Google Nexus S Review

Google’s Nexus S represents cell phone schizophrenia. It's ahead of its time in some ways, behind the times in others.
Google’s Nexus S represents cell phone schizophrenia. It's ahead of its time in some ways, behind the times in others.
Google’s Nexus S represents cell phone schizophrenia. It's ahead of its time in some ways, behind the times in others.

Highs

  • Large 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) Super AMOLED screen
  • Faster Android v2.3 Gingerbread OS
  • 1GHz Cortez A8 Hummingbird processor
  • Long battery life
  • 16GB memory built-in

Lows

  • Screen has greenish tint
  • Poor camera, VGA camcorder
  • No microSD slot
  • No pre-installed video chat software
  • No social network account syncing
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Phone functionality

The Nexus S is faster in every respect – app downloading, booting, website loading, media up- and downloading – than nearly every other 3G Android phone with which we’ve played, although far outshined in data speed by T-Mobile’s 4G phones.

But even though it runs a slightly newer OS and has fun animations on its home page and other gadgets, in many ways the Vibrant is a more finished OS. Settings icons are monochrome on the Nexus S, for instance, color on the Vibrant. On Vibrant you can add contact, photo and social networking accounts syncing for Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other, but not on Nexus S, which means no Facebook photos to flesh out your Nexus S contact list. These aren’t major drawbacks, merely surprising given Nexus’ supposedly superior OS.

What the Nexus S does vastly improve upon is the touch QWERTY keyboard, which now includes the oft-used @ symbol on the main alpha display, and a cleaner horizontal number row, rather than the dial pad-like 4-by-3 arrangement on the Vibrant.

The Nexus S provides one other tiny yet important convenience – the backlit function buttons beneath the screen (Back, Menu, Search, Home) remain lit as long as the display also is lit. On the Vibrant and other Galaxy S models, these controls go blank in a couple of seconds, leaving you to guess where they are once they go blank.

Web and connectivity

As noted, the Nexus S is generally much faster than Froyo 2.2 Android models. Web-optimized pages such as CNN, The New York Times, ESPN and Wikipedia load two to three seconds faster than on the Vibrant. Oddly, however, non-optimized pages such as The New York Daily News loaded a few seconds faster on the Vibrant than on the Nexus S.

However, the Nexus S often provided at least one bar of additional signal strength compared to the Vibrant, which on a few occasions slipped into EDGE while the Nexus S held one to two bars of 3G.

Camera

With all its advanced features, it’s somewhat shocking that Google imbued the Nexus with only a 720 x 480 video recorder, rather than the high-def recorder found in nearly every other new smartphone.

As with most cellphone cameras, the Nexus S shoots acceptable 5-megapixel photos outdoors, but even with a flash, indoor results are poor. Overall colors are flat, focus is lost away from the center of the image, and the flash often overwhelms the subject, leaving a bleached image.

Battery Life

Gingerbread’s primary improvement over Froyo is battery life. The Nexus S’ bright display draws nearly a third less power, cell standby mode uses around 10 percent less, and idle draws around 20 percent less, all of which results in far greater overall life. After two days of on-and-off usage, the Vibrant was down to around 20 percent remaining power, while the Nexus S retained nearly half its battery life.

Conclusion

Google’s Nexus S represents cell phone schizophrenia. It’s ahead of its time in some ways, behind the times in others. But these musings are moot; with the floodgates of 4G opening, the Nexus S is about to be drowned in phones with perhaps fewer bleeding-edge technologies, but touting strong 4G capabilities.

Highs:

  • Large 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) Super AMOLED screen
  • Faster Android v2.3 Gingerbread OS
  • 1GHz Cortez A8 Hummingbird processor
  • Long battery life
  • 16GB memory built-in

Lows:

  • Screen has greenish tint
  • Poor camera, VGA camcorder
  • No microSD slot
  • No pre-installed video chat software
  • No social network account syncing

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