Owing to its status as the current hot Android phone, the reputation of and continuing support for the Nexus One that came before it, and the Nexus line’s no-crapware, pure Android nature, last month I made a Samsung Nexus S my next mobile phone.
My previous phone, for reference, was the first Android device, a T‑Mobile G1 (HTC Dream).
I like almost everything about Nexus S. The device is, for the most part, blazing fast, smooth and completely open.
By “open,” I mean:
- It’s sold SIM-unlocked, meaning I can switch between almost any service provider. This isn’t very useful on a daily basis, but is a great option to have for international travel.
- Gaining root access to the phone is simple. Rather than relying on a security hole to get root, Nexus devices have official support for unlocking the bootloader, which opens up the phone to whatever you want to do, installing whatever you want, etc.
- Even if you don’t root, the Nexus S — like all Android devices — is “open” in a very practical way: apps can be added to these devices from any source you as a user deem worthy. If Google doesn’t see fit to include a given app in the Android Market for whatever reason, the developer can provide an .apk file however they like, and you as an adult can make up your own mind as to whether you want to use it.
Here are a few things I like:
- It’s fast. There’s almost never a hiccup in running apps, switching between them, having calls and messages come in when you’re doing something else, etc.
- Front-facing cameras may be standard these days, but I love finally having one in my phone. Just need video support in the Skype app…
- The screen is amazing. It’s bright, high-resolution, and the glass is actually curved, which lets it sit face-down on a table without scratching, fit the curvature of your face, and as some have suggested, there are ergonomic benefits for your thumb as well.
- I don’t know the specs, but the battery life with active use seems way better than my G1.
- Lots of onboard storage. 16 GB may not be enough for some people, but it is for me, and I prefer this over dealing with a slow, unreliable microSD card.
- Small touches like the aforementioned curved glass, head sensor that disables the screen during a call, ambient light sensor for automatically adjusting screen brightness make for a nice experience.
Here are a few things I don’t:
- The browser sometimes lags a bit while scrolling webpages with multiple large images. I don’t see a lot of this, so it’s not that annoying.
- No 4G. Of course, T‑Mobile doesn’t have “true” 4G service, and 3G speeds are enough for web browsing… and almost everything else I usually want to do. Where this has been a problem for me is in streaming high-quality music using the Last.fm app; the playback very often catches up to the loading. That said, I feel like Last.fm may be partly at fault too, as the app seems unreliable in other ways that make me doubt it.
- In-browser Flash performance sucks, but I’ll take it over none at all so long as Flash elements can be off by default and loaded only on-demand (and they can).
- I get annoying audio interference in the car when the phone is plugged to the audio while also charging. Not sure if this is the phone’s fault, as it doesn’t happen in the house.
- Doesn’t shoot HD video, but instead, widescreen VGA… similar to my Canon PowerShot from six years ago. I can’t figure out who thought this was a good idea. I don’t do much video, so it’s not a deal-breaker, but an annoyance. I’d love to see them fix this with a software update, which should be possible given the beefy hardware in this thing.
The lack of keyboard worries me:
- While the average person probably has to occasionally enter a simple password and a poorly thought-out status update, I’m a writer and a geek (did you guess?), so accuracy of text entry is important to me. Typing on-screen kind of bothers me.
- I hate the lack of control when composing text, even if auto-correct takes care of most of the inaccuracies. It also corrects my intentional misspellings, colloquialisms, “big words” and many proper nouns. The thing to do here is obviously make sure it says what I want before clicking “Send,” but that’s not always easy.
- Like I said, I’m also a geek. Who the fuck uses command lines these days? I the fuck do. I manage a Linux server at work, and very often remotely connect to the computers at home to do things throughout the day. Not only is typing awkward, but other things don’t work, like double-tabbing key for completing commands and filenames.
- On the plus side, on-screen options like Swype and SwiftKey, and Google’s pretty good voice input makes this hurt a little less. Still, I’d totally go for an identical phone with a keyboard, even if it was a bit thicker and heavier.
But I’m optimistic about the future of my phone:
- As a Nexus phone, its updates are managed by Google, so there isn’t any waiting for Samsung and T‑Mobile to get their act together and release updates to future versions of Android.
- Its open-phone status should make it appealing to third-party developers like Cyanogen, who will hopefully continue supporting it into the future.
- While I’m a little concerned about buying a new phone now, given the upcoming wave of Android phones with dual-core CPUs (Tegra II and others), I’m not sure that my phone being left “in the dust” will be a concern for the next couple of years. After all, desktop developers haven’t exactly made great use of multi-core CPUs, which have been widely available there for at least five years now. They’re still good to have for multitasking, which is a nice feature to have your mobile OS support, but the sort of multitasking we expect out of our phones doesn’t usually involve two CPU-intensive tasks, but rather one that chugs along performing some menial task (playing music, routing GPS, etc.) while another in the foreground does what you want it to at the moment.
In all, I think Nexus S makes a pretty good G1 replacement, and will serve me well into the future. I’ll keep you posted, uh, Internet.