Samsung Nexus S Smartphone with Android 2.3 Delivers NFC, Revised Keyboard

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Samsung Nexus S Smartphone with Android 2.3 Delivers NFC, Revised Keyboard

by Clint Boulton

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Nexus S Unboxed

The Nexus S fit unboxed in all of its plain, black glassiness. There's not much to look at—until you turn it on. The device measures 4.8 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and less than half an inch thick.

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Check out the contoured finish, which fits snugly in the hand. No slipping. Well, less slipping anyway. It's still glass.

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Two Separate Cameras

The 5-megapixel rear-facing camera worked as well as any 5-MP camera of its ilk, but nothing special. Also, the device sports a VGA front-facing camera, which like the Galaxy Tab proved spotty.

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New UI

According to Google's Android marketing materials, the Nexus S' Android 2.3 user interface includes "visual theme of colors against black brings vividness and contrast to the notification bar, menus, and other parts of the UI. Changes in menus and settings make it easier for the user to navigate and control the features of the system and device."

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App Launcher

The app launcher, for example, has a nice new 3D scrolling look to make it livelier. It's pretty but not any more useful.

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Near Field Communications

We were able to test the NFC capabilities because Google put an NFC sensor-loaded window decal in the box for us. Check it out here.

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NFC Test Run

To test NFC on the Nexus S, we simply put the back of the phone, which is loaded with sensors, NFC software and an NFC chip, up to the sticker. A tag uploaded this link to a YouTube video immediately.

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About Android 2.3

Clicking on the link, we were treated to this YouTube video with Android developers discussing the Nexus S and improvements in Android 2.3.

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Tags Widget

Upon closer inspection, we learned there is a Tags widget in the app launcher. All scanned tags appear under this widget menu.

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Android 2.2 vs. Android 2.3 Keyboard

Android 2.3 provides an overhauled keyboard. Note the longer, narrower keys of the Android 2.2-based Droid X on the left vs. the shorter, wider keys of the Android 2.3 Nexus S on the right. Google says, "The soft keyboard is redesigned and optimized for faster text input and editing." We're thinking it takes time to get used to. There are some obvious improvements though.

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Faster, More Intuitive Text Input

The Android 2.3 keyboard does let users correct entered words from suggestions in the dictionary. As the user selects a word already entered, the keyboard displays suggestions that the user can choose from, to replace the selection.

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Compared to Android 2.2

Note the differences between text input options from the Android 2.2 Droid X on the left and the Nexus S. When entering text or viewing a Web page in Android 2.3, the user can select a word via press-hold, then copy to the clipboard and paste. Pressing on a word enters a free-selection mode so the user can adjust the selection area by dragging a set of bounding arrows to new positions, then copy the bounded area by pressing anywhere in the selection area. This was actually really neat.

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Application Management

Google also added an application manager shortcut to the options menu in the home screen and App Launcher, letting users check and manage application activity. Note this list of active applications and the storage and memory being used by each.

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Power Management

There is also a great new power management feature that shows users the power being consumed by system components and apps. Find it under Application settings in Android 2.3.

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Angry Birds

After testing Google searches and several other apps side by side on the Droid X and Nexus S, we concluded the Nexus S indeed loaded Web pages and apps faster. Even Angry Birds on Android spooled more quickly on Android 2.3 and the new hardware than it did on our Droid X.

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Fresh New Feature

The week of Dec. 13, Google launched a new version of Voice Search that offers personalized recognition to link voice search queries with Google Accounts to improve the feature. We were able to download it like so.

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Voice Search

Then we tested Voice Search. It worked perfectly. It should be much improved when personalized recognition kicks in, or so Google hopes.

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