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Google Nexus S Review

The Google Nexus S is the latest Google Phone produced by Samsung. Unlike the Nexus One which was made by HTC, this one is kind of cool and way more improved. Featuring the new Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” operating system, a 5 Megapixel camera and a modern design, the gadget seems cool and powerful.

The Box contains:

  • Google Nexus S
  • Wall Charger
  • microUSB cable
  • Stereo Headphones
  • 1,500 mAh battery
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Health & Safety and Warranty Guide


The Samsung-built Google Nexus S is all black from head to tow. It is true that the smooth back cover, which is curved and flared at the bottom, features a subtle pattern, but overall the phone is a pool of blackness.

Until the user lights up the phone’s beautiful 4-inch Super AMOLED(INFO) touchscreen display, that is. The display puts out very saturated colors at a 480 x 800 pixel resolution on a subtly curved front surface. The curved face offers no practical benefits, but it is a slick design element. It is worth mentioning that the display is a bit yellow in color at low brightness settings, something I don’t see in other Samsung Super AMOLED displays.

Beneath the display rest the four touch sensitive buttons: back, menu, search, and home. The order is notably different from that found on Samsung’s similar Galaxy S based smartphones. Above the display, something else is new; a forward-facing VGA resolution camera for video calls. The phone’s power/standby button rests on the right edge of the phone, and the volume rocker on the left. The typical Samsung combo of covered micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack are missing from the top of the phone, being replaced by an uncovered set of ports on the bottom of the phone.

The removable rear cover is a bit special on the Nexus S, as it has an NFC(INFO) receiver antenna built into it, along with a pair of contacts that mate up with the body of the phone. Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy S devices, which include microSD memory card slots, you’ll find no such expansion port on the Nexus S. The Nexus S relies solely on its built-in 16GB of storage.

In terms of size, the Nexus S measures 124.5mm x 63mm x 11mm (4.9in x 2.5in x .4in) and weighs 129.5g (4.6oz), which makes it thinner and narrower than Samsung’s Vibrant, but longer and heavier. The end result is that the Nexus S is easier to hold comfortably in the hand.


As we mentioned, the Nexus S packs in a formidable amount of tech into its small frame (2.48 inches by 4.87 inches, and 0.42 inches thick, in case you were wondering). Any device loaded up with a 1GHz Hummingbird CPU is sure to get our attention, and the performance we’ve been seeing with the S is nothing short of awesome. On a Neocore benchmark, we scored a terrific 55.6fps, and general use of the OS is lightning fast with nary a hiccup in sight. We also haven’t run into any memory issues, and though having 16GB of storage onboard is nice, we would have liked to see a microSD option here as well. Still, the method which Gingerbread utilizes the installed flash memory is excellent, and for those of you who can live with a finite amount of space, this won’t be an issue.

Besides the storage and CPU, the device sports a Super AMOLED display at 800 x 480 (235 ppi) which looks gorgeous (if slightly yellowish) to our eyes. The device also has its fair share of wireless radios, including tri-band HSPA (900, 2100, and 1700MHz), and quad-band GSM / EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz), WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, A-GPS, and that NFC chip you’ve been hearing all about. There’s also a gyroscope, accelerometer, and digital compass inside. We were a little disappointed to discover that Samsung didn’t include a notification light on the device — we like the reassuring blip telling us we’ve got an email waiting.


The home screen on the Nexus S has 5 customizable panels, and offers only a very standard selection of widgets and shortcuts. There are a couple of new animated wallpapers available, but otherwise we’re not seeing much new here. The notification bar/curtain has been updated with a new darker look, but offers the same functionality. The main menu also has an updated look, but still offers no organization options at all, which I feel is a major issue.

As with previous Android devices, there’s still good support for contacts. Contacts can come from many different sources, including social networks and other third party apps, and your most accessed contacts can be starred for quicker access. There is no integration of social network status messages, though. You’ll need dedicated apps for that. Profile support remains minimal, largely controlled by the volume key – not even a widget is offered for changing vibration settings or accessing silent mode. Voice commands, voice dialing, and voice input all work well and can be great time savers.

It comes with old crowd-pleasers like the on-the-fly creation of Wi-Fi hotspots. And Google has also iterated on the user interface, particularly the keyboard. It’s not as polished as the iPhone, but text entry is significantly faster than previous Android phones, with less errors. It is also much better at predicting words, and copy-and-paste has been improved as well. If the iPhone is 8/10 on text input, the Nexus One is probably 5/10 and the Nexus S is a solid 6/10.


The Nexus S has a 5-megapixel camera with a flash and the same resolution as the rest of the Galaxy S pack. As I’ve mentioned in other

Google Nexus S Camera Sample

Galaxy reviews, the camera quality is good, but not superb. I’m not going to lie: I was keeping my fingers crossed for an 8-megapixel lens. The Nexus One also had a good, but not mind-blowing camera. Colours in my indoor shots looked a bit faded, and generally, photos were slightly grainy.

My outdoor shots looked drab, but I’m not sure that’s really the fault of the camera, it’s been a miserable, dark day in San Francisco today. One feature Samsung and Google overlooked is a dedicated shutter key on the phone’s spine. It is a small detail, but it really makes a difference when snapping photos.

The camera’s user interface has a nice variety of settings that you can tweak to your liking. It has autofocus, macro and infinity modes, four resolutions to choose from, nine scene settings, three colour modes, three quality modes and exposure metering. Overall, the camera app is simple and straightforward, and I really hope that manufacturers don’t try to replace it with their own custom apps on future phones.

Music :

The standard Android music player is used on the Nexus S, and that means it is largely sufficient, but not particularly feature rich. Music is organized by artist, album, song tile, and playlist, but there are no connected features such as lyrics, streaming radio station support, or links to bio information.

Luckily, the audio quality put out by the phone, and its included earbud headphones, is solid – that’s what really matters. I also appreciate that the 3.5mm headphone jack is found on the bottom of the phone, as that better suits the way I put a phone in my pocket while walking around.


You can shoot video as high as 720-by-480-pixels at 30 frames per second. A video I shot outdoors looked pretty good, if a bit jittery when a fast moving object went by. Colours were accurate, and details appeared fairly sharp.

Battery Life:

What we can say is that, even if you manage your phone carefully, you’ll still not get very impressive battery life out of this phone. In our 24-hour test, in which we download 50MB of data, make a 30-minute phone call, force the screen on for an hour, listen to music for an hour and finally leave the phone in its default email checking state for the remaining time, we recorded 50% capacity on the gauge.


We’ve been a big proponent of using Android phones along with Google Voice and other Google apps. It makes setup of a new phone very easy – a minute or two at most – and we both continue to use our existing Google Voice phone numbers for inbound and outbound phones. The Nexus S comes with the Google Voice app pre-installed, saving additional minutes.

But the main event is Gingerbread operating system, which comes installed on the phone. No, the UI hasn’t seen a ground-up redesign (that’s coming in Honeycomb), but it’s improved in a lot of small ways, like the switch from a drab gray to a black notification bar (which actually helps save battery).

It comes with old crowd-pleasers like the on-the-fly creation of Wi-Fi hotspots. And Google has also iterated on the user interface, particularly the keyboard. It’s not as polished as the iPhone, but text entry is significantly faster than previous Android phones, with less errors. It is also much better at predicting words, and copy-and-paste has been improved as well. If the iPhone is 8/10 on text input, the Nexus One is probably 5/10 and the Nexus S is a solid 6/10.

Gingerbread also supports VoIP/SIP calling.

Best of all, of course, is the fact that the Nexus S is a clean install of Android, and a pure Google experience. There is no messy third-party software to muck things up.

Google Nexus S specifications:


1GHz Cortex A8 (Hummingbird) processor

16GB iNAND flash memory


4.0″  WVGA (480×800)

Contour Display with curved glass screen


235 ppi

Capacitive touch sensor

Anti-fingerprint display coating

Cameras and multimedia

Back-facing: 5 megapixels (2560×1920)

720 x 480 video resolution

H.264, H.263 MPEG4 video recording

Auto focus


Front-facing: VGA (640×480)

3.5mm, 4-conductor headset jack (stereo audio plus microphone)

Earpiece and microphone

Software noise-cancellation


Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)

Android Market



Google Earth

Google Maps with Navigation

Google Search

Google Talk

Google Voice

Voice Actions



Quad-band GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900

Tri-band HSPA: 900, 2100, 1700

HSPA type: HSDPA (7.2Mbps) HSUPA (5.76Mbps)

Wi-Fi 802.11 n/b/g

Bluetooth 2.1+EDR

Near Field Communication (NFC)

Assisted GPS (A-GPS)

microUSB 2.0


Talk time up to 6.7 hours on 3G

(14 hours on 2G)

Standby time up to 17.8 days on 3G

(29.7 days on 2G)

1500 mAH Lithum Ion


Haptic feedback vibration

Three-axis gyroscope


Digital compass

Proximity sensor

Light sensor

Size and weight

63mm x 123.9mm x 10.88mm



Powered by Samsung’s 1GHz Hummingbird processor, the Nexus S is quite speedy. Scrolling through web pages was fluid, applications opened quickly and navigating around the menus was smooth and fluid.

As mentioned previously, the Nexus S does not support T-Mobile’s speedy (though spotty) HSPA+ network, which is a big letdown. T-Mobile’s data speeds can be shifty in San Francisco, depending on where you are in the city.


There’s no doubt that the Google Nexus S is currently the best Android Phone on the market, but with Android 2.3 coming to other devices, and dual-core processor models on the horizon, it may only enjoy that status for a short time.


  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread
  • Brilliant Super AMOLED display
  • Above average battery life
  • NFC chip
  • Great calling quality


  • Same old Samsung Galaxy S design
  • Below average photos & video recording