Google launches latest smartphone - The Nexus S

Gingerbread 2.3

Google's new smartphone, the Nexus S, launches in the UK today, available only through Carphone Warehouse. The phone will use the most up to date version of Google's Android phone operating system, a release dubbed Gingerbread 2.3.

The new phone will differ dramatically from Google's first foray into the smartphone market, the Nexus One, which was launched earlier this year. The Nexus One was initially only sold through Google's own online store, a decision that was reversed when the company realised "many customers like a hands-on experience before buying a phone," according to Google Engineering vice-president Andy Rubin.

They have also changed handset manufacturer, the Nexus One having been made for Google by HTC, whereas the Nexus S is being made by Samsung. The new phone comes with a wealth of features, based around the new Gingerbread 2.3 operating system, including New Field Communications (NFC) hardware, a technology that allows the phone to be used to make payments or as a travel ticket.

Voice Recognition

Gingerbread will also feature a voice recognition function, allowing users to do searches and create texts and emails from voice commands. Current Android 2.2 phones also have voice recognition functioning but the new version allows more functions within the phone to be controlled by speech. "One in four searches on Android devices in the US is already done by voice, which is an astonishing number to me," said Dave Burke, Google's head of smartphones in the UK.

Gingerbread 2.3 will be available to Nexus One owners, as well as other phones, as an 'over the air' update 'within the next few weeks.' The new Google Nexus S is available to pre-order from the Carphone Warehouse from today but delivery of the handsets is not expected until later this month. Google estimates 20th December, but Carphone Warehouse has refused to name an exact delivery date.

The Nexus S, which has a four-inch screen, will be available unlocked for £550, compared to £500 for Apple's iPhone 4, or free as part of a £35 per month package. Its release and subsequent sales will be viewed with interest by the other players in the highly competitive smartphone market. This year has seen a number of significant releases, including the Windows Phone 7 in October and the iPhone 4, which came out in June. Other manufacturers also hold significant market share, including Blackberry, Nokia and HTC.