iSmashPhone: Google Nexus S Review Mix

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It’s time for another iSmashPhone review mix. For those of you who aren’t familiar with our review mixes, we take a handful of reviews from various sources and organize them to make it easier for you–the reader–to see different opinions on various aspects of a device. This time, it’s the Nexus S, Google’s Samsung-built phone.

Android fans may like the idea of having a “pure” version of the mobile OS. It eliminates the crapware insalled by third-party manufacturers and leaves them with the cleanest Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) install they can have. It also makes upgrading the software much easier.

Before you go too far, you may notice that we didn’t place emphasis on the NFC technology. Which, while we think is very cool, it’s not yet being used in the US. That said, we hope that phones like this one help to push the popularity of NFC in the States.

Get the specs and reviews after the jump:

Nexus S Specs:


  • 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


  • 4.0″ WVGA (480×800)
  • Contour Display with curved glass screen
  • Super AMOLED
  • 235 ppi
  • Capacitive touch sensor
  • Anti-fingerprint display coating

Size and weight

  • 63mm x 123.9mm x 10.88mm
  • 129g


  • Haptic feedback vibration
  • Three-axis gyroscope
  • Accelerometer
  • Digital compass
  • Proximity sensor
  • Light sensor

Processor and memory

  • 1GHz Cortex A8 (Hummingbird) processor
  • 16GB iNAND flash memory

Cameras and multimedia

  • Back-facing: 5 megapixels (2560×1920)
  • 720 x 480 video resolution
  • H.264, H.263 MPEG4 video recording
  • Auto focus
  • Flash
  • Front-facing: VGA (640×480)
  • 3.5mm, 4-conductor headset jack
    (stereo audio plus microphone)
  • Earpiece and microphone
  • Software noise-cancellation


  • 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


  • Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • Android Market
  • Calendar
  • Gmail
  • Google Earth
  • Google Maps with Navigation
  • Google Search
  • Google Talk
  • Google Voice
  • Voice Actions
  • YouTube



Now let’s take a look at the reviews:

Screen Quality

Pogue (NYT): The 4-inch screen is bright, sharp and vivid.

Engadget: The device sports a Super AMOLED display at 800 x 480 (235 ppi) which looks gorgeous (if slightly yellowish) to our eyes…We did see some strange issues with the display — while it does look handsome in most settings, we noticed some strange inconsistencies in the panel against certain colors or tones. It was particularly pronounced on solid gray backgrounds. We’re not sure the cause of the problem (or if it was simply an issue with the device we had), but it was somewhat troubling. One other thing of note — we noticed a few missed or latent presses on the touchscreen which occasionally led to stuttery behavior or an opened item that we didn’t mean to tap.

SlashGear: Up front is Samsung‚Äôs 4-inch Super AMOLED display running at 800 x 480 WVGA resolution, just as on the Galaxy S. As ever it‚Äôs a beautiful, color-saturated panel with inky blacks and crisp edges; in daily use, there‚Äôs little difference between it and the iPhone 4?s Retina Display, despite the Apple handset‚Äôs greater resolution.

CNET: 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. We’ll send it to CNET Labs for a deeper comparison over the next few days.

Gizmodo: Samsung’s nearly ubiquitous 800×480 AMOLED screen, which sings with Android’s new interface, loaded with blacks and bright, pop-y oranges and greens. A weird issue to note though: Set to automatic brightness to conserve power, the screen becomes very warm, like pee yellow…The Contour Display is nice, and so’s the AMOLED screen.

Wired: The screen is bright and colors were largely accurate. You aren‚Äôt going to want to hang it on your wall, or dive into it, but in terms of phone displays, it‚Äôs solid.

TechCrunch: High-end AMOLED 400 x 800 resolution screen that is second only to the iPhone 4, and is NFC-Enabled…The 4 inch Super AMOLED 480√ó800 touchscreen has very deep blacks and viewing angles and is, as we said above, second only to the slightly smaller but higher resolution iPhone 4 display.

iSmashPhone Verdict: Reviewers praised the screen, and some even said the slight curve was nice. Most said that only the iPhone 4 screen tops it right now. However, it wasn’t without some problems. Engadget noticed inconsistencies with certain greys, and noted a slight yellow hue. Gizmodo noted that same “warm” yellow and used the word “pee” to describe it.




Battery Life

Pogue (NYT): The battery life is much improved. It should easily get you through a day, maybe even two, between charges.

Engadget:The Nexus S’ 1500mAh battery showed impressive signs of life in our short period of testing. In heavy use (though not tons of calling), we sustained about 20 hours of life before the phone was crying for its charger…You’ll certainly be able to make it through a day with the Nexus S, but if you’re a heavy talker or plan on doing a lot of gaming, you may want to consider a second battery.

SlashGear: The Nexus S bucks the trend for high-powered Android smartphones to run out of juice sooner rather than later. A full charge from 0-percent to full power took 4hr 15min, and we managed a full day with extensive use without needing to top the Nexus S up…We‚Äôve spoken with Google about the perhaps excessive full charge time, and have been told that subsequent recharges should be faster as the battery is conditioned.

CNET: 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…almost 5 hours to charge the first time we powered the battery.

Gizmodo: Better battery life than the average Android phone, though these two things are as much due to Gingerbread as the hardware.

Wired: We pulled out nearly 30 hours of battery life, using it occasionally all day to snap a few photos, browse the web, send e-mails and make an occasional phone call. (And yes, the GPS was turned on.) However, when we really hammered it with heavy internet use, media playback and the in-car navigation function and plenty of apps, we were done in just over five hours. It takes approximately forever (or three hours) to fully charge.

TechCrunch: Battery life is good ‚Äì much, much better than the dismal HTC EVO. We‚Äôve been getting 6+ hours of heavy voice/data usage on the removable 1500 mAh Lithium Ion battery.

iSmashPhone Verdict: All the reviewers loved the Nexus S battery life, and said that it lasts much longer than other Android phones. They did note, however, that the initial charge time was very long (longer than normal first charge is a regular thing), and said that it did cause a bit of concern given that it was almost five hours for some.



Pogue (NYT): The back panel camera has an LED flash, but the quality is only average and it can‚Äôt take hi-def videos. The low-resolution front-facing camera is intended for video calls or checking for spinach in your teeth.

Engadget: We’re impressed by the shooter on the Nexus S, but there is something in the quality of its photos that still feel very phone-like to us…On the bright side, the Nexus S camera seems to excel at low-light images, pulling impressive detail in situations where we expected much less…As far as the front-facing camera goes, it’s pretty standard VGA fare, which mean low-res, grainy, and artifacted.

SlashGear: Quality is also strong, a little better than on the Galaxy S, though as ever the low-light performance with the LED flash is heavily dependent on whether you‚Äôre in the sweet spot of not-too-close, not-too-far-away…Video, meanwhile, is underwhelming, being limited to 720 x 480 resolution. The front-facing camera will take stills but, at VGA resolution, they‚Äôre hardly impressive. Instead it‚Äôs intended for video calls, though the glaring absence is any sort of video chat functionality baked into Gingerbread itself.

CNET: Front-facing camera. It has a VGA resolution, which is not uncommon, but you can use it for video chats and self portraits…We were hoping for high-def shooting from the camcorder, but that’s not the case. Instead it shoots clips in a 720×480-pixel resolution at 30fps. 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.

Gizmodo: Just a short mention of the camera being “okay.”

Wired: The backside camera did fantastic with night shots, so-so shooting into the sun, but in most other respects is more or less average. We were neither amazed nor turned off by it. The frontside camera is a toy.

TechCrunch: The phone has both a rear facing 5 megapixel camera, with a flash, as well as a VGA front facing camera. Both performed well.

iSmashPhone Verdict: No one was particularly impressed by the rear-facing camera. Many said it was better in low-light conditions. However, the phone could not do hi-def video, which turned many reviewers off. Most seemed to think that the front-facing camera was useless (checking for spinach in your teeth). While a low-res front-facing camera isn’t uncommon, they noted that Android had no stock software for video conferencing, which would have been nice to include given the hardware.



Pogue (NYT): Superfast chip that makes everything feel responsive.

Engadget: 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.

SlashGear: 1GHz Hummingbird processor is swift and satisfying. It‚Äôs paired with 512MB of RAM and 1GB of ROM, and while it may not be a dual-core chip like the Tegra 2 ‚Äì which we‚Äôre expecting to show up in handsets like the LG Star come early 2011 ‚Äì the Nexus S is still very fast.

CNET: 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.

Gizmodo:  It’s a good baseline phone, which does a few things really well (the screen and speed).

Wired: Let‚Äôs start with the Hummingbird processor: It‚Äôs fast. Really fast. Apps fire seeming instantly, everything loads well, and we never had an issue with it hanging or stalling to process something.

TechCrunch: The Nexus S uses the 1 GHz Hummingbird processor, which absolutely zooms and also seems to handle running multiple apps and background processes well compared to previous Android devices we‚Äôve used.

iSmashPhone Verdict: Everyone agrees–the device is blazing fast. They used words like “really fast,” “zooms,” “lightning fast” and “superfast.” CNET did add that they did some side-by-side testing with an iPhone 4 and didn’t see much of a difference (though they didn’t specify which handset had the slight edge over the other).


Call Quality

Pogue (NYT): N/A

Engadget: We were downright wowed with how loud and clear the earpiece sounded. Even when we were having a conversation in a crowded room, the Nexus S pumped out audio that was crystalline to our ears. Coupled with excellent service on T-Mobile’s network, we were not only able to make calls where our iPhone failed, but the clarity and volume of those calls were superb.

SlashGear: Despite lacking the Nexus One‚Äôs microphone array, audio quality on the Nexus S is particularly strong. Callers reported hearing us loud and clear, despite whatever ambient noise was around us, while the Nexus S‚Äô earpiece and speaker were both loud and crisp even at the highest volume settings.

CNET: 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.

Gizmodo: Phone calls sound great, even if T-Mobile’s coverage can leave something to be desired, as it did over the weekend in Baltimore.

Wired: N/A

TechCrunch: Google‚Äôs noise cancellation software is also present. When combined with the excellent audio hardware it results in very high quality calls. In test calls from my car the recipient said they heard very little background noise ‚Äì the iPhone in particular performed terribly in a similar test.

iSmashPhone Verdict: Seems that the call quality on both ends of the Nexus S are crystal clear. Some mentioned that people couldn’t tell they were calling from a cell phone. The device also seemed to do a good job of canceling out ambient noise.




Pogue (NYT): The most attractive aspect of the Nexus S may not be the hardware at all ‚Äî it‚Äôs the software. Here is pure Android, the way Google intended it.

Engadget: While there are some notable upgrades and changes on the front, what the phone really represents is a gateway to the next stage of Android, version 2.3…For those expecting a sea change in the OS, we’ll tell you up front that you’ll be disappointed.

SlashGear: While Android went through its share of significant updates, particularly in the jump from 1.6 to 2.0, the progression from Froyo to Gingerbread is less dramatic. That‚Äôs not to say it‚Äôs a meaningless upgrade, of course; simply that Android is already a solid, well-developed platform in its own right.

CNET: 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.

Gizmodo: The real reason to buy it? The promise that you’ll get the full Android experience and Google’s latest and greatest software before anybody else.

Wired: We love this OS, and it reminds us why phone manufacturers and carriers should quit skinning up Android. Pure Android is Best Android.

TechCrunch: 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.

iSmashPhone Verdict: Because this is the closest thing to a vanilla version of Gingerbread you will get, many of the reviewers liked the OS. Most say that it’s not a huge update to previous versions, but the fact that it’s a clean install of Android is desirable enough. We’ve talked about those third-party variations of Android in the past.



Pogue (NYT): The case is all plastic, which makes it more of a scratch-and-fingerprint magnet than the glass-and-metal iPhone.

Engadget: Samsung seems focused on using light (and somewhat cheap feeling) plastic for its housings, though they deviated on the Captivate, which we felt was an improvement.

SlashGear: Out goes HTC‚Äôs over-engineered metal chassis and matte-finish casing, replaced by Samsung‚Äôs glossy black plastic. It‚Äôs a design decision that has earned the Nexus S some criticism, but in the hand it doesn‚Äôt feel cheap. There are only a few grams between the two devices, but we prefer the lightweight Nexus S and a willing to make the trade-off

CNET: We’re 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.

Gizmodo: It feels cheap, in a seriously bad way.

Wired: The most noticeable and immediate feature is the Contour Display ‚Äî the parabolic glass in the front that curves slightly to meet your face. It‚Äôs a subtle, yet nice-looking feature. It feels substantial in your hand and provides a certainty when held to your face, yet is in no way distracting when you‚Äôre using the touchscreen. We loved it.

TechCrunch: Generic black plastic case doesn’t exactly scream for attention. The case also feels somewhat cheap, unlike the solid feel of the iPhone and some previous Android phones.

iSmashPhone Verdict: Most didn’t care for the plastic casing. They said it felt cheap, and was a fingerprint magnet. Many of the reviewers liked the slight curve to the screen, but Engadget did note that it was barely noticeable. SlashGear was the only site that said it didn’t feel cheap. However, they noted that they prever a lighter phone.




Pogue (NYT): If you prefer Android‚Äôs approach, then your day just got a lot brighter. No, the Nexus S isn‚Äôt perfect. But it‚Äôs among the very best Android phones.

Engadget: When it comes to state of the art for Android right now, the buck stops here.

SlashGear:  It‚Äôs the best Android device around, and a strong alternative to the iPhone 4, but a big part of that appeal is ‚Äì at the moment ‚Äì the rarity of the platform it runs.

CNET: Nexus S gets points for its slick design, satisfying performance, and authentic Android user interface. But outside of the new Gingerbread OS and a faster processor, it doesn’t offer as many new features as we had hoped.

Gizmodo: Overall, the Nexus S isn’t breathtaking. It’s a good baseline phone, which does a few things really well, a few things okay and a few things not so great.

Wired: Once again, overall this is an excellent phone. Certainly it‚Äôs running the best version of Android yet.

TechCrunch: The bottom line is this. If you are an iPhone user this isn‚Äôt going to make you switch. If you‚Äôre an Android user you will want this phone more than any other. If you‚Äôre currently neither, we recommend that you go with the Nexus S.

iSmashPhone Verdict: The results overall are positive. Most of the reviewers love the Nexus S. TechCrunch even recommended it over the iPhone (Saying that the S doesn’t drop calls). However, all but one reviewer said it felt very cheap. Everyone agreed on one thing: this is the best way to use Android.


Final Thought

The Nexus S is noted as the best Android phone on the market by the reviewers. They say that the pure Android experience makes it a pleasure to use. It’s fast, it’s not loaded with crapware and it’s a great alternative to those who don’t want to use an iPhone.

Still, most of the reviewers criticized the cheap feel of the plastic.


Credit: New York Times, Engadget, SlashGear, CNET, Gizmodo, Wired and TechCrunch

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