Google's Samsung Nexus S is a speedy entrant running Android 2.3, the Gingerbread build for the OS. Great phone for T-Mobile customers who want to upgrade to Android.
Last week Google sent me the Samsung Nexus S
, the first Android 2.3-based smartphone and
the follow-up to the ambitious but ill-fated Nexus One launch at the beginning
of the year.
With hardware built by Samsung and software built and or assigned by Google,
the Nexus S launched
from Best Buy's online
and brick-and-mortar stores in the United
States on Dec. 16.
The device costs $199.99 with a two-year T-Mobile service plan, but as with
the Nexus One, users may buy it unlocked for $529. Google offers full specs here
I've tested every Droid phone from Verizon since the original Motorola Droid
last November, as well as the Samsung Fascinate and Continuum, so I'm very
comfortable with Android handsets. I tested my Android 2.2-based Droid X side-by-side
with the Android 2.3-based Nexus S to discern any speed changes.
Since Google boasts that every new Android build is noticeably faster than
the previous one, I was anxious to put it to the test with the Nexus S Google
sent me. This device was powered by T-Mobile's network, which runs well in this
neck of Fairfield County, Conn.
Hardware, Assorted Specs
The Nexus S is a gorgeous piece of hardware, but I feel as if I say that
about every Android handset Samsung pumps out. As with the Galaxy S line, the
Nexus S uses black bezeled plastic behind a glass display.
The Nexus S display and touchscreen is 4 inches of bright, crisp Super
AMOLED 480-by-800 resolution. While the Fascinate and Continuum are flat, the
Nexus S is slightly contoured. Google alleges this makes it more comfortable to
hold. I didn't notice any comfort boost.
What I did notice was that the device-which is 4.8 inches long, 2.5 inches
wide and less than half an inch thick-feels great in the hand. I tend to like a
heavier phone, but the Nexus S has a nice 4.5 ounce weight.
The camera is a 5-megapixel, rear-facing, auto-focus gizmo of average
quality, with some blurriness. The camera software was overhauled for Android
2.3, thereby providing a nice, framed user experience for picture-taking. Picture-management
icons test to the right to let users adjust the feature functionality. Video capabilities, taken at 720x480
resolution, were subpar compared to my HD Droid X shoots.
There is also a front-facing VGA camera for video chats, but results were
grainy. The video-chat capability on mobile devices really needs work.
Battery life, which purports to support 6.7 hours of
talk time on 3G (14 hours on 2G) proved great, as the 1500mAh unit lasted
a full day with heavy use. I played a lot of Angry Birds on this phone and am
pleased with the juice. The Nexus S has a 1GHz processor like other high-end
There's also 16GB of iNAND internal storage, so you shouldn't be lacking memory. But there is no external
memory option, so you could really put your phone to test with enough
User Interface, Management Tools
Nexus S is the first smartphone to run Android 2.3, which in addition to the
faster performance of a new operating system build allegedly has a better user
interface. I tested this interface against my Droid X. Some differences were
very obvious; some were subtle.
Android 2.3 was redesigned to provide a crisper contrast of letters and
menus against the black background, which was readily apparent in the
notification bar, menus and on the phone's dialer, where the numbers are
smaller and farther apart.
The Android 2.3 soft keyboard is redesigned for faster text input and
editing. The keys are reshaped; whereas the Droid X has longer, narrower keys,
the keys in Android 2.3 have been shortened and given a tad more space. It's
supposed to provide better typing, but I'm so used to the Droid X that I
couldn't tell the difference.
There is a one-touch copy and paste feature. When entering text or viewing a
Web page, you can select a word by using press-hold and then copying it to the
clipboard and pasting it there.
Pressing on a word enters a mode where you can move arrows that bracket the
word to new positions and then copy the bounded area by pressing anywhere in
the selection area. You can slide-press to enter a cursor mode, and navigate by
dragging the cursor arrow.
Google has also provided Android 2.3 with more control over power
management. To save battery life, the operating system manages apps that are
keeping the device awake for too long or that are consuming CPU while running
in the background.
There is a Manage Applications button in the Options menu in the home screen
and app launcher, which shows users applications on their phone and the storage
and memory being used by each.