Google Nexus S preview

We're here at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference in San Francisco, and we've just had a chance to lay our ever-loving hands all over Google's latest wunderkind, the Nexus S. As you've probably already read and seen, the device is set to be the next flagship phone sporting a pure Google experience. That is, full-on Android 2.3 (AKA Gingerbread), sporting a subtly reworked user interface design, and touting some potentially powerful new features, like near-field communication compatibility (hardware permitting -- and this hardware does indeed permit). Speaking of nuts and bolts, the phone is no slouch, boasting all the design leanings of Samsung's wildly popular Galaxy S line, but packing them into a tighter, sleeker, faster package.

As you can see in the pictures and video below, we spent some quality time with the newest Nexus, and we've made a few professional observations -- so follow along after the break to get the full scoop.

Firstly, the phone is fast. We mean blazingly fast. Not only that, but the animations, touch response and general framerate on everything seems to be cranked closer to the vicinity of the iPhone 4. Not too surprising since the two share the same 1GHz Cortex A8-based Hummingbird processor core. What that means is that the experience of zipping around on the handset feels fluid and natural, with little of that Android-lag we've seen on earlier devices. If Froyo was a spit shine, this is a complete hot wax treatment.

The UI has also been nipped and tucked all over the place, with icons and navigational elements taking on more of a buffed glass feel. Menus now sport a slight bit of transparency, and there are thoughtful little details, like an orange glow that puffs up along the bottom or top of the screen when you reach the end of a scrollable list. When the phone goes to sleep, there's an effect of an old cathode ray TV being switched off, and even something as innocuous as the phone dialer has been refined. Google has made big improvements to the keyboard, copy / paste, and text selection options, bringing the on-screen QWERTY and its associated components much closer to parity with iOS 4.

As far as the hardware is concerned, this is fairly familiar Galaxy S fare, though the curved design and few interesting choices (like the bottom headphone jack and Micro USB port and "reversed chin") give the phone some character. We were told by Google that the front of the device is meant to convey a continuous, unbroken surface from the status bar to the bottom buttons, and that's definitely the case. The piano black housing and odd, almost alien curvature of the device give it an ethereal, ghostly quality that we quite like. Even if the thing is an unstoppable smudge magnet. Inside, the device boasts 16GB of storage, but weirdly no microSD slot. However, Android 2.3 creates a partition which replicates a mounted SD card, and the company has streamlined the process of copying apps to that space using a simple checkbox.

We also had a chance to test the NFC of the device, and while nothing really mind-blowing at the moment, it has the potential to become a very interesting new method of interaction between our devices and our surroundings. Unlike QR codes, the function doesn't require any app launching or picture snapping -- you simply get your phone within range of the target. The new cameras (that's a VGA front-facing shooter and 5 megapixel rear number) seem to function well, and switching from the front to the back takes minimal hunting and pecking.

We'll have a full, thorough review of the phone in the coming days, but for now, feast your eyes on the photos and video in this post, and get ready for the next stage of Android's evolution.