning your phone into a mobile wallet)

The Nexus S supports NFC, as does the new Gingerbread version of Android. Per the official blog:

NFC is a fast, versatile short-range wireless technology that can be embedded in all kinds of everyday objects like movie posters, stickers and t-shirts.

That means Nexus S users will be able to send and receive information like coupons and other content simply by waving their phone next to another NFC device. No need to open an application or snap a picture of a barcode.

Companies like Bank of America and 7-Eleven are already testing NFC-based payment systems in the US; many carriers and brands are executing trials in other countries as well. The iPhone 4 currently doesn’t support NFC. By embedding this functionality in the Nexus S (as well as the latest Android update), Google has taken a big step toward getting consumers to start thinking about their phones as “mobile wallets.”