By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Samsung’s Google Nexus S, while very much a part of the Samsung Galaxy S family of Android smartphones, is also the hero phone and current flagship Android OS smartphone that Google has chosen to carry the Nexus name to the next level.
Expected to come soon to TELUS, Bell, Rogers, Mobilicity, Videotron and Wind Mobile, the Nexus S is geared to be a popular device not just because of its high-end feature set but because it is a pure Google Android device and isn’t hampered by a third-party overlay or skin. This means updates come directly from Google. Being a Google flagship device means that the Nexus S will be sold unlocked and should use a variety of SIM cards from compatible carriers.
The Nexus S is the first Android smartphone running on the revamped Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread OS. This is the latest and greatest iteration of the Android phone OS and brings a number of minor refinements, speed bumps and usability upgrades such as VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), NFC (Near Field Communications) and wireless hotspot capabilities.
In terms of hardware, the Nexus S shares similar plastic skin to most Samsung Galaxy S smartphones but its rounded profile is reminiscent of the Samsung Focus. It features a stunning 4” inch Super AMOLED multi-touch capacitive screen which is brighter yet more economical than regular AMOLED.
One interesting facet of the Nexus S is the contour display that is essentially a very slightly curved screen that is gives the phone an unusual yet subtle scooped profile. While the contour display is interesting, we noticed that Samsung decided not to use the scratchproof Gorilla Glass that most of its other high end smartphones carry so novelty seems to have been chosen over scratch resistance.
Clad in slick, shiny black plastic, the Nexus S is thin and light, easy to hold and carry but its curved design and shiny exterior make it slippery so it is unfortunate that a screen protector as well as a protective case.
The Nexus S feels a bit heavier, more solid and substantial than other Samsung Galaxy S smartphones we’ve tested and feels less fragile than the Samsung Focus that we feel is the most similar device in terms of shape, features and finish.
The Nexus S comes with a 5-megapixel-rear camera with an LED flash that we found to be so-so. But nowhere near the quality of the one found on a Samsung Focus. A front facing camera for video chat is included even if there is no native FaceTime-like application.
More than the hardware, the big feature of the Nexus S is Gingerbread. The latest smartphone build of the Android OS is more somber, more grown up and less cartoony. We discovered that the scrolling and opening and navigating of apps was markedly faster than on a Samsung Galaxy Fascinate with similar specs but running an older 2.2 version of Android.
Everything just feels a bit tighter, more responsive and slightly speedier. Some of the features that stood out for us were the availability to use the Nexus S as a mobile hotspot. Users are three clicks away from turning a singular Nexus S into the wireless hub of up to 8 devices.
This means that provided you have a data plan and ample coverage, the Nexus S can act as a conduit and send Internet connectivity with Wi-Fi enabled devices even in a moving vehicle.
Other Gingerbread features include NFC, which allows devices with the proper tags to transmit information just by being close to each other.
There isn’t much function for Near Field Communications but Google seems to be looking into mobile payments or quick data and file transfers in the future.
The Nexus S also features a three-axis gyroscope, ambient light sensors, accelerometer and a GPS. It is powered by a 1GHz processor, 512MB or RAM and a 16GB of storage.
It is very curious and disappointing that Google or Samsung decided no to include a microSD card slot which means additional expansion is impossible beyond the 12GB usable memory of the device.
Battery life is good for a day of 4-5 minute phone calls, constant HSPA data and partial Wi-Fi connectivity and the use of e-mail, social media, music playback and GPS mapping apps which is around average for an Android smartphone.
Call management is easy and if you use Google to manage contacts then all of these are automatically available to the Nexus S. Sound and call quality is above average especially because of dual noise cancelling microphones.
The Nexus S is an attractive, powerful and promising smartphone that’s clearly the standard bearer of the Nexus smartphone name and a great first device for Gingerbread. We’re excited that it will be widely offered in Canada and that a number of smartphone carriers will be showcasing this new device.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5