There are so many Google Android devices on the market today with all different kinds of hardware and software, but when it comes down to a pure Google experience, you look no further than the name Nexus. The Nexus One started the name, it was a favorite for many geeks but never did really take off in the consumer world because of the internet purchase only. Google is at it again with the Nexus S and we guess the S stands for Samsung. They are at a different approach this time having the phone available from Best Buy for purchase unlocked or under T-Mobile contract.
Today we are going to talk about every aspect of the the Nexus S, so let’s get started with the hardware. Starting with all the positives, this phone has to be one of the most stealth looking devices that we have ever seen. If you don’t like black and black everywhere, then this is not the device for you. The front is a curved glass AMOLED 4.0 screen, with with ear speaker up top in the middle, a front facing camera on one side and light sensor on the other. Down below you have standard Android soft touch buttons, in this order, back, menu, search, and home. This is one thing that we really do not understand, why we can’t get a dedicated place for the button order because switching to different devices is very difficult if you have already trained your hands to hit a certain place.
The curved screen is not really a useful thing but we can say, when you hold the phone and use it a lot you will notice how the soft buttons on bottom actually feel like they are sticking out a bit because of the curve on the bottom. Other than that we love the curved screen simply because it looks really cool and it’s not your everyday looking phone. Around the sides there is a bezel and like we said before it is glossy black. On the top there are not any buttons, only a place to pry the back of the phone off (which feels like you are tearing it up when removing). Moving to the bottom you have a micro USB charger, your 3.5mm headphone jack, then to the left side you have a volume rocker
and to the right you have the power/wake sleep button.
On the back, the batter cover is also shiny black and has a faint dot print pattern all over. This is a personal preference, but we like matte on the back of a phone because they seem easier to hold and show less finger prints. The top of the back has a little color with an aluminum camera bezel next to the LED Flash. Next to that you have your two slots for the external speaker with a little rise on it to keep the sound from drowning out when you set it down. The middle has the famous Google branding, then down to the Samsung logo, and then the lower chin. The lower chin does look kind of odd at first but after holding the device it makes it a lot more hand friendly.
The AMOLED screen is 4.0″ WVGA (480×800) and is very vibrant just like the other Galaxy S devices and outside viewing is not great yet, but a definite improvement over the Nexus One. The black levels are so black along with the color of the device you really can hardly see where the screen starts and stops when it is dark. This has to be one of our favorite screens out now but we would like to see the pixel count go up in 2011. Not that it’s bad, but it could be better. This is us being picky.
Another thing worth noting is the Near Field Communication chip in the battery cover. When the batter cover is off you can see to connectors and an outline where the chip is in the housing. There is also a tag app added in the applications list on the phone to go and see your tags. Currently this is not very exciting, being that there are not any tags to read. In the future there will be tags posted and you will be able to pay for some items using the phone like a credit card if it is set up with your bank account. We really feel that it is a little early to have this technology in the phone, being that Google has a lot of things to sort out with banks to get this up and running. We are positive there are tons of privacy and security issues to iron out before this goes live officially.
Although not for everyone, we love this hardware and think it looks very mystic and futuristic. When you look at it for the first time and you have seen other Galaxy S devices you will be able to tell that they are closely related.
Currently the Nexus S is the only phone officially that is running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. When thinking about the software to write this review, the main thing that comes to mind is that there is not much changed in the operating system. One of the first things noticed are, the notification bar and drawer have been changed to black and the battery, signal, and WiFi icons have been changed to the green Android Robot color. Then on the bottom there is more green with the phone launcher icon and internet world icon are now painted in green and darker. The new keyboard is more spread out now, with hints of orange for the suggestive words and you can long press on the top row for numbers instead of hitting the number shift button.
The text under the app icons is now also more tight and defined. Going to another small feature, when you are scrolling through settings and you hit the top or bottom of the list, you now see orange highlights to let you now you have hit the stop. Pulling up the menus with the menu button now it is black instead of the darker white from 2.2 and down. So you see what we are saying, these are all small changes, it is like Google went in and cleaned up and redecorated. When it comes to speed, the device is very snappy and the screen is really responsive. It’s better than the Nexus One which it’s screen and soft touch buttons suffered quite a bit from not being responsive.
Another addition is sounds and wallpapers. They have taken some sounds out and added a bunch of new ones. Also changed is the Nexus Live wallpaper background, plus an addition of a Microbes Live Wallpaper that looks like you are looking at microbes under a microscope. Also they have added a cursor to move to specific text usually handled by a trackball or 3rd party software, and is a very nice and easy way to move through text. We would love to be able to write a bunch more on the software of Gingerbread but there just is not enough visually to do that. We suspect that Honeycomb will be a larger jump like Froyo was. Overall, Android 2.3 is one of the top operating systems available on a smartphone today, you can argue that others are better but there are not really any huge factors to put behind the argument that are not personal preference.
Battery and Storage
Starting with storage, there is 16GB on board for all your storage for the Nexus S without a slot for an SD card. Most all the Android devices up to date have came with SD cards or at least a slot to add memory. We are not sure why Samsung and Google decided to leave the slot out on this phone. Not only is it bad for the obvious reason of being stuck on the amount of storage that you can have, if you wipe your device with pictures or data on it, you will loose all your data. Where they used to stay on the card without getting erased. It really wasn’t the smartest decision to leave out the SD card slot in our opinion. The flash memory is partitioned off to give you 1007.89 MB available for applications, 13.31 GB left for all your data.
Next, the 3.7 volt 1500 mAh battery has been getting rave reviews for lasting longer than other Android devices. After using the device stock for almost 3 weeks we have not seen much difference in the battery life than the Nexus One. For the most part, Android devices can eat up a battery pretty quick under the right conditions and the Nexus S is no different in that aspect.
The front facing camera is VGA (640×480) resolution and is perfectly fine for video calls and maybe a quick snapshot of you and a partner, but you are not going to be taking any professional pictures with it. Moving to the 5 megapixel (2560×1920) rear camera, stills are really clear and taking flash shots in low light conditions were surprisingly not washed out. There is minimal lag when snapping pictures and the stills seem to turn out very nice, but we would love to see Google add in some more settings for the camera.
Another downfall of the camera is the video. We are really not sure why the camera is not shooting 720p HD video, it seems that is the standard currently. 720 x 480 video resolution and H.264, H.263 MPEG4 video recording are where you stand when shooting video with the Nexus S. Even though there is not HD video recording, the video was pretty good.
The Nexus S is not a revolutionary device on the technical aspect of things when compared to other phones out today. That is a huge complaint that most people have, but if you stop and look at this device a second, it really wasn’t supposed to be that kind of device. It was just time for Google to come with another Nexus device and we feel they wanted to give another manufacturer a chance. As stated before, the hardware is amazing, looks good, feels solid, and the 1GHz Cortex A8 (Hummingbird) processor runs really quick. Is this the top Android device available out now? Not necessarily, but after using this phone for only a couple of hours you will without a doubt know that Google has teamed up with Samsung to make one bad ass phone called the Nexus S.