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Google Nexus S first impressions

First INQpressions Incremental improvement on Nexus One
Tue Dec 21 2010, 15:55
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ANY COLOUR as long as it is black is Google's style mantra it seems, taking a page from Henry Ford's book.

And the founder of the Ford motor car company would probably have approved of the incremental improvement that the search engine company is employing. The Nexus S specifications of a Samsung Cortex A8 1GHz Hummingbird processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of NAND flash storage, a 4-inch Super AMOLED 480x800 WVGA capacitive touchscreen, a 5MP camera and a 1,500mAh battery with a weight of 129g sound good, but they are not a million miles beyond the Nexus One.

The Nexus One specifications were a Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of NAND flash storage, a 3.7-inch 480x800 capacitive touchscreen, a 5MP auto-focus LED flash camera, 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth, and a 1,400mAh battery, all wrapped up in 130g. So while the display and battery are both slightly larger and the display is now Super AMOLED, the only real performance enhancing difference between them is the huge leap in storage.

What the newer processor and larger display do provide is a very smooth user interface and fast browsing. The fifth version of Android, Gingerbread 2.3 has the now familiar set of homepages that can be swiped between, and the apps page. Browsing is fast, as fast as Windows Phone 7, which is pretty fast, and Youtube looks and sounds good on the Nexus S.

Like other handsets the 4-inch display delivers a much more comfortable Internet experience, especially in landscape mode, and it makes pinch to zoom less susceptible to uncommanded actions. For web browsing, a 4-inch display should really be seen as a minimum.

Despite the smoother user interface, the increased memory probably has more to do with support for Flash 10.1 and the adoption of the voice action feature. Both of these are bound to be computationally demanding, Flash being particularly renowned for its CPU intensive nature.

So how does voice action fair? Not that great, as even in a quiet office environment the voice recognition doesn't always work. Asking the handset to call Incisive Media found it floundering with suggestions that had the word media in them but none were accurate. How tough is the word "incisive"?

The big shock came when I looked for the FM radio. It's a pretty standard feature on handsets. The LG Optimus One, a lower spec Android handset, has an FM radio but the more capable Nexus S smartphone does not. However, if you don't mind paying for a hefty data allowance there are plenty of Internet radio apps, 1,050 according to Android Marketplace.

Finally, Google makes the claim that the curved display makes it more comfortable to use, but that wasn't The INQUIRER's experience. It wasn't any easier on the ear than any flat-screen handset.

Launched a few months after the Nexus One was cancelled, the Nexus S is very similar in its specifications to its predecessor and could really be seen as just a small improvement over it. The name Nexus S, instead of Nexus Two, is probably a way of leaving the bad press of the first phone behind, as might be the choice of a Samsung handset instead of the HTC Bravo that was used for Nexus One.

With the voice actions feature providing real product differentiation, when it works, and sales and customer service handed over to people that know what they're doing, such as Carphone Warehouse, the Nexus S could be the success that everyone expected the Nexus One would be. µ

 

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