Monday, 27 December 2010

Google Nexus S

Nexus S

Yes guys !!

You heard right !!

Today we are going to talk about the Samsung Nexus S, the first phone on the planet running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) …

So this phone is the successor to Google Nexus One and come in two models-

  • Samsung Nexus S (Unlocked Version) – $727.97/`32877.337209642 on Amazon
  • Samsung Nexus S (T-Mobile) – Prices not available yet

But the advantage is that the Nexus S come unlocked also like its previous model, Google Nexus One …

This phone is actually only compatible with T-Mobile’s 3G network, You can also use it on AT&T’s voice networks bu you cannot use it on AT&T’s 3G network …

You cannot also use it on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ networks which give you “4G” lightening speeds …

 The Nexus has big and bright display. The main menu shows the familiar "crawl" design.

The good: The Samsung Nexus S has a sleek design with a brilliant display. It offers a number of usability improvements from the Gingerbread OS, and its straight Google experience will appeal to Android purists. It's a good performer, too.

The bad: The Samsung Nexus S feels rather fragile, and it lacks a memory card slot, HSPA+ support, and LED notifications. Also, I was hoping for more new features over the Nexus One.

Review: It was almost a year ago that Google unveiled the HTC Nexus One to great fanfare and high expectations. As the much-anticipated "Google phone," the Nexus One took the OS in a new direction by offering a straight Android experience, a new version of Eclair (2.1), and a unique sales model that required customers to buy the phone from Google. Though it delivered on the first two promises, it was that sales model that ultimately sunk an otherwise satisfying device just six months after its birth.

At the time I wasn’t sure if Google would try the concept again, but Monday's release of the rumoured Nexus S shows that the company is back for more. Samsung made the hardware this time around, but the similarities between the Nexus S and its predecessor go to the core of the phone. Instead of a manufacturer's custom interface, you'll find direct access to the full set of Google features--don't even think of looking for a Bing search--with no carrier-installed apps to get in the way. As we said with the Nexus One, this is a handset for Android purists.

Behind the fairly standard candy-bar design--there are few differences that I’ll discuss below-- the feature set is interesting without being exciting. On the upside, the Nexus S is the first handset with Gingerbread (Android 2.3), and it offers a few improvements like a second camera, an NFC chip, and a three-axis gyroscope. Performance is promising as well, and we can't help but admire its shiny looks. Yet, even in these early days we're not completely in love. It doesn't offer that many upgrades over its predecessor, and we lament its lack of a memory card slot and support for T-Mobile's HSPA+ network.

The Nexus S is available December 16 for $529 without a contract or $199 if you're willing to stick with T-Mobile for two years. As with the Nexus One, both versions are identical and sold unlocked. And as before, the Nexus S is compatible only with T-Mobile's 3G network. Luckily, Google is pursuing a smarter, yet still limited, sales strategy. You can't buy it through T-Mobile, but the Nexus S will be sold in Best Buy stores and online.

Design
The Nexus S' candy-bar design takes many cues from its Galaxy S siblings, which puts it worlds apart from the Nexus One. It's larger (4.88 inches long by 2.48 inches wide by 0.43 inch deep) and lighter (4.55 ounces) than its ancestor, and it sports an all-black plastic skin with a very faint design on the rear face. I’m a bit divided on the result, however. It's shiny and pretty, and it has a more polished profile, but the Nexus S feels fragile in the hand. The Nexus One, on the other hand, had some metal parts, which gave it a sturdier build. We're not saying the Nexus S' construction is cheap, but we'd be wary of dropping it even once on a hard surface. Also, despite a promised "antifingerprint display coating," the plastic skin and the display attract smudges like crazy.

 

Google Nexus SThe Nexus S and Nexus one don't look much alike.

Below the display are the four Android touch controls (menu, search, back, and home); all offer vibrating feedback when touched. Unlike with the Nexus One, you don't get a navigation trackball. Yes, the Nexus S is in good company in that regard--most of the Galaxy S series dispensed with the trackball as well--but we missed it just the same. The protruding lens on the Nexus One always made us a bit nervous, so we were glad to see that the Nexus S' lens is almost flush. It sits on the rear face next to the bright flash. The second camera lens is on the front side just above the bright display. Other exterior features consist of a thin volume rocker on the left spine and a power control on the right spine. The 3.5mm headset jack and Micro-USB port rest on the phone's bottom end. Though it's not a huge deal, we'd prefer those ports to be up top.

Samsung is highlighting the Nexus S' "contour" design in its promotional materials. To you, that means that the front of the device is slightly concave. The idea is to make it more comfortable to hold the phone against the side of your head. We're not so impressed, though. The curve is so slight that we didn't notice any difference when talking. We may feel differently after long-term use, but the curve seems like a gimmick so far.

Curved Profile In this side view, you can see the Nexus S' curved profile.

Display and interface
The Nexus S' display supports 16.7 million colors and 800x480 pixels. Though that's the same resolution as the Nexus One, Samsung's display offers a few advantages thanks to its Super AMOLED status (HTC's display was just AMOLED). We noticed straight away that it's distinctly sharper, with richer colors, deeper and better graphics, and a wider view angle. It's also just a bit bigger (4 inches versus 3.7 inches), and it's more visible in direct sunlight. Like the Galaxy S handsets, it holds up well in initial comparisons with the iPhone 4's ballyhooed Retina Display. You can adjust the brightness and the backlight time, and a proximity sensor will shut the display off when you raise it next to your ear for a conversation.

The capacitive touch interface was pleasantly responsive. As with most Android phones, you can't change the display sensitivity, but it took only a slight touch to register our commands. When using the display, haptic feedback isn't available for all commands, though you'll find it when using the numeric keypad. Five home screens are available for customization with widgets, app shortcuts, and folders. Seven home screens would be nice, but it's not a big deal. On the other hand, we suspect more users will miss the ability for LED notifications. We certainly did.

The pop-up menu on the home screen offers the usual shortcuts for wallpaper, the settings menu, display customization, search, and notifications. Gingerbread, however, adds a couple of welcome tweaks like an all-black background and a shortcut for managing apps. Along the bottom of the display you'll also find three touch controls for accessing the dial pad, the main menu, and the Web browser. And over on the far left home screen are the convenient shortcuts for activating feature like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. The phone dialer features spacious keys with large numbers, though the text is a bit small.

Google Nexus S portableTThe trim Nexus S is portable, but it feels a tad fragile. Here you can see the dial pad interface.

The main menu has the "Star Wars"-like "crawl" design, where icons disappear into the background. Make no mistake that the Nexus S is a phone for people who want the Android OS served up straight and simple. We've always been fans of "letting Android be Android," so we're not going to fault Sammy and Google for going this route. Even with Gingerbread, seasoned Android users will find few new changes from Froyo devices apart from some minor interface tweaks in the secondary menus.

Gingerbread
I explored the full details of the new OS in this post, but we'll detail the highlights here. On the whole, most of the updates cater to developers, whereas other upgrades won't see significant consumer traction for some time. Gingerbread isn't boring by any means--in fact, it gives the Android OS a slicker feel--but it's not as significant as the jump from Eclair to Froyo.

The first feature we tried was the new copy and paste. When using a long press to select words in a paragraph, you're now given an option to select just the word you're touching rather than the whole block of text. Then, you'll see new arrows for grabbing just the words you want. It may sound like a small change, but it makes a huge improvement in usability.

The virtual keyboard also has some small-but-welcome tweaks. The individual keys are more rectangular and are spaced farther apart. Google promises that the new arrangement gives people a faster text-editing and input experience. Indeed, we noticed a difference even after a few minutes. Also, word suggestions from the dictionary are now displayed in a more vivid yellow text, and the top row of keys shows both letters and numbers. Unfortunately, the Nexus S does not support Swype out of the box.

KeyboardGingerbread brings a redesigned keyboard.

As for other keyboard changes, you now can use the voice input feature to correct individual words in a block of text. First, select the word using the method described above before pressing the voice control and saying the new word. We also welcome the multitouch changes that allow you to type numbers and capital letters quicker. For example, by holding down the Shift key, you can type a capital letter without switching to the separate uppercase keyboard. Similarly, by holding down the "?123" button, you can type a number by pressing the corresponding alphanumeric key on the top row.

The revamped app manager is another Gingerbread highlight. On the surface it looks about the same, but a new "Storage Use" option shows you which apps you're using. Also, under the "Running" tab, you can switch between the used and available RAM. And if that's not enough, a separate "Downloads" option on the main menu shows all the titles that you've downloaded in one convenient place. We very much welcome the new "Battery Use" menu that shows a visual representation of how much power each feature is using and how much time the battery has left.

The addition of NFC (near field communication) support means you'll be able to use the Nexus S for wireless transfer of data between two devices. Though still a new technology in the United States, NFC will allow users to use the camera to scan "tags" embedded in posters, stickers, and even other devices. The tag will then transfer information about that object to the phone for storage. Once you've stored tags on the Nexus S you can access them in one convenient menu. Mobile payments are another possible benefit of NFC, so I’ll have to see how it develops

Review:

Other Gingerbread additions include support for the WebM video compression standard, VoIP calling via SIP, enhancements for game developers, new audio effects for developers (like sound mixing), support for VP8/WebM video compression, and API support for the gravity, the barometer, and the new gyroscope.

General features
Outside of the new features that we mentioned already, the Nexus S isn't a huge step over the Nexus One or even, for that matter, most of the Galaxy S handsets. Sure, I welcome the new features like the second camera and the gyroscope, but I was hoping for more new goodies on such a showcase device. What you get isn't a bad lot, to be sure, but the Nexus S could be better.

First I’ll start with basics. The size of the phone book is limited by the available memory, with each entry holding multiple fields for phone numbers, as well as an e-mail, a street address, a company name, an instant-messaging handle, a nickname, a URL, and notes. You can pair contacts with a photo, but oddly I couldn't find how to associate individuals with one of the 28 polyphonic ringtones.

Other essentials include text and multimedia messaging, e-mail syncing (both Gmail and not), calendar syncing (both Google and not), a calculator, an alarm clock, and a news and weather widget. You'll also find the expected smartphone offerings like Bluetooth 2.1 (with A2DP), Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), PC syncing, USB mass storage, and an accelerometer. And to omy surprise (and delight), options for USB tethering and using the phone as a Wi-Fi hot spot were among the menu options. We checked these features out and were quite pleased by their performance.

We tested the voice commands and dialing feature with both making a call and composing a text. Both worked reasonably well as long as you speak slowly and annunciate. On a related note, we were glad to see the plentiful accessibility options like TalkBack, SoundBack, and KickBack. What's more, the speech-to-text option can read out text on the screen as you select it. You can secure the Nexus S using a PIN, a password, or an onscreen pattern, and you can customize GPS settings and choose to make your password invisible as you type.

Google features and apps
Though some Android phones have stripped out Google features or forced us into using Bing Search (we're talking to you, Verizon), every Google goodie you could want is on the Nexus S. Onboard are Google Voice, YouTube, Google Search (with voice), Google Latitude, Google Maps with Navigation, Google Places, Car Home, and Google Talk.

Given the GPS issues that plagued the Galaxy S phones--let's face it, the Nexus S basically continues that series--we were apprehensive about the Nexus S' mapping abilities. Luckily, it locked onto our location quickly during our tests and pinpointed us with a satisfying degree of accuracy. In most cases, it was rarely more than about a half of a city block off, which is about 200 feet in CNET's San Francisco South of Market neighborhood. On a couple of occasions it was off by more, but they were the exception rather than the rule. Of course, when we were inside it wasn't quite as exact. For the best experience, you should activate Wi-Fi and the GPS location feature in the Settings menu.

As we mentioned, the Nexus S isn't cluttered with a selection of carrier-imposed apps. That leaves you the freedom to use as many apps as you want through the Android Market. Gingerbread didn't bring any design changes to the Market, but we're not going to complain. Fortunately, the Nexus One accepts non-Market applications.

Media
The 5-megapixel camera has the same resolution as the Nexus One and the Galaxy S series. At first we were peeved that we didn't get an 8-megixel shooter, but after seeing the camera perform, we'll let it pass. You can take pictures in four resolutions, and you can use a broad selection of editing options like autofocus, infinity and macro modes, exposure metering, nine "scene" settings (night, beach, etc.), three quality modes, and three color modes. We're happy to see such a selection considering that many of today's smartphones--from both Android and Apple--lack camera-editing features.

CameraThe Nexus S' camera lens and flash sit on its rear face.

Deeper down, you'll find even more features like five white-balance settings and geotagging. The flash is extremely bright to the point of washing out photos taken in the dark, but we'll gladly take it over not having one at all. You can use an auto setting, keep it on for all shots, or turn it off completely.

Except for the Epic 4G, the Nexus S stands apart from the Galaxy S series in offering a front-facing camera. It has a VGA resolution, which is not uncommon, but you can use it for video chats and self portraits. Gingerbread also adds the ability to switch between the two cameras at the touch of a button. And speaking of which, the camera interface is sleek and user-friendly.

We were hoping for high-def shooting from the camcorder, but that's not the case. Instead it shoots clips in a 720x480-pixel resolution at 30fps. Editing options are limited to three color effects, the flash (it doubles as a steady light), and the five white-balance settings. How much you can record will depend on the video quality; clips for an MMS are capped at 30 seconds, clips destined for YouTube are limited to 10 minutes, and clips in normal mode can go as long as 30 minutes.

Photo quality was quite satisfying, though it won't knock you over. Colors looked natural and there was enough light without the flash, but we noticed some image noise around the edges of most objects. Video clips are about the same: good, but not excellent. Once you're done creating, you can transfer your work off the Nexus S easily using USB syncing, Bluetooth, e-mail, or a multimedia message. Of course, you can upload clips and shots directly to YouTube or Picasa, and we like that you can tweak the latter by cropping or rotating. The Gallery application is unchanged, but that's not a bad thing after the welcome upgrades from Froyo.

Audiophiles can use the standard Android music player. You'll find the usual set of options like album art, playlists shuffle, and an airplane mode. It all works fine, but we continue to hope that Google sharpens the music player soon. As with photos and videos, transferring tracks on and off the phone is easy.

Memory
The Nexus S offers 512MB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory. Though the latter should be more than enough space for most users, we remain unhappy that there's no memory card expansion slot; we've continually knocked Apple for no memory card on its iPhones, so we have to do the same here. Not only does it limit customer choice, but also we reckon that there will be some users who may just need more space.

Browser
The Nexus S' browser is unchanged from most Froyo devices. Web pages look great on the bright display, and we could navigate easily by scrolling and panning. Features include pinch-to-zoom multitouch, multiple windows, bookmarks, and the ability to find text on a page. What's more, you can use the nifty new copy and paste in the browser.

Processor
Powering the Nexus S is the same 1Ghz Hummingbird processor on the Galaxy S devices. The difference between the Nexus One's 1Ghz Snapdragon processor is readily apparent; we cruised through menus almost instantly, and all applications that we used opened within a few seconds. There were a couple of exceptions--the Photo Gallery took almost 5 seconds to start up--but they were rare. When we compared with the iPhone 4 in side-by-side testing, we didn't see much of a difference, which isn't surprising since the Nexus S' processor is a close cousin of the chip on Apple's device. Though we thought that the Nexus S could offer a dual-core processor, its chip is single-core. So for now it's back to waiting game for that feature.

Call quality
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Nexus S world phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was quite admirable during our initial testing period. We had enough volume, the signal was clear, and voices sounded natural. We didn't encounter any static, and background noise was kept to minimum. Our only complaint was that there was a very slight hiss during some calls, but it wasn't annoying.

On their end, callers said we sounded quite good. In fact, a few people couldn't tell that we were using a cell phone. On the whole, however, our friends reported good clarity without too much interference. They had a bit more trouble if we were calling from a noisy place, but those instances were few. Similarly, automated calling systems could understand us most of the time.

Speakerphone calls were admirable as well. The volume on our end was really loud and the voice clarity was some of the best we've heard. We had to sit close to the phone if we wanted to be heard, and it was best if we were calling from a quite place, but that's not unusual. Bluetooth headset calls were satisfactory, but quality will depend on the headset.

Data speeds
As we mentioned, the Nexus S is optimized for T-Mobile's 3G network (AWS 900/1700/2100) so AT&T users will have to deal with GPRS and EDGE speeds. Yes, that's disappointing on an unlocked phone, since it limits your choices for jumping carriers. Yet, even worse is that the Nexus S doesn't support T-Mobile's "4G" HSPA+ network. After all, the carrier is promoting the heck out of that network, so we wonder why such an anticipated device wasn't let in on the high-speed party.

Complaints aside, the data speeds are pretty snappy. Busy Web pages like Airlines.net and the full versions of WOW.com opened in less than a minute with simpler sites taking even less time. In our experience, T-Mobile's 3G network outperforms AT&T's.

Battery
The Nexus S has a rated battery life of 6 hours talk time and 17.8 days standby time. In our initial talk time test, we came away with a respectable 7 hours and 20 minutes. We'll continue testing the battery time for other features. On a related note, we noticed that the Nexus S took almost 5 hours to charge the first time we powered the battery. Yes, first charges can take longer than normal, but it was still worrisome considering that we turned off extraneous features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. On subsequent charges, it powered up faster. According to FCC radiation tests, the Nexus S has a digital SAR of 0.51 watt per kilogram.