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Nexus S: Using the Best Google Android Phone

Illustration for article titled Nexus S: Using the Best Google Android Phone

Android has never felt more alive than it does on the Nexus S. It's fast. It's cocksure. It's, well, really good.

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Here's our quick impressions after an hour or so of dicking around with the Nexus S and Gingerbread.

Likey

• It's so fast. This is largely thanks to the software—after all, the processing guts are basically identical to the millions of Galaxy S phone already out there. It's the first time Android's felt as fast as the iPhone on modern hardware. There is no stuttering, no lag—just pure, nimble response, whether it's popping open an app or reacting to a touch. It's how Android should feel.

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• That details matter. The orange glow when you hit the end of a list. The old school TV-style power down animation whenever the screen goes off. It's the details that make Mactards love Apple; it makes the experience feel complete and fuzzy, like wrapping yourself in a blanket of dead animal fur.

• The new UI. Google's famous for user testing a billion shades of blue. All brain, no vision. The new UI—with lots of orange and green on black, a flattened, more two-dimensional aesthetic that feels very 80s cyberpunk—feels like it was designed by a human being or two, not debated by a committee. It's a little gutsy. Some people will hate it. And it's still not fully wrapped around the entire Android experience. But I dig it, and what it's going for.

• It's the first time I haven't loathed typing on the stock Android keyboard.

• A note about NFC: You don't have to be inside of the tags app to read a NFC chip—the screen just needs to be on. Then you can go into tags later to see ones you've collected.

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Illustration for article titled Nexus S: Using the Best Google Android Phone

No Likey

• Why does the Nexus S feel so cheap? It's better than the average Samsung phone—the curve is nice and natural—but like most of the other Galaxy S phones, the look, feel and build quality just don't measure up to the parts or software inside. Glossy, chintzy plastic is just not appropriate here. Even the year old Nexus One feels markedly more expensive and future-y, like a quality, crafted piece of technology. Put another way in terms of feel and build quality: iPhone 4 > Nexus One > Nexus S. (Though the gap between the N1 and NS is much bigger than between the iPhone 4 and Nexus One.)

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• The Contour Display is verrrry subtle. This isn't a dislike, it's more like a hype-buster. It's a fine screen, though it gets rather yellow with power saving turned on.

• Some aspects of Android could still use a little more love and care to feel less like a PC and more like a phone for humans. For instance! It's nice that the app manager shortcut is built into the main menu pop-up. But it's still a kind of weirdly incomprehensible list of stuff. Oh, and the music player still sucks!

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• No built-in video chat. There's a front-facing camera, but you can't video chat using a native Google app. Speaking of, no dedicated camera button.

• A nitpick, but Samsung's stubbornness placing the lock button on the right side of the phone—instead of the top, like most phones—continues to annoy. The new arrangement of the four main Android buttons isn't optimal, either.

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• Not enough Gs. Unlike the G2, it's not using T-Mobile's new HSPA+ network.

Awesome music by Killabite, used with permission.

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DISCUSSION

My biggest complaints:

No HSDPA+.

No Orion (dual-core).

No LED notification light.

I can live with 16GB built-in, though I imagine this is a problem for some.

The lack of an LED notification light is a particular black mark on Google's "design team" as well as their "dogfooding" process. I get that Samsung was wholly intent on f*cking it up like they did with the rest of their Galaxy line, but Google should have drawn a line in the sand for their users. No excuse. At all.

Having said that, it's abundantly obvious that the Nexus line is the *only* way to go if you're an Android purist: free from carrier bloatware, Bing maps, and Android not stripped of it's most powerful, carrier busting features. And first in line for all future updates.

I plan to retire my G1 next Thursday...