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The second Google-branded smartphone is about to hit Australia as analysts predict the search giant's mobile platform will surpass iPhone sales in Australia within a few years.
The Google Nexus S, released in the US and Britain in December last year, will be sold in Australia "soon", according to Vodafone which has clinched a global distribution deal. Those interested in buying one are being asked to register their interest on Vodafone's website.
Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson confirmed it would be launching its Android-based Xperia Play - dubbed the "PlayStation Phone" - on February 13. Support for Android is exploding with new phones soon to be launched by Motorola, Samsung, HTC, LG and Acer.
The Nexus S, manufactured by Samsung, is the successor to the Nexus One, which launched around the world in early 2010 but only reached Australia in small quantities in July last year.
The Nexus S is the first Android phone with a built-in near-field communication (NFC) chip, which opens up a raft of new applications such as the ability to pay for items by swiping your phone on a shop scanner. NFC, which has only been running in limited trials in Australia, has been reported as a feature of the next iPhone model.
The device is manufactured by Samsung, whereas the Nexus One was built by HTC. It runs version 2.3 of Android (dubbed Gingerbread) and offers a 4-inch super AMOLED screen, 5-megapixel rear-facing camera for photos, front-facing VGA camera for video chat, 16GB of built-in storage and 512MB of internal memory.
Vodafone Australia did not reveal pricing or a firm sale date for the Nexus S, which is based on Samsung's Galaxy S.
Foad Fadaghi, telecommunications analyst at the Australian firm Telsyte, said he expected Google's Android platform to "match or exceed" iPhone sales in Australia by 2013.
"We expect Android will have a market share of 18 per cent by the end of this year," he said.
"Nexus S represents even further improvements of the Android platform with version 2.3. It addresses the top end aspirational market and is suitable for existing Android users wanting an upgrade."
But Fadaghi said he expected most of the growth in the Android platform would come from cheaper mid-range handsets sold on pre-paid SIMs.
Mark Novosel, telco analyst at research firm IDC, said the Nexus S, being a Google-branded phone, would receive software updates faster and offer a "pure Android experience" without other vendors' custom user interfaces.
But the Android phone Novosel is most excited about is the LG Optimus 2X.
"Being the first dual-core processor smartphone, its extremely responsive and the screen has a wide viewing angle and very vibrant colours," said Novosel.
"LG's Optimus Black will also be one to watch, its slimmer, lighter and promises outstanding outdoor visibility with an extremely bright screen."
Novosel said he expected Android to become the number one smartphone operating system in Australia by the middle of this year, but in terms of a vendor-by-vendor comparison Apple would likely remain in first place.
Google has added new features to Android in recent weeks to help it catch up with iPhone, including an Android Market web store that can be accessed from PCs and in-app purchasing, allowing app developers to sell new content and upgrades from within their apps.
But this move suffered a slight setback after security firm Sophos warned that the Android Market website could be used to install malware on users' phones.