Samsung have not historically been a manufacturer that pushed the boundaries of innovation. They appeared to be more focused on creating mobile devices to compete, not devices that redefined the market.
Fortunately, this appears to be changing. Samsung over the past year or so have launched some of the most compelling devices on the market. So, when it was announced that they would be the manufacturers of the next Nexus phone for Google in 2010, I was rather excited.
I have been using the Nexus S for a few months now, picking one up before its South African launch in Britain. After using it for this period, I can say, with certainty, that it is one of the best devices on the market.
Design and Build Quality:
From my experience Samsung Mobile, overall, do not build quality devices. They look cool for a few months but then the chrome starts to peel and bits just up and falloff. Generally, their devices feel cheap, and downright unappealing.
The Nexus S is Google’s official Android developer device; it appears that Samsung had to adhere to Google’s strict build quality standards. As a result the Nexus S is a superbly built device. From the way it sits in your hand to the magnificent curved touchscreen the entire package is extremely well put together.
The most innovative aspect of the design has to be the curved touchscreen. When I say curved I really do mean curved. The screen has a concave curve that aids with typing on the onscreen keyboard and navigating the menus. Originally, I thought this was a bit of a gimmick but after using the Nexus S’s curved screen then going back to the iPhone’s flat touchscreen there was a notable difference, favoring the Samsung. Typing on the curved screen was faster and the whole experience felt more natural.
The entire device is made from plastic, high quality plastic, but plastic nonetheless. This makes it feel less cutting edge, than the iPhone or most HTC’s that use aluminum and glass as part of their construction.
It is fast, very fast. The Nexus S has a 1Ghz ARM processor and a dedicated GPU, translated this means that the Nexus S has the latest, most powerful insides of any smartphone currently available on the market.
The camera is a little disappointing; it rocks a full 8-megapixels but is useless in low light and takes an age-and-a-day to focus on your desired target, by which time they have most likely decided to go home. However, if the light is perfect and the planets are aligned the camera can pull off some amazing shots. But I cannot see the point of a sometimes-awesome camera when the iPhone 4 and the Sony Ericsson Arc’s cameras do a solid job 100% of the time.
Another disappointing element was the MP3 player, which is dull and flat. It also refuses to go loud; you are left listening to rock at a level that your gran would deem acceptable – which is not at all the point!
That’s it really; the camera and the MP3 player are the only two things I can fault on the Nexus S. As the rest of the phone is fantastic, the processor and GPU and the other inside bits all manage to be frugal enough that a day of battery life is possible. That is, provided you don’t use it for navigation.
Here is the kicker. You need to be a bit of a geek to love this device. The reason is simple. The Nexus S comes with stock-standard Android 2.3, which for your run of the mill human being can be pretty dull and uninspiring to use. It can do everything you need, like sync calendars to your Google account and run apps from the App Market but is a wholly uninspiring piece of software.
This is the very reason why HTC, Sony Ericsson and all other Android players overlay the OS with their in house modifications. With the Nexus S you have to modify the device. Most of these modifications, like the home screen, are available from the Android App Market. Nevertheless, you have to enjoy geeking out and trying different home screens, contact managers, task managers, widgets, and social applications to really enjoy this device.
Android is a truly customizable OS, which for some is awesome and others less so. The advantage of this customisability is that if you know what you are doing you can build yourself a perfectly customised device. The disadvantage is that not many people may bother, or not know what to do!
In conclusion, the Nexus S is one of the best smartphones currently available on the market, it presents the latest flavor of Android, always, being primarily an Android developer device, and a vanilla untainted Android experience which can be tarted up and modified to your heart’s desire, or not, you choose. It is somewhat reserved for the geeks – you know who you are.
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