The Samsung Nexus S is now my preferred mobile phone. Read on to find out why, but be warned, this is a lengthy post!
Before the Nexus S
Having been a a mac user for over 4 years and previously owning both the iPhone 3G and the 3GS I made the jump to Android last June when I purchased the HTC Desire. During the past 12 months I have discovered that, for me, Android is on a par with iOS devices and actually ahead in some aspects. With that in mind I have now purchased the Samsung Nexus S. For my mind, it is the best example of comparing an Android phone to the iPhone.
The Desire was rooted early on and has run a variety of ROMS over the 12 months, but lately I have been using ROMs that mirror stock Android e.g. Oxygen and DevNull. (As a piece of trivia, I think the Desire is the most hacked phone of all the Android handsets on the market today. The sheer volume of custom ROMs available for it is astonishing.)
As I say goodbye to the Desire, I leave the handset running Android 2.3.4.
My initial impression of the Nexus S
I ordered it from prepaymania for £303 delivered – I have to say that I hadn’t heard of this outfit before, but the phone arrived on schedule, so no complaints.
The box itself was your typical phone box, nice and compact and obviously inspired by Apple.
The Nexus S comes with a separate power cable and data cable which I though was a nice touch (charging and data transfer is by Micro USB). Also in the box was a headset which I have yet to use.
The phone is made from black plastic and is not of the same build quality as the HTC Desire. However, it feels much lighter and sits well in your hand. Let’s not forget that this is a 4” device as opposed to the 3.7” Desire.
When I turned the phone on I logged in with my Google account and the phone instantly started syncing my personal data and downloading my apps from the Market. It downloaded most, but not all of my apps. There was no faffing with iTunes or connecting it to a PC to activate – it just worked without fuss. First thing I needed to do however was update the operating system to 2.3.4 as it shipped with 2.3.3.
But you know what? The phone told me I had to update and off it went and started downloading the update.
A word of warning here: installing this update wiped the phone and I had to set the phone up as new again. This was not the case with the Desire, but perhaps I did something wrong.
I had a quick play and I decided that I knew enough about stock Android and that I would be better rooting the phone now rather than later. So that’s what I did. I followed this guide to the letter and it worked great.
I haven’t put a custom ROM on yet as I want to keep to the pure stuff for now, but rooting lets you do simple things like take a screen shot.
The Nexus S has no physical menu buttons, but so far these have not caused me any issues. One thing I do miss (although it’s not a big deal) is the trackball which was handy when you need to edit some text.
Is this the best phone I’ve owned?
I think it’s right up there. It’s certainly better than the HTC Desire and the 3GS, which were good phones in their time.
There are several factors that are important to me:
1. Screen size – 4” is probably the biggest size I would want on a phone and the Nexus S has a great screen,
2. Size and weight – it’s big but light, mainly due to the plastic casing. I carry the Nexus S around in a protective pouch, but I also carried the Desire in its own pouch, so I’m used to the bulk.
3. Battery – Even at this stage with the battery not being totally calibrated the Nexus S has a better battery life than the Desire. I should easily expect the Nexus S to last me two days of normal use. My Desire was easily lasting me a day with the DevNull Rom and the latest radio installed. This compares favourably to the iPhone 4 which does not last my girl friend more than 10 hours. She must have a dud. ;-)
4. Apps – people make a big deal about the quality of the apps in the Android Market compared to the Apps Store. Well I’m sorry, the apps I use are the same as the ones I have on my iPad (give or take) and they work fine. I’m a google guy and on Android, google’s apps are better than iOS. Fact!
5. Notifications –
I’ve not had a problem with notifications. Scratch that. I did have a problem with notifications (too many!), but I soon learned to only allow certain apps to update themselves in the background. I now get push notifications from SMS, email, ping chat, calendar and everything else I manually update. I feel I am more productive this way.
What about the Nexus S hardware?
I like the phone! I don’t mind that it feels light and is shiny black plastic. The buttons feel solid and the screen is responsive. There is a satisfying ‘click’ when connecting the charger.
My one gripe is that the headphone jack is on the bottom. I’m struggling to get used to this, but only because (in my head) the volume controls are back to front. I will get used to this though.
Camera: The Nexus S comes with two cameras. I’m on record in several places stating that IMO the iPhone 4 has the best camera of any phone. That is still the case. The Nexus S has a 5 megapixel camera and in good daylight the images are impressive, but like most other camera phones, when the sun goes down so does the quality of image.
The front facing camera is VGA quality and is really there to compete with Apple’s Facetime. Surprisingly using the google talk app video calls work well, even on 3G. This app also lets you make standard VOIP calls to other GTALK users.
Minor gripe: why can’t GTALK and Facetime get along? Those two apps would be very useful if they allowed you to chat to users of both systems.
Loudspeaker: I can’t figure this out. When playing music through the loudspeaker I feel let down, but when using the loudspeaker for phone calls it works really well. So good that I can actually see myself using this more often, something I rarely used on other handsets.
Call quality is good.
I use the swype keyboard, just because I prefer that over a more traditional keyboard, but the standard gingerbread keyboard is a big improvement over the standard HTC keyboard on the Desire.
I have the i9023 model which has the Super LCD instead of the Super AMOLED screen that originally shipped with the handset. A lot has been said of SLCD, but for my eyes the screen is superb even with the brightness turned down. In this respect it compares favourably to the Desire.
It’s difficult to compare like for like so I will end my narrative now. To conclude, the Nexus S is generally a little bit faster at everything compared to the Desire. So this is definitely an incremental upgrade, similar to the iPhone 3G to 3GS upgrade.
So much about mobile phones today is not about the hardware, but about the operating system and the apps. The right hardware will however enhance that experience. Therefore, if you’re considering the Nexus S you will not be disappointed. It’s a snappy phone that multitasks well and will more than meet the needs of most people.