Google’s Android operating system may appear on handsets from almost every major mobile manufacturer, but Google also has its own Android phone, and it’s been released in Australia.

Named the “Nexus S”, this new handset is actually a follow-up to last year’s “Nexus” phone, the first true “Google phone” that showed off Android without extra fiddling from manufacturers. The original Nexus was manufactured by HTC and featured a touchscreen, trackball, and was practically the blueprint for the HTC Desire.

This time around, Google has used Samsung for its hardware – hence the “S” in the name – coming up with a new phone that not only borrows the sleek look of Samsung mobile phones, but also provides new technology that no other device has.

Out of the box, we can tell you that this is one of the fastest phones we’ve ever seen. To say it “just works” is an understatement: it really works. There’s no delay or lagging between operations and the phone feels generally fast, even though this uses the same processor and graphics chip as the original Galaxy S.

The Nexus S shares more than just speed and graphics with last year’s Samsung Galaxy S. It also uses a 4 inch Super AMOLED screen, although the Nexus S gets a curved glass screen designed to fit your face better when pressed against it. DLNA is also here, as is a 5 megapixel rear camera, VGA front-facing camera, GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi.

Google and Samsung have made some upgrades, however, as the Nexus S is the first handset in Australia to officially support Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread. The latest version is faster, has better voice-to-text support, and features a much more “black” look that saves battery power.

The heavy use of black in Gingerbread is to save your battery.
More importantly, the Nexus S feels faster because there’s no bloatware. While every other manufacturer puts their own spin on how Android should look and perform, the Nexus S is Android the way Google designed it. This means there’s no waiting for updates or upgrades, and you get to see the stuff Google is working on ahead of most Android users.

Also new to the device – new to any device, in fact – is Near Field Communication technology, a new technology that has the potential to replace credit cards by putting the payment technology in your phone.

While we’ve yet to see NFC surface in any cash register in Australia, give it a few years and you could be pointing your phone at the cashier to pay for a hi-fi system.

Most of the changes outside of Gingerbread and Near Field Communications technology are pretty minor with an oil and fingerprint resistant coating over the screen, textured rear plastic so the phone doesn’t slip out of your hands, 16GB of storage, and a headphone port on the bottom of the handset. The lack of a microSD slot is a surprise, going against the trend of including expandable memory on an Android phone.

Unlike any other phone, the screen isn’t actually flat.
Despite all of this, the Nexus S isn’t for everyone, lacking much of the custom interface options and social networking integration other Android devices have. First time users will probably miss the ease of use devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S and HTC Desire HD bring to the table.

That said, it’s still an impressive device, setting the benchmark for Android phones, at least until the new batch of high-end Samsung, LG, and Sony devices roll in.

The Nexus S is available exclusively through Vodafone starting March 9 for current customers and March 16 for new customers.