Nexus S and Gingerbread vs iPhone 4 and iOS 4

Google has just announced the Nexus S, a pure Android 2.3 Gingerbread-powered, Samsung manufactured smartphone aiming to take the Nexus One into generation two and set the standard for a legion of subsequent devices in 2011. Our sibling site, Android Central has got your full Nexus S and Gingerbread coverage, and they're even giving away a free Nexus S in their Android Forums, so go check that out. What interests me, however, is that like the Nexus One, Nexus S shows that Google is one of the few companies that really know how to counter-program Apple and iPhone.

Apple sold 14 million iPhones last quarter. Released in June. On one US carrier, with controversies real and imagined about the antenna, and with one of the two models -- the white one -- delayed until next year. Other phones that were announced around a similar time either got overshadowed, lacked brand power or distinction, or suffered carriers meddling with and defiling them at every turn. Aimed at mainstream consumers who probably had little idea what version of Android they ran or whether they were Galaxy S behind all the different names, as often or not they were probably sold as "like an iPhone". They're one of an unremarkable many at this point. A me-too. A memory.

Nexus S will be different.

Like the Nexus One, it's released far outside Apple's iPhone cycle, when early adopter, influencer types just might be getting bored with iPhone 4, or the latest from Motorola or RIM or HTC. It's marketed to geeks and power users, the type of people who want unlocked devices and unmodified software. The ones who want the latest hardware that's guaranteed to get the latest updates first. Sure, the T-Mobile/Wind/Videotron only 3G bands at the moment are a colossal fumble, but only for the moment.

Now don't get me wrong, given those limited 3G bands and Google's demographic there's no way Nexus S will put a dent in Apple's iPhone 4 numbers. But far removed from WWDC's iPhone debut, it will make a huge impact with bloggers and those who read blogs, technologists and those who love technology. Nexus One was the talk of CES 2010 and it had 3 months in the spotlight before Apple could preview iOS 4 and 6 months before Apple could respond with iPhone 4.

There's every chance Nexus S with its curved screen, near field communications, and other bar-raising features could do the same thing at CES 2011, leaving Apple again unable to respond until their yearly cycle allows, with an iOS 5 event in March/April and an iPhone 5 debut at WWDC 2011.

Howard Stern, at the height of his radio popularity, was asked how other stations could counter-program him. Many had tried -- and failed -- at using shock jocks of their own, so Stern's answer was as sensible as it was surprising -- go music only. You're not going to get his audience, you're going to get the one he's not reaching.

Google gets that. They aim the Nexus line squarely at that audience and so far, they're doing it well.

[Android Central Nexus S coverage]