Google Nexus S launches, Apple confirms Mac App Store release date

Google has launched its latest Nexus S smartphone overnight, the second gadget to be released under the company’s official brand, with tech pundits eagerly awaiting both the phone itself and the new Android Gingerbread software.

The launch comes as Apple has simultaneously announced the release date for its Mac App Store, with the shopfront to open in Australia on January 7.

The Nexus S has also been launched to significant praise, with reviews from sites including TechCrunch and Boy Genius Report claiming the device is the best Android gadget on the market right now.

But so far Google has yet to reveal any detailed plans for bringing the Nexus S to Australian shores, while manufacturer Samsung says it is still “reviewing our options on how to bring this to market locally”.

The Nexus S was made available at Best Buy in the United States, with an up-front cost of $US199 on a contract, or up to $529 unlocked and with no restrictions – meaning users can take them overseas. But fans are moving quickly, with Best Buy restricting purchases to two per customer only.

The Nexus S features a 1Ghz CPU, a four-inch screen, 512MB of RAM, a five megapixel camera and a VGA front-facing camera, 16GB of in-built storage, a proximity sensor, gyroscope and a quad-band radio, along with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi b/g/n.

But the feature most likely to turn people’s heads is the introduction of a near-field-communications chip, which allows users to make contactless payments with the phone. By waving the Nexus S over a contactless reader, (which have already been rolled out by companies including Visa and MasterCard), users can pay for their products.

Google is banking on the technology becoming more popular next year, and it’s a gamble that may pay off – Nokia is introducing NFC technology in its phones from next year and Apple recently hired an NFC expert, fuelling rumours the iPhone 5 could feature the technology.

But other Android users haven’t been left out, with the Gingerbread software now available for most users to download. The update features gyroscope support, VoIP via SIP, a new multi-touch virtual keyboard, text selection tools, access to the front-facing camera from the camera app and new audio effects for developers.

The Nexus S has been praised as being one of the most advanced Android gadgets on the market, despite criticisms regarding its lightweight casing and easily scratch-able surface. Boy Genius Report said while it could technically improve in some areas, the Nexus S is easily the benchmark Android device.

“While there are some things we wish Samsung and Google did differently with the Nexus S, at the end of the day, this is, in our opinion, the finest Android device on the market.”

“It’s not the perfect phone, but Google’s latest “pure vision” handset beautifully combines hardware and software together into a great package that is now more consumer and mass-market friendly than ever.”

Engadget also said that the Nexus S would be better on the Verizon network instead of AT&T, and that there are some issues with the OS performance, but “we’d been longing for a Galaxy S device that wasn’t burdened by Samsung’s sometimes-clunky TouchWiz, and in joining forces with Google, the company has more than delivered”.

Meanwhile, Apple has announced that its new Mac App Store will launch on January 7th.

Similar to the iPhone App Store, the Mac App Store will allow Mac users to download smaller pieces of software for use on a desktop computer. And just like the iPhone, all apps will be kept updated through the Mac App Store and developers will keep 70% of sales revenue.

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