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Google announces new Nexus S for Sprint with 4G capability

by Phil Hornshaw

Seems Verizon (VZ) isn’t the only place to get 4G LTE service for Android customers.

Google (GOOG) announced today on its mobile blog that it would be releasing a new version of its Nexus S, the Nexus S 4G, on the Sprint (S) network. The phone is made by Samsung (005930.KS) and carries Google’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system.

The new phone carries the various chipsets needed to run on Sprint, CDMA / EV-DO chip for standard, 3G calling and data use. It also includes a WiMAX chip for 4G capabilities that users can turn on and off in order to conserve battery life when 4G isn’t available or when you don’t need to make use of super-fast 4G browsing speeds.

The phone is a couple millimeters thicker than the existing Nexus S and also a touch heavier, but inside it’s pretty similar -- including a 1GHz Hummingbird processor and the “near field communications” technology that went into the Nexus S. There are also the obligatory front- and rear-facing cameras (VGA and 5-megapixel, respectively), and 16GB of internal memory space for saving apps, photos, music and whatever else.

Among the Nexus S 4G’s other cool features are the ability to turn it into both a 3G and 4G mobile wireless hotspot, allowing you to add other devices to your supposedly blisteringly fast 4G data network. The Nexus S 4G also offers a fairly pure Android experience, and the phone comes preloaded with lots of Google’s best Android apps.

Google also plans to keep the new Nexus in line with comparable phone prices -- it’ll go for $199 with a carrier contract from Sprint, which is the same as what a new iPhone 4 will run customers, provided they join up with Verizon or AT&T (T).

Despite the fact that the major wireless carriers’ move toward 4G is fairly new and still developing, Google seems to be embracing the new technologies wholeheartedly. It also gives the carrier a big boon in competing with Apple’s (AAPL) iOS operating system, because the iPhone 4 isn’t 4G-capable and the new iPhone 5, expected in the summer, might not be, either. Meanwhile, Google is expanding is adding its flagship phone to a growing stable of 4G devices on multiple carriers.

Being a young service, though, 4G might not quite so amazing as mobile carriers would have you believe, so it’s important to do some research before running out and purchasing a shiny new phone just because it supposedly has more Gs in the name. It’ll be interesting to see if and how long the Nexus S 4G stays exclusive to Sprint, seeing as AT&T is hoping to merge with T-Mobile and will expand its Android offerings, presumably along with its network capabilities.

At least for the moment, though, the one thing that’s clear is that 4G is a development for Android phones that Google is committed to developing, and one major thing that the iPhone lacks.