Google Nexus S Review

December 19, 2010, By Leo Xavier

Google wouldn’t have released its “Google Experience” smartphone, the Nexus S, at a better time. The device hit shelves this week right at the time of the holiday shopping frenzy. It does come well equipped with a lot of high-end features, but are those really enough at a time when a sea of high-end smartphones are scattered across the major carriers. If you are someone who has planned to get the device for Christmas, be sure to check out our review of the device.

You might not have forgotten the first “Google Experience” smartphone, the Nexus One, which was manufactured by the HTC and Google’s first smartphone touted as an iPhone-killer.

The Nexus One came equipped with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, a 3.7-inch AMOLED display, a 5-megapixel camera, and Android 2.1 OS.

The Nexus One seemed to be a must-have handset for all the Android enthusiasts out there. But the sales of the device were much lower than expected.

The Nexus S, a Samsung built-handset, is the follow-up of the Google Nexus One. It is not a great leap forward in the same way that the original Nexus was but rather is more like a refreshed version of the Samsung Galaxy S.

The Nexus S comes with a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, a 4-inch Super AMOLED display (480×800), a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash, front-facing camera, 512MB of RAM, a 1500 mAh battery and Google’s latest version of its operating system, Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

We must agree that the device does have pretty good features. But all devices have two sides, right?

Design

The Google Nexus S is a thin, black phone and comes with Samsung’s glossy black plastic. As you might remember, the HTC Nexus One featured an over-engineered metal chassis and matte-finish casing.

While some might prefer the lightweight Nexus S, some might feel that there is something about HTC’s metal designs that make phones feel quite solid.

But the Nexus S is well constructed, despite the plastic, but the device does not seem to be as aesthetically pleasing as devices like the iPhone 4, the Desire HD, or the G2.

Display

The Google Nexus S offers a 4-inch Super AMOLED display, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The display does rival all the other competing high-resolution displays seen on the market these days.

Although the device doesn’t pack the pixel density of the “Retina Display” on the iPhone 4, the Super AMOLED display shows rich, bright colors with deep, dark blacks, providing an ideal contrast, especially for viewing images or watching movies.

Gingerbread OS

The Nexus S comes with a stock version of Gingerbread. For the most part, Gingerbread’s improvements over Froyo are mainly cosmetic.

The color theme has changed from light grey to dark grey, the signal strength indicator area has been changed, and the Phone application sports some minor improvements.

But the Gingerbread includes a new on-screen keyboard. The keyboard features more space between keys and a multi-touch capability that make typing easier and speedier than on Froyo.

It also seems to be better than previous OSs at recommending words as you type, such as last names and words that you’ve typed before, but are not included in the device’s original dictionary.

And for those of you who might find the keyboard less comfortable, you can find keyboard alternatives in the Android Market.

The Nexus S features built-in NFC (Near Field Communication), so it can read things like the “Recommended on Google” stickers you see at select stores. But there are only few ways to use NFC in the real world.

NFC payment options from major credit card companies and banks are still in early trial stages, which cast doubt on whether Nexus S buyers will have that option any time soon.

The software-based noise cancellation seems to work well. Speakerphone calls and music came through loud and clear over the external speaker, and the earpiece sounded perfect, even when it was tested at loud and busy places.

Camera

The Nexus S has a 5 megapixel camera for capturing all your precious moments, and the picture quality seems to be awesome. The camera button on the screen works quite well, but will be tricky for those with shaky hands. Therefore, there is a possibility that some might complain about the lack of a physical camera button.

The VGA front-facing camera’s image quality is grainy. The phone shoots video but does so in 480p, not in the high-end 720p HD resolution. There are expectations that a future software update might solve the problem.

Battery

The device boasts a 1,500 mAh battery, and it’s one of the better Android devices on the market when it comes to battery life.

The device made it through a day before the low battery warning came, after moderate use including calling, messaging, browsing the web, and downloading apps.

But there were some unexpected issues. The phone charges extremely slowly. After five hours of charging from a reported 10% battery life, the device was still at 94% charge.

Another hour only pushed the phone to 96%. This might not be a problem for those who are fond of charging every evening, but might be trouble for others that forget.

Signal

We are impressed with the signal performance of the device on T-Mobile’s network. There was no trouble with dropped or missed calls.

The device is an HSPA-capable device, and therefore does not take advantage of T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network. Yet we saw download speeds in excess of 3 Mbps and upload speeds between 1.5 and 2.5 Mbps. The phone also did a fine job holding onto our WiFi network.

Verdict

We must agree that the device does seem to be a pretty awesome handset. All the features of the device make it a viable smartphone option for many.

But the stock build of Android is a bit rough around the edges, so first-time T-Mobile users or those that are looking for a more aesthetically pleasing build of the OS will be happier with handsets like the myTouch 4G or the Vibrant.

The Nexus S has a great design, with a screen that is awesome and colorful. But Samsung’s Galaxy S handsets have the same screen, as does the Samsung Focus, a WP7 handset with better multimedia and gaming.

But the Nexus S will be appealing to those who understand the future potential of the device. With NFC already on board, and a system made for easy modifications and frequent updates, the Nexus S might just make it through to the top spot.

Availability

The Google Nexus S is currently available exclusively from Best Buy with a price tag of $199.99 with a new 2-year agreement, $249.99 with a two-year renewal, and $529.99 full retail.

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