Nexus S after one week

Many of the reviews for the Nexus S say that it is not as big a leap forward as the Nexus One. So why buy one if you already have a Nexus One? Whilst it will get Gingerbread eventually the Nexus One still has issues that can’t be fixed in software, namely:

  • The screen is not a proper multitouch one. For example the rotate gesture doesn’t work in Google Maps 5.0.
  • It has a tiny amount of app storage (187Mb once upgraded to stock FRG83D build). Whilst Froyo enabled app installation on SD cards, many apps have not been updated to support it. Also copy protected apps can’t be moved from internal storage.
  • The battery is only 1400mAh.
  • The screen is not very readable in direct sunlight.
  • Wi-fi reconnection after sleep sometimes fails (I have to disable and re-enable Wi-fi to reconnect).
  • Poor alignment of capacitive buttons.

The Nexus S doesn’t have these issues. It’s also blisteringly fast. How much of this is down to Gingerbread and how much is down to the Samsung Hummingbird CPU is hard to tell. Games seem to be slightly smoother with less intermittent stuttering. The concurrent garbage collection in Gingerbread probably helps with this.

Where it falls down slightly is in the industrial design. Whilst it is much better than it looks in pictures it’s still 100% plastic. Despite this it does feel solid and fits nicely in the hand. I think it is easier to hold onto the Nexus One which was sometimes akin to a bar of soap. The glossy, all black exterior is nice to look at, especially when the screen is off. The capacitive buttons switch off too which means the front looks like a homogeneous black surface. It fits nicely with darker theme of Gingerbread. The curve of the screen is subtle but handy for keeping screen off a flat surface when face down or for holding against your head during phone.

The cons are:

  • Lack of a trackball. It’s not that much of an issue thanks to the new Gingerbread text selection features.
  • Lack of an SD card slot. This is not a massive problem for me as I only had an 8Gb one in my Nexus One so the 15Gb “USB storage” is plenty.
  • No HD video. Hopefully this will be fixed in a hack or ROM update. I don’t shoot a huge amount of video anyway.
  • No notification or charging LEDs. This actually might be a pro because the trackball light on my Nexus One would sometimes wake me up at night.

I have had no GPS lock issues that some people have reported. I have not had the opportunity to test the NFC capabilities as there is nothing to test it with yet.

Altogether I am very happy with the phone. As an Android developer it is helpful to have the latest software and hardware to test with. It has already meant that I could fix some bugs in my widget apps.

The general consensus seems to be that it is the best Android phone available and I would agree with that. However, it leaves me wandering whether the pace of innovation is slowing in Android and mobile devices. 2010 was an amazing year in mobile. Perhaps 2011 will be more evolutionary rather than revolutionary.