Despite the discontinuation of its first smart phone, the Nexus One, search giant Google has announced the release of a second new smart phone, the Nexus S, which will be available for purchase later this week.

Google began selling the Nexus One in January but discontinued it in July, after lackluster sales. The company collaborated with phone manufacturer Samsung to create the Nexus S. It is the first phone to run Gingerbread, the latest version of the Android operating system.

The phone comes pre-installed with several Google applications, such as Google Search, Google Maps with Navigation (in beta), Mobile Instant (messaging system), Voice Actions, Gmail and Google Earth. Voice Actions allows the phone to recognize spoken commands, such as "send text to," "call," "note to self," and "directions to."

Reviews of the phone have been generally positive, though some common criticisms stand out. The phone includes rear and front-facing cameras that take both photos and video, but the quality of both is lacking, some reviewers say. The phone takes "noisy and, frankly, disappointing photos. What’s more, it only records video at 720×480 pixels — some way off the HD video you’d now expect," said mobile phone review site

"We felt that images looked washed out and grainy even in well-lit situations. It could be a fault of the auto white balance or ISO settings, but we certainly were able to produce better results with other phones in this class," said tech gadget blog Engadget.

"On the bright side, the Nexus S camera seems to excel at low-light images, pulling impressive detail in situations where we expected much less. In fact, we can’t say that we’ve seen a smart phone recently with better low-light performance."

And despite its shortcomings, Engadget said the device "is the best Android device available right now." praised the phone’s "stunning" display and its speed, saying it "doesn’t lag at all." The latter is largely attributable to the phone’s 1 GHz Hummingbird processor and 16 GB of internal memory. Engadget also praised the phone’s excellent sound quality.

Although the phone’s "contour display" was highly touted by Google — the phone curves slightly inward, designed for a more comfortable fit next to the user’s face — some reviewers said that feature was nice but not terribly impressive.

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