The Nexus S is the highly-anticipated follow-up to the Nexus One, and for the most part, it delivers, giving it enough to make it the best Android phone on the market.
The hardware holds its own, but the real story is the software. Google's new update to Android, dubbed "Gingerbread," gives the platform a nice boost. Aesthetic changes to the virtual keyboard, the addition of the copy and paste feature and sleeker overall feel all help take Android to the next level. Google also uses Gingerbread to introduce a completely retooled app management system. The "Storage Use" option lets you know what apps are running, and you can easily switch between what apps are using your available RAM by clicking the "Running" tab.
Google also promises that Gingerbread features new tools for developers that will be reflected apps, especially games. Added audio effects, as well as the gyroscope, will create opportunities not possible on other Android handsets.
Perhaps the very best thing about the Nexus S is that it's a pure Google experience. There is no nagging skin from the OEM, no bloatware or unwanted apps. Instead, you are treated to a very simple and clean user interface and some useful apps directly from Google like YouTube, Google Voice and Google Maps with Navigation.
The Nexus S does not look much like the highly-praised Nexus One, and that's not a bad thing at all. Samsung's curved, candybar design is sleek and sexy, with a glossy black finish, which you actually won't be embarrassed to place alongside your friend's iPhone 4. However, where the Nexus S runs into problems is its feel. The plastic material makes it feel a bit flimsy in the hand. It's a good thing the phone is so beautiful that all you'll ever want to do is hold it, because it'd be a bit nerve wracking to let it go, especially onto a hard surface.
The touch screen has the unfortunate job of being the first high-profile Android device to launch after the iPhone 4's Retina display. That said, the 4-inch screen is no slouch. It supports nearly 17 million colors with a resolution of 800-by-400 pixels. The screen isn't as impressive at the iPhone's, but you won't have to cower away in shame in comparisons -- the S holds its own.
One of the disappointments is the 5-megapixel camera -- you'd expect 8-megapixels for this caliber. But it's less of an issue once you see the way it performs. Images look sharp and colors look robust, and the lens performs above average in low-light situations. In addition, editing features built right into the app, like auto-focus, different color modes and exposure metering, make it easy to produce great-looking shots.
The Nexus S also comes with a few other bells and whistles that help it standout. The 1-gigahertz Hummingbird chip performs any task without a hiccup. In addition, a NFC chip is ready for the emerging world of mobile payments, and the "pure Google" experience cannot be overstated. It's almost a shame that the creme of the Android crop is on T-Mobile, and that alone may keep you away. The device doesn't support T-Mobile's faster 3.5G HSPA-plus network, so you'll have to make do with 3G.
Despite its lackluster data speeds and its fragile feel, the Nexus S stands head and shoulders above the current pack of Android phones. If you're a T-Mobile customer, it's an absolute no brainer, and if you're over at Verizon or AT&T, and you want the very best Android device around, it may even be worth the switch.
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