Samsung Electronics and Google took the wraps off the Galaxy Nexus, the latest Android handset to carry the flagship smartphone moniker.
The smartphone, unveiled at a Samsung event in Hong Kong today, marks the debut of the latest version of Android, known as Ice Cream Sandwich (each iteration of Android is named after a dessert).
For Samsung, the introduction of another flagship Google phone underscores its growing influence as an Android vendor. While the company was slow to shift away from basic phones and move into the smartphone game, it has more than made up for lost time with the success of its Galaxy line of Android mobile devices, particularly with its recent line of Galaxy S II phones in the U.S. It also made the previous Nexus phone, the Nexus S.
"Samsung and Google have closely collaborated to push the mobile experience forward," J.K. Shin, head of Samsung's mobile business, said in a statement.
Unlike previous versions, Ice Cream Sandwich will run on any mobile device.
"Ice Cream Sandwich demonstrates the Android platform's continued innovation with one release that works on phones and tablets and everything in between," Andy Rubin, head of Google's mobile business, said in a statement.
As with all Nexus phones, the Galaxy Nexus boasts some impressive specifications. The smartphone features a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core processor, a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED HD screen with a resolution of 1280x720 pixels, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a pronounced curved shape that is intended to cradle the face. There's a a 5-megapixel camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats, and support for 1080p HD video capture and playback. Samsung says that its camera experiences zero shutter lag.
The body of the HSPA+ version is a svelte 8.9 millimeters thick (Neither Google nor Samsung specificed the thickness of the LTE version in their presentation.) The Nexus S also featured a subtle curve in its design, in keeping with the original curve of the Samsung Nexus S.
The Galaxy Nexus will launch in November in the U.S., Europe, and Asia (including China and Japan). Although no pricing has been announced, Samsung did mention that NTT DoCoMo will be the Japanese carrier.
The Galaxy Nexus debuts amid a number of other super smartphones. Earlier today, Verizon Wireless and Motorola unveiled the super-thin 4G LTE-enabled Droid Razr, a 7.1-millimeter thin phone that comes on the heels of the Droid Bionic. Apple, meanwhile, boasted of selling 4 million iPhones over the weekend after the 4S launched on Friday.
Since the first Nexus One from HTC, Google has used its line of Nexus phones as a showcase for the latest user interface and features available with the updated version of Android. In fact, the Nexus One was Google's stab at selling smartphones directly to consumers, although the lack of marketing and customer supported quickly forced the Internet giant to shutter those plans.
The anointed handset vendor partner, meanwhile, gets an early peek at those upgrades, useful for planning out the rest of its Android lineup. The Nexus S, for instance, was the first to have an integrated near-field communications chip, allowing it to use the Google Wallet mobile-payment system. The Galaxy Nexus will also have an NFC chip.
It's unclear how long Google will continue to pick its favorite Android partners; it plans to get into the hardware business itself with the planned $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Google, for its part, said it will remain a neutral partner to all of its vendors.
The pervasiveness of Android and Google's ability to work with multiple partners has fueled its ascent in the mobile world. The momentum has allowed it to take a dominant lead in the smartphone market even as Apple's iPhone remains the top-selling smartphone in the world. Google hopes the Galaxy Nexus will be able to sustain that strength.