Developer Features

Gingerbread brings a number of developer features and API changes, most notably, improvements to the Dalvik VM garbage collector and event distributor. Google promises smoother gaming with fewer application pauses as a result of the concurrent garbage collection in Gingerbread, and hopefully some of Android's occasional UI stutters will be fixed as a result - the target is to have sub 3ms pauses while Dalvik garbage collects. There are also updated video drivers which improve OpenGL ES performance for faster 3D graphics, but it's unclear which GPUs will get updated drivers. Gingerbread also brings along a Linux kernel update, from 2.6.32 on Android 2.2.1 to 2.6.35 in Gingerbread 2.3. 

Gingerbread adds Khronos OpenSL ES sound APi support, and Khronos EGL support for better OpenGL ES texture, surface, and context support. The other changes for developers include better APIs for native input from sensors and adds support for a few more: gyroscope, rotation vector, linear acceleration, gravity, and even barometer sensors are supported. I'd definitely like to see a smartphone with a barometric sensor, given how inaccurate even WAAS-supported GPS is at reporting altitude properly. 

The camera API also has been updated to allow for better support for devices with multiple cameras, most notably devices with a front-facing camera. 

Finally Google has added VP8 video compression support and WebM container support, Google's own compression standards. There's also new AAC encoding and AMR Wideband encoding for audio capture. 

Nexus S

Alongside the Gingerbread software update news came announcement of a new Google-branded device we've already seen a of photos and sneak peaks of, including from Eric Schmidt himself - the Nexus S. 

Unlike the Nexus One, Google will not be selling the Nexus S directly, but rather unlocked through Best Buy stores in the US and at Carphone Warehouse in the UK. US availability will start December 16th, and December 20th for the UK. Pricing will start at $529 unlocked and $199 on two-year contract with T-Mobile. The Nexus S has tri-band HSPA support for 900, 2100, and 1700 MHz bands, which means it has 3G support for T-Mobile in the US - AT&T users will see EDGE. 

Nexus S - Network Support
Tri-Band HSPA 900 / 1700 / 2100 MHz
Quad-Band GSM/EDGE 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
HSDPA/HSUPA 7.2Mbps / 5.76Mbps

The Nexus S is speced similar to the Samsung Galaxy S line of devices - there's a 1 GHz Hummingbird SoC with Imagination SGX540 graphics, 16 GB NAND, 512 MB RAM, 802.11b/g/n, 4" Super AMOLED display, and the usual sensors. 

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 Motorola Droid 2 Samsung Galaxy S Fascinate Samsung Focus Google Nexus S
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 116.3 mm (4.6") 125 mm (4.92") 122.9 mm (4.84") 123.9 mm (4.88")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 60.5 mm (2.4") 64.2 mm (2.53") 65 mm (2.56") 63.0 mm (2.48")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 13.7 mm (0.54") 9.91 mm (0.39") 9.9 mm (0.39") 10.88 mm (0.43")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 169 g (5.9 oz) 117 grams (4.16 oz) 119 grams (4.2 oz) 129 grams (4.6 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 3630 @ 1 GHz 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird 1 GHz Qualcomm QSD8250 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 PowerVR SGX 530 PowerVR SGX 540 Adreno 200 PowerVR SGX 540
RAM 512MB LPDDR1 (?) 512 MB LPDDR1 512 MB LPDDR1 512 MB LPDDR1 (?) 512 MB LPDDR1
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 8 GB integrated, preinstalled 8 GB microSD 2 GB, 16 GB microSD (Class 2) 16 GB integrated 16 GB Integrated
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 5 MP with dual LED flash and autofocus 5 MP with auto focus and LED flash 5 MP with autofocus, LED flash, 720P video recording 5 MP with Autofocus, LED Flash, VGA front facing, 720P Video
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 3.7" 854 x 480 4" Super AMOLED 800 x 480 AMOLED 800 x 480 4" 4" Super AMOLED 800 x 480

Where the Nexus S differs is the inclusion of a front facing VGA camera in addition to back 5 MP camera, LED Flash, three-axis gyroscope, inclusion of Bluetooth 2.1+EDR (instead of Bluetooth 3.0 as with Galaxy S), and new hardware onboard for NFC support. It's possible the NFC hardware is integrated into the Bluetooth chipset which would explain the discrepancy, but it's too early to tell.

The Nexus S packs 16 GB of NAND onboard, a large portion of which is partitioned for storage, emulating a microSD card. Gingerbread brings official platform support for devices that lack external storage, instead allowing for internal NAND to be partitioned to emulate a virtual SD card. That appears to be what is done on the Nexus S - there’s no microSD card - but this also has the potential to result in applications loaded to the virtual SD card feeling much snappier than they would be loaded on most microSD cards. I've noticed that even on my Nexus One with a fast class 6 card that applications seem to behave slower on external storage.

What's notable about the Nexus S display is that it is slightly curved. Whereas the Dell Venue Pro has a noticeable convex display in the horizontal dimension, the Nexus S has a subtle but perceptible vertical concave curve. I'm reminded of the Palm Pre's "ergonomic curve" with the Nexus S. In addition, Google notes that the Nexus S definitely has an anti-fingerprint coating.

Of course, the Nexus S ships with Gingerbread installed by default, and takes the Nexus One’s place as the reference device for the Android platform. As usual, expect a full review after we get ours.

Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) Changes


View All Comments

  • thernus - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    thanks for the response, I would love to know. Reply
  • sonci - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    Smb tell me please I can put 2.3 on my Galaxy S,
    because that would be the end of the lagging,
    If the hardware is the same we can put Nexus software instead waiting for Samsung to update..
  • evilspoons - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    Welllp, I'm still waiting for 2.2 on my Galaxy S Captivate so 2.3 will be at an unofficial level...

    Maybe they're going to surprise everyone with a Galaxy S and just skip 2.2 and go straight to 2.3? Hahaha.
  • blueF - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    Pretty sure someone on XDA released 2.2 for non rooted captivates. I also think it was baked by samsung, just not officially released yet. Reply
  • bjacobson - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    Great preview of Gingerbread.

    NFC is for an alternative payment method (to mastercard/visa/etc) from what I understand.
  • ss4rob - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    You mention the Nexus S is just like a Galaxy S phone except it adds LED flash, a gyroscope and a front facing camera. I believe my Epic 4G has all of those things except obviously NFC.

    Can you clarify?
  • blueF - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    I think that the epic is the only galaxy S phone with a front camera out of 10 or 11 galaxy s variants. Most of the galaxy phones are the same thing with a different case, but the epic (with its 4g, physical keyboard, and front camera) should really be in a class of its own. Reply
  • jdworth - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    The new Android keyboard might be an improvement, but don't really want to give up Swype which I have on my Vibrant. Reply
  • blueF - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    From my experience with the new android keyboard (hacked onto my N1) it is superior to Swype and HTC IME in landscape mode, but in portrait mode swype still rocks. Wonder if I can use tasker to switch keyboards depending on the phone orientation. Reply
  • wintermute000 - Tuesday, December 07, 2010 - link

    Have you tried SlideIT?
    I went from swype to SlideIT after one of the beta updates broke on my N1. Never looked back. You know how sometimes swype lags? SlideIT never lags and aside from that its pretty much the same, except you don't 'double twirl' to do double letters (it auto detects it) and the auto-fill is much less intrusive (I prefer it).

    any soft keyboard for me has gotta have a 'swype-like' functionality I'm so used to it now lol

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