Another month, another potential iPhone-killer. Normally they fall short of grabbing the Smartphone Crown with some pretty basic mistakes – a plasticky-feel to the case, for instance, or a poor camera. Sometimes they’ll even forget to include HD video recording, or iPhone-beating features like a micro SD expansion slot. Will the Nexus S, Google and Samsung’s collaborative effort, fall into this trap? Read our review of reviews.
T3 are quick to praise Google’s new baby, explaining that “the Google Nexus S is a gorgeous phone. It sports what’s called a ‘Contour Display,’ where the glass is curved slightly to fit the contours of your face.”
Originally designed to improve the user experience, Pocket Lint think that it won’t “make any difference in daily use … [however] looking good is good enough. And look good the Nexus S does.”
There’s universal praise for the phone’s aesthetic between reviewers, but it’s equaled by condemnation of the phone’s build quality. T3 sum it up: “Pick up the phone and the build is disappointing, it just feels very plasticky – far more so than the similarly priced HTC Desire HD and Apple iPhone 4.”
4.0” AMOLED Screen
While the design may be the first thing a user looks at, the screen is what holds their attention. Luckily, the Nexus S has done well. PC Pro sings its praises: “the 4in 480 x 800 screen uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology, which means it’s eyeball-searing in its brightness and amazingly colourful.”
We’d elaborate, but almost everyone knows that AMOLED equals awesome screen. Is it better than the iPhone 4? That’s too big a debate for this article, but we’d say that the iPhone’s higher pixel density beats marginally improved colour reproduction (sorry, Nexus S!).
Android 2.3 – Gingerbread
If the reviewers’ consensus is that the design and the screen are much improved over the original Nexus, then the operating system is a minor tweak. On paper Gingerbread offers plenty of modifications, but in the real world our journalistic friends found three bragging points:
Tech Radar: An improved task manager means that “Android keeps an eye on which applications are running in the background and shuts them down if they step out of line.” Electric Pig adds that the new task manger also lets “you see what those [badly-coded, battery-hogging apps] are, and kill them.”
Pocket Lint: “The new keyboard makes it easier to get to numbers, punctuation and special characters using multitouch. Previously you’d have to toggle between character sets, now you simply press and hold the button to access the character set you want, as if using a “shift” or “alt” button on a conventional keyboard.“
CNET: “The Web browser in Android 2.3 seems faster than ever, and it rivals the speed of the iPhone 4’s browser. The Web pages we tested loaded quickly and accurately, and you get the bonus of Flash Player 10.1 support, so you can see every website just as it was designed to look.”
Tech Radar sums-up the innards: “A Samsung 1GHz Hummingbird processor in the background (which offers up some fantastic speeds) we weren’t surprised to see judder or freezing kept to a minimum.” And this is with only 512MB RAM – less than the HTC Desire. It’s not all good, however – “One thing we’re very disappointed with Samsung and Google about on the Nexus S is the lack of external microSD expansion. Yes, 16GB of internal storage is good-ish.”
The first real split of opinion surrounds the Nexus S’ camera. Most people have garnered behind Electric Pig: “The five megapixel camera takes unspectacular, washy images without any of the clarity we were hoping”. Pocket Lint disagrees: “The camera performance is respectable in good light and copes surprisingly well indoors too.” Although they’ll admit that “the flash brings a slight green cast to things, blowing out close subjects and lacking the power to reach any distance.”
Luckily, the two camps reformed in disgust of the VGA camcorder option. Electric Pig: “you’re restricted to VGA video recording – that’s right, no 720p HD for you. Oh, and notifications aren’t automatically silenced while recording.” Eep.
Thankfully, CNET took care of this paragraph for us:
“The Nexus S will be available from 20 December for free on a £35-a-month contract, or £550 without a contract, exclusively from Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy. Either way, the phone will come unlocked so you can use it on any network.”
It seems like if you want the best Android phone, you know where to go – the Nexus S is mostly brilliant. Plan on storing a lot of files, however, or want to capture life’s precious moments in high-quality, and you might find yourself reaching for the HTC Desire HD or Samsung Galaxy S. Which is weird, because you’d think that Samsung would have noticeably improved on their previous product.