The Google Nexus S seems like trouble, again

Features Marin Perez 16:20, Nov 15 2010

The Nexus S doesn’t look like enough of an evolutionary leap to warrant Google diving back in to the headhache-filled hardware game

It looks like Google isn’t done with its Nexus Project, as we will likely see the official introduction of the Nexus S within the next few days. It’s still too early to fully judge this device, but the Nexus S looks like it will inevitably follow the path of the N1 as a disappointment.

 The Nexus One had broad ambitions: Google wanted to change the way we purchased phones by allowing customers to pick out the device and then use the carrier of their choosing. All four major U.S. carriers were on board and the vision seemed like it could be achieved. Then, reality hit.

The Nexus One hit the streets with numerous bugs and the company didn’t have the customer support experience to handle this effectively. Verizon and Sprint eventually dropped support for the device in favor of carrier-branded Android superphones.
The Nexus One was also a technological marvel … for about two months. The OLED screen and the 1 GHz processor seemed like major leaps but these were part of the natural evolution of smartphones that HTC, Samsung and others already had on the drawing board.

The upcoming Samsung Nexus S may wind up being a slightly altered Galaxy S phone but with the stock Android 2.3 experience. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because this lineup of smartphones is pretty darn good but it’s not the quantum leap that may be needed if Google actually wants this to be a retail success.

There is talk that the new Google superphone will feature a dual-core processor and that would be quite cool but we’ll soon see dual-core smartphones with the Tegra 2 chip and more. Heck, Samsung is even working on a monster Android phone with a 4.5-inch screen and 1.2 GHz processor that could make the Nexus S look like old news in as few as two months.

What’s more, it looks like the Nexus S will launch only on T-Mobile. Phones like the Nokia N8 already show that it’s possible to create a reasonably affordable smartphone that can utilize AT&T or T-Mobile’s 3G network, so why doesn’t the Nexus S have this capability?

The worst part about it though, is that some leaked specs suggest the Nexus S won’t even be able to access T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network. There has a been a lot of quibbling over whether this network should legitimately be called “4G” but I do know that after I’ve grown accustomed to getting more than 6 Mbps download speeds on the myTouch 4G, I just can’t go back to regular 3G.

What about the freshly-baked Gingerbread? We had originally thought this would be the 3.0 version of the software, as the timing makes sense – 1.0 launched with the T-Mobile G1 in 2008, 2.0 launched the Motorola DROID in 2009 and Android 3.0 should have already been released by now. But it’s beginning to look like Gingerbread will be Android 2.3 and the big revisions will wait for Honeycomb, or Android 3.0.

Newer versions of the software are always something to look forward to, but I just can’t get it up for a 0.X update, as I’ve been burned by that before. I remember waiting and waiting for the Android 2.2 update for the original DROID and when it finally came I was distinctly underwhelmed.

Sure, it was nice to get Adobe Flash Player, and the improved JavaScript capabilities of the browser helped me get more gigglebytes on the go, but it’s just a slight improvement over previous versions of the software. Gingerbread will probably have some cool periphery features like the ability to stream tracks from your home computer to your phone, but I’m purposely setting my expectations low.

To be fair, Google seems to have learned a few things this time around. The Nexus S likely will be available to purchase online and in stores at Best Buy retail locations around the nation. The Nexus One was only available online and despite Google’s aspirations, real people actually want to see the phone in a store before they buy it.

Additionally, it’s always a good thing for Google to have a top-tier smartphone that can be used by developers as a reference model for apps and services. If it does wind up having the dual-core, developers can rest assured that this will be future-proof for at least the next two or three versions of the little, green robot.

I don’t like to drink the Haterade on a product before it is even officially unveiled but I just keep seeing the same problems with the Nexus S that stymied the vision of the Nexus One. Let’s hope Samsung and Google can prove me wrong.

Contact Marin Perez via email or follow @Marinperez on Twitter

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