Three days with the Nexus S

by Volker Weber

Three days ago I started using a Nexus S (middle) instead of the Nexus One (right). My main phone is an iPhone 4 (left), but I have used Android phone extensively starting the the Google Dev Phone (a.k.a. G1). There are a couple of different models and I should be using the GSM Model 2. Samsung has switched from the Super AMOLED panel to the cheaper Super Clear LCD which I am using.

Nexus One (N1) and Nexus S (NS) both run on 2.3.4 (Gingerbread). No big surprises there. I had to adjust to one minor change. N1 and NS have a different order for the four buttons at the bottom: Back-Menu-Home-Search vs. Back-Menu-Search-Home. Since you need to hit the Home button quite often, this takes a while to get used to. Microsoft has made the order mandatory for Phone 7: Back-Windows-Search.

The NS is considerably larger than the N1. While the N1 has a matte finish, the NS is glossy. Also, the NS is slightly curved, both on the front and the back. That makes it a really good phone. You know, making calls and such. It's just very natural. While I like the touch of the N1 better, I believe the NS to be prettier.

Two big changes: camera and display. While you can't read the N1 AMOLED display in direct sunlight, the NS LCD has no such problem. Certainly good enough. I have seen but not used the Super AMOLED on the other NS. Currently I would lean towards the LCD panel, since it works well in the open. Not as brilliant as an AMOLED indoors, but certainly good enough.

The iPhone 4 had the first camera that made a small camera redundant for me. Big glass SLR, Prosumer G11, or iPhone. I am happy to say the NS camera also falls into this "good enough" category. I can shoot what I want without missing a "real" camera. That was not the case for the N1. Heiko Hebig shows us, that a N1 camera can be good enough, but he largely uses Camera 360 to make artsy photos. It would be really interesting to see what he could do with an NS. I have one better smartphone camera, and that's the Nokia N8. If only it had better software.

iPhone 4 and N8 are king in terms of build quality. How does the NS score? So, so. Much better than I thought on the first day. It feels tight, the backcover does not make any squeaky noises, the screen is easily cleaned. On a scale from 1 to 10, where the iPhone 4 is a 10, the N8 would get a 9, the N1 would score 8, and the NS 7. A BlackBerry Bold would finish 6, a Torch maybe 4 to 5, and a Palm Pre a solid 3.

There is a small issue that irritates me on the NS:

The screen is concave, which is novel, but it's not even. As soon as the screen comes alive, you won't notice, but I see that when it's off.

Things I did not use: front facing camera and NFC. That will come later.

Last but not least, battery life. My benchmark is 18 hours. I need to sleep 6 hours, during which time a phone can charge, but outside that small window it has to work. Phones that did not pass were the Palm Pre and the Nokia N900. Nexus One barely passes, Nexus S does. So does the iPhone 4 and any BlackBerry or Nokia. Again: good enough.

Would I recommend the Nexus S? Absolutely. If you want an Android, this is the one to get. The current Google reference implementation. No fancy UI extras. If your data is in Google Mail or Apps, you should love it.


So which would you grab as you head out of the door for an important trip? iPhone 4 or Nexus S?

Stuart McIntyre, 2011-07-28

Either one is good for that. My personal preference it the iPhone 4. If only for FaceTime.

Volker Weber, 2011-07-28

Nexus S or Samsung Galaxy SII... I'm still undecided - mostly wonder if the SII is worth the money.

Joerg Richter, 2011-07-28

A lot of people really like the Galaxy SII. I would not, simply because it comes with TouchWiz. But that's just me.

Volker Weber, 2011-07-28

I've played with both interfaces briefly - it's a little like candy shop vs. well-run hardware store. Totally understand your point.

Joerg Richter, 2011-07-29

Volker, you simply install one of the launchers from Android Market and TouchWiz is gone. There are some good and fast ones available. This is one of the features I like most about Android - there are alternatives. I also really like the Galaxy SII, good battery life, excellent screen, good camera and very snappy UI. Switched from iPhone 4 and never missed it since. Gingerbread feels like next but one generation iOS in so many details.

Dirk oppelt, 2011-07-29

You might want to keep in mind that only the Google reference phone is entitled to get all the updates in time. Unless you are okay with using unofficial firmware, I think buying any other Android than a Nexus is stupid.

Philipp Münzel, 2011-07-31

"Unless you are okay with using unofficial firmware, I think buying any other Android than a Nexus is stupid."

I'd nearly second that, while "stupid" is the wrong word.
But if you are okay with using unofficial firmware i don't know a single reason to use a nexus. For me it's ugly like the first nexus and like the galaxy is (for me).
And if you are okay with using unofficial firmware you clearly get the most out of your device. On XDA the devices are heavily optimized (which leads to incredible better performance and better battery life also) and even bugfixed in some cases before google or manufacturer does it.
And even the updates maybe earlier on XDA. For example, while the Wifi-Xoom firmware was being pushed round america, XDA-Developers did get hands on it and released rooted version, before it was finished being pushed round america.
Next device will be clearly chosen by supportlevel on XDA and the ability to be easy rooted.

Kai Schmalenbach, 2011-08-01

There are two schools. Some people want stock devices. Some want the optimized. ;-)

Volker Weber, 2011-08-01

guess what, i like that! It's a Manta A! (not B) So it's pretty safe from being joked.
But i guess you're right, it's up to your taste.
Nevertheless, even stock ROMs are taking great benefit from being optimized. ;-)

Kai Schmalenbach, 2011-08-01

I chose a good Manta A on purpose. And not this kind.

Volker Weber, 2011-08-01

i realise that this is a hardware review, ( ive been using the nexus for months now and am most pleased with it), but try swiftkey x with the nexus s, the improvement over the standard android keyboard is really something to behold especially if you bite the bullet and let it profile your gmail for your writing patterns

mark myers, 2011-08-03

I have tried swiftkey before and it does not work for me. If only because I use more than one language.

Volker Weber, 2011-08-03

Dear Volker,

right now I am starting to organise my private and work life around tools like iCal/busyCal plus some kind of brain dump. The smartphone of choice would be in the centre of all.
Any thoughts whether iPhone or Galaxy II would do the trick better? Thank You.

michael heinz, 2011-12-28

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