Google Launches Nexus S, With Lessons Learned from Nexus One


Google will trot out a new Nexus phone next week and rely on a big-box retailer to hawk the device, demonstrating that it learned from its failed attempt earlier this year to make, market and maintain its own line of mobile phones.

Nexus S, unveiled Monday, features Google's (GOOG) Android operating system and is manufactured by Samsung Electronics. And beginning Dec. 16, the smartphones will be carried in Best Buy stores, retailing for $529 without a carrier contract, or $199 with a two-year T-Mobile contract.

Earlier this year, Google made a play for independence and developed its own line of mobile phones called Nexus One. But the Android-based phone failed to catch on with consumers or carriers, and ultimately Google shut down its online store where it sold the phones, discontinuing sales after seven months.

Leaving the Details to Best Buy

From that experience, Google's Android chief Andy Rubin said the Internet giant learned it "bit off a little more than we could chew," according to an Associated Press report on Rubin's comments during an AllThingsD technology conference. The problem -- says Rubin -- was a lack of scale. The Internet giant found it lacked the bandwidth to set customers up with phone numbers, conduct credit checks and perform other tasks needed to work with over 150 wireless carriers.

Google is now leaving it to Best Buy (BBY) to figure out all that stuff with the Nexus S. And the electronics retailer is more than well equipped as it already sells mobile phones and hooks customers up with one of a number of carriers.

Nexus S features Google's latest mobile-operating system, Android 2.3, which supports near-field communication (NFC). As Google's CEO Eric Schmidt demonstrated in November, NFC is designed to potentially serve as an electronic payment tool or credit card, enabling the phone to be swiped over a checkout reader.

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Nexus S also supports Internet phone calls and touts iPhone 4-like features such as front- and rear-facing cameras for video chat and a gyroscope sensor to make gaming come alive. Samsung, which designed the phone's hardware, slapped on a 4-inch contour display and a Super AMOLED touch screen.

"Samsung was thrilled to work with Google to create the first device featuring the much anticipated Android 2.3 OS. Nexus S is powerful proof of Samsung's and Google's commitment to bringing technology firsts to market and launching products that utilize the open and innovative Android operating system," Omar Khan, Samsung Telecommunications America chief strategy officer, said in a statement.

Whether Nexus S will be enough to topple Apple's (AAPL) iPhone or Motorola's (MOT) Droid X from their high perches has yet to be seen. Samsung, which primarily caters to the low- and middle-end of the mobile market, is seeking to play in the high-end with Nexus S.