Samsung Nexus S 4G Review: Google Bliss.
Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
The Nexus S 4G is a Google phone through and through. Following Google’s first hardware venture into the handset market, the Nexus One, this phone is how Google envisions the Gingerbread (Android 2.3) platform. Manufactured by Samsung, the Nexus S originally debuted as a GSM unlocked phone and on T-Mobile in the US earlier this year. Now, for the debut on CDMA networks, Samsung and Sprint have teamed together to add a 4G, WiMAX modem.
Because it is a Google tuned experience, the Nexus S 4G software is extremely polished, and provides a great user experience. Being the first phone to ship with Gingerbread, and still being one of the few phones shipping with it at this point in the game, it provides the absolute best small form-factor experience that Android is capable of.
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Some of the major improvements in Gingerbread are in the user experience category. The most notable changes between operating systems include visual nuances like a 3D cube-like effect on the scrolling applications list, and a lock screen animation that emulates a CRT style display. Due in part to GPU acceleration for some portion of the interface, and a more efficient garbage collector in the background, Gingerbread on the Nexus S feels closer to the fluidity of iOS and is definitely the smoothest Android experience I have had to date.
Gingerbread also adds an exciting new feature in the inclusion of support for NFC. NFC, or Near Field Communication, is an exciting technology which brings new opportunity to commerce and other fields. Currently, the implementation of this technology which is being pushed in the Nexus S aims to replace credit/debit cards. Using the existing infrastructure for contactless payments (such as MasterCard PayPass and Visa PayWave) services like the newly announced Google Wallet will be able to allow a user to use their phone as a payment device at Point of Sale terminals. This is very much a rapidly growing field, with the Nexus S being one of few phones with NFC built in, and it will be interesting to see how Google and other companies expand on the idea of contactless information sharing applications.
Another new feature in Gingerbread is the ability to make video calls over Google Talk. While I wouldn’t call Google Talk the biggest video chat protocol in use, it certainly is nice to have an option directly integrated into the operating system.
One thing lacking in the default Gingerbread application suite however is the default Camera application. With features such as touch to focus being expected on smartphones, it is a peculiarity to not find this feature by default in Gingerbread. Also, there is a somewhat limited control over camera effects such as white balance and shutter speed that some power users crave. This is one area where skins such which as HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz work to improve the user experience.