Review – Google Nexus S smartphone

13 Feb 2011

John Kennedy test drives the new Google Nexus S smartphone made by Samsung and believes it could be the smartphone breakthrough of 2011.

There’s no doubting Google’s rapid success in the smartphone business via its Android strategy and the boon the operating system has been for both mobile manufacturers and network operators who want to spice up their offerings.

It’s incredible to think it has been about a year and four months since on a rain-soaked day in Killarney Google CEO Eric Schmidt calmly said it was the company’s strategy to be on as many internet-connected devices as possible. It’s almost a year to the day since I saw the same Schmidt give a keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where he said Android devices were shipping at a rate at the time of 60,000 a day. One year on and Android is already beginning to overtake Apple’s iPhone as the No 1 smartphone operating system and Google is already on to its Android 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’ for smartphones and Android 4.0 ‘Honeycomb’ for tablet devices.

Schmidt said everything Google was doing from there on in was through a ‘Mobile First’ lens as he and colleagues demonstrated Google Translate and Google Goggles to a speechless audience, mostly of operators who were keen to see their networks be more than just a dumb pipe in the years ahead.

I have to admit that as an avid iPhone user I found the early iterations of Android tricky and unfinished. In just one year however, manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola and HTC have perfected the devices along with the march of the Android operating system and the devices have become more elegant and ultimately a seamless internet experience.

“These are like gold dust,” a representative of Carphone Warehouse said breathlessly down the phone on Friday as she intoned that a shiny Google Nexus S, made by Samsung, was winging its way towards my office.

I was genuinely excited and when the unboxing moment arrived was bowled over initially by the vivid super AMOLED display and how my first action was to log into my Google account.

Nexus 2

First impressions, Gingerbread certainly is a smoother running operating system than previous incarnations. The software just gels so easily, now it actually feels like a device that integrates well enough within itself and the various apps to actually take on the iPhone and win. The Android Market, too, has evolved and presents new apps marvellously.

The device itself is at first quite similar to the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone, but as you study the chassis you notice it is curved to fit more ergonomically into your hand and the four buttons at the front – a back button, a search button, a menu button and the home button – are designed around an internet experience first and foremost.

One of the things that excited me about the device are the stylish features, such as a cascading scrolling effect when you surf through various applications. Another neat feature is the replication of an old-fashioned TV switching off when you put the device to sleep.

The phone comes with a 4-inch super AMOLED display and the glass is slightly curved, what Google calls a ‘contour’ display. And the magic doesn’t stop there – the device includes a near field communications (NFC) tag reader which opens up all kinds of mobile shopping potential.

I was also smitten by the ease with which, via the 5-megapixel camera, my photo-sharing options included Facebook, Tweetdeck, Gmail, Picasa and Bluetooth – unlike the iPhone where you can only email photos or upload them to these sites once you are inside the respective application.

The device is powered by Samsung’s not-so-secret weapon, its S5PC110 processor, which includes a CPU core code named ‘Hummingbird’. It runs smoothly and from a memory perspective comes with 512MB of dedicated RAM and 16GB of iNAND memory, which consists of 1GB of internal storage and 15GB of USB storage.

The vast processing power probably explains my only real niggle with this device – battery power. Power consumption on the device seems pretty rapid and I can see myself charging it a lot more than is usual with Samsung devices.

In summing up, I believe the Google Nexus S smartphone delivers on Google’s promise of creating a smooth and seamless internet experience wherever you go. As a piece of hardware it is also, in my opinion, the best smartphone device Samsung has brought to market yet.

What is evident here is great attention to detail, aesthetically pleasing design and a smooth smartphone experience that will give rival devices a run for their money. This could truly be the smartphone hit of 2011.

Pricing and release date details have yet to be revealed by the Carphone Warehouse and other mobile operators but watch this space!

Nexus 3

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years