Google news round-up: Google goes to town with Gingerbread, Nexus S, and Chrome OS

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I'm sure many of you have noticed the flurry of activity and excitement emanating from Google over the past few days, as the internet giant really went to town by officially unveiling Android 2.3 Gingerbread, announcing the new Nexus S smartphone, and also taking the time to finally demonstrate the long-awaited Chrome OS.

Starting off with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, the latest update to the increasingly popular and widespread Android mobile OS seems to be a decent evolutionary upgrade from Froyo but perhaps not the revolutionary leap that may come later in the form of Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Bringing a raft of fixes and new features, some of the main highlights include improved text selection and copy/paste tools, a new keyboard design with better spacing and larger suggestions for easier typing, better power management features that shut off apps running for prolonged periods in the background and include more info regarding power consumption, a new Downloads application showing a full list of downloaded files, the addition of a Manage Apps button to the Home screen menu option, and a further refined UI featuring a simpler visual theme.

Two other significant additions are built-in VoIP support for internet telephony and the intriguing implementation of Near field communication (NFC) technology. Very much a feature for the future, NFC will allow future Android phones (starting with the new Nexus S) to interact with certain objects carrying RFID tags. Examples of this in action include making secure money transactions and objects directing the phone's browser to a URL for more information.

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Moving on to the Nexus S smartphone, I think most people knew it was around the corner with all the various rumors and leaks, but the official announcement is no less welcome. Being the latest addition to Google's Nexus family and the successor to the Nexus One, the Nexus S is the product of a collaboration between Google and Samsung.

Looking to take its place at the top of the Android pile, the new flagship smartphone features the expected top of the line specs with a 4-inch WVGA AMOLED screen, the same 1GHz Cortex-A8 Hummingbird processor as Samsung's Galaxy S smartphone, 512MB RAM, 16GB inbuilt storage, a front facing VGA webcam and 5MP rear facing camera with flash, HSPA 3G, b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR connectivity, and the usual array of sensors from the accelerometer and compass to a 3-axis gyroscope.

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Apart from that, Google's new Nexus will be the first Gingerbread-running device and also adds some interesting new features such as a unique curved contour touch screen display (as seen above) and built in NFC hardware and VoIP capabilities to go with the new software support in Android 2.3.

However, it's not all good news since it has also come to light that the Nexus S doesn't have a microSD slot for expanding storage and only appears to be capable of recording 480p (720×480) video instead of HD video.

As for availability, Google has announced that the device will be available directly online like the Nexus One, but also via Best Buy in the US and Carphone Warhouse and Best Buy in the UK. The S can be purchased either unlocked for $529 or with a two-year contract from T-Mobile for $199. Shipping dates are December 16th in the US and 20th in the UK.

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Last but not least is the lon-awaited Chrome OS. Google demonstrated the instant-on browser-based operating system running on a stripped down Linux core, the Chrome Web Store, and the 12.1-inch unbranded Chrome OS laptops the company is using as test machines for developers. As explained by Google previously, Chrome OS is based on the Chrome browser being the core OS interface, with web applications providing additional functionality. The software is primarily intended for laptop and netbook style computers such as the CR-48 reference machine shown below, which is powered by an Intel Atom processor but manages an impressive 8 hours of battery life and 8 days of standby.

While the CR-48 doesn't match our normal pocketable devices, it looks certain that the OS will eventually make its way onto smaller UMPC devices that would definitely interest us. The first Chrome OS computers will be coming from Acer and Samsung, aiming for a mid-2011 launch.

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Overall Google has put on a very impressive show and grabbed a lot of headlines this week with the evolutionary Android 2.3 Gingerbread, Nexus S smartphone, and the demonstration of Chrome OS. I am definitely looking forward to seeing the Nexus S and Android 2.3 for myself and am intrigued to see the possibilities of Chrome OS, and the kind of devices we can expect running the new software. We also can't forget that while all this is going on, the next version of Android is looming in the distance with promises of further advancements.

What did you think of Google's numerous announcements and demonstrations? What impressed you the most and what are you looking forward to?

[Mobiputing | Google Nexus S | Engadget]
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Jeremy To

Jeremy is a former editor at Pocketables.