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Read My Samsung Nexus S Review

7 min read

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
Nexus S Standby ScreenHaving 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.

In UseNexus S running Android 2.3.4
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.

The back of the Nexus SLoudspeaker: 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.

Netbooks – Should you buy one?

2 min read

Last years hot gadget was the Asus Eee PC, an ultra portable laptop designed to get users online with little fuss. Dubbed the 'netbook' and reported to have in excess of 100 million users already this Market is maturing rapidly.

So the question remains, do you get one?

A netbook is essentially a laptop, but will take on a smaller form and provide less power and will inevitably have a 7 - 10 inch screen.

These devices will be useful for those who travel a lot, children or those who just want a fun tool to access the net.

Typically you should expect these to come with Linux or windows xp operating systems, Bluetooth and wifi connectivity, USB ports and a solid state hard drive. Battery life will be around the 5 hour mark. Webcams will be integrated thus allowing you to get the most out of voip applications such as skype.

What else do you get?

It's not all fun and games with these machines (although games are inlcuded as standard) open office comes bundled which allows you to edit and create documents on the go.

An Internet browser, an email client, instant messenger, office software, photo manipulation software, games, calendar, music and video are all included, so what else do you need?

If all this sounds too good to be true, then you're almost correct. While these netbooks are ultra portable, this makes them small, and probably hard to work from. They usually have a small hard drive, therefore you won't have access to a big media library.
But probably the biggest bug bear will be the lack of processing power, which will make these devices relatively slow.

So these are not a desktop replacement. But hang on a minute, who said they were? Did I?

These are a fun device which are fully functioning pc's, big deal if they lack raw processing power or a big hard drive. Get one of these and you will have a great time surfing the web and staying in touch with friends.

Cloud computing is not "stupid"

2 min read

The founder of the open source movement, Richard Stallman has claimed that cloud computing is stupid. His reasons being that one day we'll be locked into proprietary software and costs will increase for the end user.
This may well be the case for the enterprise but surely services supplied by the likes of google and yahoo will always be free to the consumer?

Google is essentially an advertising company, with their best asset being the amount of registered users they have. This makes it easy for them to sell advertising. Yahoo is basically the same if a little less successful.
The point I'm making is that cloud computing will always appeal to consumers for 2 reasons:
1. They are usually free;
2. They are always available on online.

Let's take a different approach. Office apps are always going to be less powerful in the cloud, than their desktop rivals. Does this make them less useful?
I don't think so, afterall how often does anyone make full use if MS Word?

Who provides better email and calendar services, MS or google? I believe it's google. Therefore my email and time management is better served by the cloud.
Does it matter that gmail is proprietary? Not to me. While I rate open source software, at the minute its presence in the cloud is limited.

Then there are other services such as Flickr, picasa, twitter, IM and even voip.
These are services that compliment your existing setup and really can enhance your technical skills.
The question around data security remains, but it doesn't worry me because, why should it? If someone wants my data they will get it eventually, I just make sure I don't publish sensitive information to the world.

Cloud computing is useful, it is not a fad, but you should ensure that you choose which services you use carefully, so that they best match your needs.

Cloud computing

2 min read

I bet you've heard this being thrown around the media lately. Know what it is?
Didn't think so.
So what is cloud computing?
I've talked about it in this blog before, so it must be something techie!
Well cloud computing is really about taking desktop apps away from the desktop. An obvious example is gmail or webmail in general. This is an application that has traditionally always been tied to a pc, but not anymore. Webmail is a great product simply because the user can access their email from any device which connects to the net. Ok, so there's the downside (you have to be connected to the net) but is that really a downer? I mean, these apps are only going to be used by people who are connected. That's the whole point.

What else can cloud computing do for you? Well think about every day office tasks. These too can be taken away from the office. Google docs and other web based apps are getting better every month. Why shell out for a MSFT licence when you can get the job done for free?
The real teaser here for businesses is home working. We've been hearing about home working for ages now. Well cloud computing can finally enable this for a whole host of occupations. When you tie voip services to cloud computing, home offices all of a sudden become very cheap.

There are plenty of other uses for cloud working such as photo editing and social networking. One thing to remember though, this has only just begun.


2 min read

I’m sure you will have heard of Skype, but for those who have not, here goes.

Skype is an internet telephony system, using proprietary software and protocols. You can make a voice call to anyone in the world provided they have a landline and you have bought skype out credit. If you call another skype user the call will be free. To make a call all you need is a microphone and speakers or alternatively get yourself a usb phones, bluetooth headsets or a wifi phones.
You can also make video calls if you have a webcam or appropriate digital camera. Quality will vary based on your broadband, camera resolution and background lighting.
With the skype desktop client you can chat to fellow skype users and also send them files such as photos, docs or mp3s. This could be useful for families wishing to share pictures of their loved ones.
Price plans are available and if you’re going to make a lot of calls to landlines I would recommend that you get an all inclusive bundle. Price for this will be £1.50 per month for skype pro or without a plan £0.012 per minute.

An alternative method for making skype calls is by using your mobile phone. I do this by using the client that came on my Nokia N95 from three. This allows me to make 3000 skype to skype calls per month for free. It’s a great system that works well over 3g.

There are two negatives to this client:

  • it does not as yet allow you to message another skype user; or
  • make use of the skype out facility.

However, disappointing as this is, there is another method to get around this.

fring, is an alternative client which allows mobile phone users to make skype out calls and chat with fellow users. The bonus of fring is that you can also use other voip plans, msn, and google talk.

You can currently buy a pay as you go Skype phone on three for £49.99 which is great value and something that parents and students alike could find very affordable.