Google Nexus S is a phone which got many expectations and rumors, eventually phone launched making the one rumor true that it was launched with Gingerbread 2.3 and the first phone to run it, apart from that, Google nexus s made our expectations true? Let’s make a review here.
The Google Nexus S, built by Samsung, is Google’s latest flagship Android smartphone, and the first to run the new Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” operating system that was recently announced.
With features like a curved, WVGA Super AMOLED touchscreen display, a 5 megapixel camera with flash, and a first ever (for Android) NFC wireless tag reader, the Nexus S has more than just a new OS to brag about. But as was the case with the Nexus One before it, the new OS is responsible for most of the allure of the Nexus S.
All in all, the Nexus S turns out to be a great smartphone with good reception, a brilliant display, and some nifty new UI tweaks and functionality that make it drool-worthy. It might even be the best Android smartphone on the market today. Maybe.
Depending on who you talk to, the Nexus One was considered to be a landmark and polarizing device, while others simply saw it as a giant big flop for Google. Naturally, the company learned from their experience in that they really need to consider other venues to promote or sell future devices. However, there was a point when it seemed as though we’d never see another Google branded device – especially after the less than impressive sales of the first. Yet, it was widely panned as an underground success by developers and hardcore programmers all around.
The Samsung-built Google Nexus S is all black from head to toe. It is true that the smooth back cover, which is curved and flared at the bottom, features a subtle pattern, but overall the phone is a pool of blackness.
And looking at it from the side, it bears a slight curve to its profile. Its all plastic body does well in keeping it extremely light (4.55 oz) and streamlined (0.43”), but it does have a constant attraction to the usual set of smudges, fingerprints, and scratches. It’s not to say we’re not pleased with the design, but when we’ve seen this constantly used, we were expecting to see something a bit more innovative to truly make it a standout.
Until the user lights up the phone’s beautiful 4-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen display, that is. The display puts out very saturated colors at a 480 x 800 pixel resolution on a subtly curved front surface. The curved face offers no practical benefits, but it is a slick design element. It is worth mentioning that the display is a bit yellow in color at low brightness settings, something I don’t see in other Samsung Super AMOLED displays. Its high resolution screen is super sharp and is complemented well with some deep and galvanizing looking colors to make your eyes melt. As always, it’s also very responsive to the touch, offers good viewing angles, and emits some serious luminance to light up a room.
Directly above the display and next to the earpiece is a 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera which can be used for self-portraits or video chat. Beneath the display rest the four touch sensitive buttons: back, menu, search, and home. The order is notably different from that found on Samsung’s similar Galaxy S based smartphones. The phone’s power/standby button rests on the right edge of the phone, and Samsung improved the feel of its volume rocker, the volume rocker on the left. The typical Samsung combo of covered micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack are missing from the top of the phone, they’re now located in the bottom edge of the phone. Still, it works well there since they are spaced far enough from one another to not feel too cramped.
The removable rear cover is a bit special on the Nexus S, as it has an NFC receiver antenna built into it, along with a pair of contacts that mate up with the body of the phone. On the rear, we see the 5-megapixel auto-focus camera which is surrounded with a silver colored border and the LED flash sitting close by. Furthermore, there are two notches close at hand which are for the speakerphone. Moreover, removing the back cover will provide you access to its battery and SIM card slot, but more importantly, we find the NFC chip embedded into the cover as well.
User interface and usability perspective, not a heck of a lot on Google’s Nexus S is materially impacted by the changes found in its new Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system. Sure, the UI is a bit darker in color – more refined looking – but most things behave as they did in prior versions of the OS.
It’s not to say that the latest version of the platform is leaps and bounds ahead of the stock Android 2.2 Froyo experience, but there are some noticeable refreshing aesthetic redesigns that give it a personalized look. And much like other Samsung Galaxy S variants, the Nexus S is powered by a 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor and 512MB of RAM that enable it to move ever so swimmingly without much evidence or sluggishness.
The biggest changes are the new task manager, which allows the user to kill running apps, and the changes to the keyboard and select/copy/paste system. The new keyboard is substantially better than prior versions from both an accuracy and convenience perspective. The new selection mechanisms for copying and pasting text might not be universal throughout the system, but they still should be considered as improvements.
The home screen on the Nexus S has 5 customizable panels. At its core, the interface running on the Nexus S is largely unchanged as you’ll have the pick of the litter to personalize its homescreens with various shortcuts, widgets, and folders. However, you’ll instantly see that there is more of a green theme going on which is evident with the green colored icons of the dialer and web browser on the home screen. Additionally, the Android-green color is seen being used in the notification area with the battery indicator icon, signal strength bars, and icon for the 3G symbol. The main menu also has updated look, but still offers no organization options at all, which I feel is a major issue.
The phonebook is unchanged as you’ll be presented with the usual array of information that you can associate with each contact. From phone numbers to email addresses and everything else imaginable in between, there’s going to be plenty of details that can be inputted to give you all the pertinent information about each person in your address book. Moreover, it manages to integrate with some social networking services as it displays the most recent status update on Facebook or Twitter posts within the contacts app. Finally, you won’t have to ever be concerned about losing contacts since it’ll automatically sync with Gmail – plus not to mention it’ll also include Facebook or Twitter friends as well.
Some other notable items include the handset’s ability to share its data connection with other devices via Wi-Fi or USB. Since this functionality is directly built into the platform, you’re not going to be required to sign on with an additional monthly service from your wireless provider. In essence, you can simply go to the Wireless & Network settings and enable it to quickly share your 3G speeds with other devices – which are naturally a sweet deal all around. If you need to place a phone call, you’ll always need to go back to the homescreen seeing that the dialer icon is prominently found there
For those of you hoping that Gingerbread would mark a major user experience change for Android, you’ll just have to pin your hopes on the next version – Honeycomb. Gingerbread is nice, but there is not really all that much to differentiate it from Froyo once you get past the text input and editing changes.
Connectivity and Data
Generally, you can’t go wrong with picking up the unlocked model of the Google Nexus S with its quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and tri-band UMTS (850/1700/2100MHz) radios in tow – which is perfect for the international traveler. That means you can have your fun using it on T-Mobile’s 3G network domestically, but sadly, it doesn’t boast the HSPA+ speeds seen on other comparable devices like the T-Mobile G2 and myTouch 4G. And if you happen to find yourself at a standstill with less than stellar data speeds, you can always resort to switching on its 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi for faster speeds. And finally, the Nexus S boasts Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR to enable a variety of wireless devices to connect with it.
You can gauge that it’s a bit more responsive in the speed department as it loaded up complex web sites like ours very quickly – and not to mention rendering it exactly like what you see on a computer. Scrolling is buttery smooth of course, while multi-touch pinch gestures will enable you to view specific portions of a web site more easily.
We find a brand spanking new facelift to the stock Android keyboard seen on just about every Android phone out there. We’re now introduced to quick access to numbers which are now part of the first row of the new keyboard layout to lessen the amount of time needed to type. Typically, you can now easily input a number by essentially performing a long press on the respective button – which easily beats having to press the dedicated special character button. Not only does its responsiveness aid in typing, but its options for predictive text and auto-correct makes for a blistering experience. And finally, switching to landscape only makes its usability more far reaching as we casually typed up a long message without much fault.
As a “bare” Android device, the Nexus S comes with minimal support for things like instant messaging and social networks. In fact, apart from the Google Talk IM client, there is none to speak of. That doesn’t mean that you can’t easily download a free Facebook or Twitter client, or maybe find an AIM of Yahoo! Messenger client, but nothing comes pre-loaded.
Email support includes both Google’s Gmail client and the more generic email program that handles POP, IMAP, and Exchange accounts. The Gmail client supports multiple accounts and offers support for the priority inbox feature as well as threaded message viewing. Calendar and contact data can also be synchronized with a Gmail account, just as the standard email client (which is pretty generic) can pull down contacts and appointments from an Exchange account.
Camera and Multimedia
Google’s Nexus S features a 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash. The camera on the Nexus S is rock solid. The photos were less processed looking, a bit sharper, and just as well balanced when it came to color rendition. Lacking a dedicated shutter key to instantly launch the camera application, we’re resorted to going through the app tray to get it up and running. Once that’s accomplished, we find ourselves in the familiar stock camera interface of Android. Sadly, there isn’t much in terms of settings or manual controls that are found with some of the variants of the Samsung Galaxy S. Rather, it’s basically few and far in between that only provides the most basic elements to be modified – like resolution, white balance, and focus. And no, there is no touch focus option on board with this one.
Photo enthusiasts will easily want to look elsewhere after using the 5-megapixel auto-focus camera on board with the Smartphone. In outdoor shots, it manages to capture a moderate amount of detail, but it’s cool looking output doesn’t accurately portray the colors it’s supposed to reproduce. Conversely with indoor shots with poor lighting, there is a distinguishable amount of noise evident in its shots. However, its LED flash somehow manages to illuminate the scenery decently, but the image still looks a bit overexposed. In addition, the flash produces a pinhole like effect in conditions where it’s completely dark – and it’s more evident when shooting something more than 5 feet away.
What’s not nit-picking, however, is complaining about the lack of HD video recording capability. This is supposed to be a flagship device, so it should be able to record 720p HD video – just like most every other high-end Android smartphone released in the past 6 months. 720 x 480 pixel video, like that from the Nexus S, is fine for casual recording, but it just doesn’t come close to matching what so many other smartphones can do.
The Nexus S uses the standard Android gallery application in what appears to be an unchanged form, which is fine. The app organizes photos well, and even integrates with Picasa accounts. Multi-touch controls and swipe gestures can be used for switching between photos and videos, and it’s a simple thing to select multiple images/videos at one time for bulk actions
Much like many of the apps we’ve seen thus far, the Gallery app doesn’t boast any new or exciting functionality that we haven’t experienced already. As a whole, the interface is still visually alluring with its 3D like views for all you media content and the implementation of its background image.
Considering that this is a powerful smartphone, it would’ve been shocking to see it doing anything but offering an exceptional video watching experience. Combing its ridiculously gorgeous looking Super AMOLED display and lightning fast processor, even the most demanding videos played without much stutter. In fact, we’re able to watch a movie trailer encoded in MPEG-4 1280 x 720 resolution in full fidelity without any problems. Not only does it chug along at a swift rate, but the iridescent colors emitted by its display will literally make your eyes glow with awe.
Apps and App store
The Google Nexus S has access to over 100,000 free and paid applications through its Android Market. At the moment there is a 24 hour refund period on all purchased applications, but that will get changed to 15 minutes very soon. As a non-carrier phone, there is no non-Google bloatware at all pre-loaded on the phone, so most all of the phone’s storage space belongs to the user.
We’re only presented with the core Google experience apps that are commonly found on just about every Android device – these include things like Google Earth, Google Talk, Google Voice, and Google Maps
The latest version of Google Maps is quite inviting now that it boasts some striking new features to truly provide an all-in-one solution for everyone out there. First and foremost, the new 3D rendering views on buildings will accurately portray the visual representation of a city in the palm of your hands. The new feature is quite astonishing as the handset quickly renders building on the fly and without much wait, however, not all places will have 3D views – only some major cities across the globe. Secondly, there are some additional gestures in use which will allow you to pan and rotate the map to your liking – giving you complete control on how you navigate on the map.
There’s no denying that the Google Nexus S is going to be a beast in that department – but even more when it sports a built-in gyroscope to enhance your control. Even though the offerings are limited to only a handful of games right now, we’d imagine that additional developers will eventually begin to make use of this nifty thing.
There is no RSS news feed reader, though. Gingerbread’s Downloads application keeps all files downloaded from the web in one centrally located, easy to find place. That’s a nice addition. The Tags application manages data read by the phone’s NFC capability. A calculator and full screen alarm clock are also included. A free, read-only version of ThinkFree Office can be used to read Microsoft Office compatible files.
The Google Nexus S excels in the calling quality department as voices on both ends of the line sound natural and distinctive – ultimately making for some good conversations. And even using the speakerphone, it doesn’t fluctuate in output seeing that voices have an audible tone to them.
Like the Samsung Galaxy S smartphones that it is based heavily upon, the Google Nexus S features a fairly large 1,500mAh battery. That’s good for over 6 hours of 3G talk time, or up to 17 days of 3G standby time according to Google. My real world experience tells me that it is very easy to get a full work day of use out of the phone, and that relatively light users will get a day and a half with no real effort at all.
Nexus S is a cracking phone that’s a pleasure to use, offers real power and sets new standards for Android devices – both in terms of hardware and software. But, from a design and specifications point of view, there’s nothing blatantly superior about this handset compared to some of the existing titans in the Android space. In fact, we can’t classify it as being a true powerhouse smartphone since it omits somewhat expected features like 720p video recording or HSPA+ connectivity.
Rather than looking at its design or hardware, the biggest thing about the Google Nexus S is its prestigious title of being the very first Android 2.3 Gingerbread device on the market. On the surface, it might not be considered a monumental leap over Froyo, but it manages to employ some minor new aesthetics with the platform to truly make it a refreshing experience.