The flagship handset for Google Android 2.3 'Gingerbread', Google’s Nexus S is largely similar to the Samsung Galaxy S on which it’s based. Its 16GB memory can’t be expanded, however. 

A subtly curved screen allows the speaker to lean in towards your ear, aiding call clarity. We didn’t notice a difference in volume, but the Google Nexus S handset doesn’t feel as brick-like as some of the others in our most recent smartphone group test. The curved screen makes for a slightly odd setup when viewing video on the 480x800-pixel screen, however. 

The Google Nexus S's super-bright AmoLED screen all but screams its presence. We’d prefer the handset to be made of something more substantial than plastic, but the upside is the Nexus weighs a scant 129g.

Another feature that marks out the Nexus S and Gingerbread OS is its support for near-field communications (NFC). In its infancy in Europe, it’s an established technology in the Far East and Google expects it to become a de facto contactless payment method.

The Google Nexus S is a lot of fun to use, with interactive wallpapers and the slick scrolling and navigation you’d expect from a smartphone powered by a 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird single-core processor. 

Four neat hardware buttons at the bottom of the display take you to the Home screen and allow you to search or bring up settings, but you’ll find yourself enamoured of the 3D scrolling effect of the main display and happily trawling through its endless menus. 

Used with the iPlayer app, the Google Nexus S’ bright screen and Flash support make a compelling case for watching video on a smartphone. 

We had the odd issue when using the onscreen keyboard to compose email messages - the screen was marginally miscalibrated - but, in general, we found this an intuitive device to use. Copy and paste and above average battery life of more than two days in standby (provided that you remember to turn off the most power-hungry apps) mark out the Nexus S as a superior device.

We found scrolling around Google Maps and using the web browser, complete with multi-pane support, a rewarding experience. That huge, crisp display and ability to reflow text and to zoom in a little or a lot are real selling points. The 5Mp camera is also above par. 

Next page: Our original review of the Google Nexus S, from December 2010 >>

See also:

Best deals on Samsung Nexus S

Google Android 2.3 review

Google Nexus One review

Group test: what's the best smartphone?

The first phone to ship with Google Android 2.3 as well as the follow-up to last January's Nexus One, the Samsung Nexus S is a joint effort between Samsung and Google with some impressive features. The following is our original review from Dec 2010, by Ginny Mies of PC World US

The first phone to ship with Google Android 2.3 (also known as "Gingerbread") as well as the follow-up to last January's Google Nexus One, the Samsung Nexus S (available unlocked for £550 or free with a £35-per-month contract from Carphone Warehouse) is a joint effort between Samsung and Google with some impressive features. Indeed, you are likely to find it branded as the 'Google Nexus S'.

The Samsung or Google Nexus S's hardware is gorgeous, and Google Android 2.3 delivers some useful enhancements; but with no support for HSPA+ or expandable memory, the Nexus S falls short of its potential.

Google Nexus S: Hardware and design

The Samsung or Google Nexus S isn't exactly leaps and bounds ahead of the Nexus One in its hardware. Like the Nexus One, it has a 5Mp camera and is powered by a 1GHz processor. It has a few key differences, however. For one, the Nexus S has an NFC chip built into it. Essentially, NFC chips can turn your phone into a sort of credit card. Ideally, when you wave your phone in front of a retailer's sensor, your purchase will immediately be placed on your account. For a detailed explanation of all that NFC can do, check out this primer.

The Google Nexus S's design unquestionably bears the Samsung aesthetic as much as the Nexus One does HTC's. That is both good and bad. In appearance, I think the glossy, all-black Nexus S is a lot more attractive than the Nexus One. In construction, it feels a lot flimsier and more plasticky than its HTC counterpart. Measuring 124x64x11mm, the phone is a bit larger than the Nexus One. Weighing 128g, the Samsung Nexus S is lighter than its sibling.

Like the Samsung Galaxy phones, the Google Nexus S sports a 4in Super AMOLED display. The display is also curved (what Google and Samsung are calling a "Contour Display") so as to fit more comfortably next to your face. The curve is subtle, however.

Google Nexus S: Android 2.3 OS, aka 'Gingerbread'

You can find in a separate article an extensive discussion of Gingerbread's new features and updates. While the update isn't a huge overhaul of the user interface, it has some very useful enhancements. Some of the most notable features include the improved software keyboard (though I still prefer Swype), NFC support, support for multiple cameras in the camera UI, and an overall boost in performance. Some subtle tweaks throughout the interface make Android look more polished. More blacks in the menus make icons pop, and animations make the UI more approachable and playful.

Samsung Nexus S

Google Nexus S: Google Apps and Multimedia

I like my phones to be like my PCs: clean and free of bloatware. Fortunately, the Samsung Nexus S is pretty sparse. You get a pack of Google apps such as Latitude, YouTube, Gmail, Places, Google Maps with Navigation, Search (with voice), Car Home, Google Talk, and Google Voice.

The music player remains the same as the one in Froyo - boring but easy enough to use. Videos downloaded to the phone played back smoothly and looked great on the Super AMOLED display. One of the nice things about Super AMOLED is that it remains pretty visible in bright, outdoor sunlight. If you like catching up on TV shows during your lunch break, this is a useful quality in a phone.

Next page: Camera, performance and our expert verdict >>

See also:

Best deals on Samsung Nexus S

Google Android 2.3 review

Google Nexus One review

Group test: what's the best smartphone?

The first phone to ship with Google Android 2.3 as well as the follow-up to last January's Nexus One, the Samsung Nexus S is a joint effort between Samsung and Google with some impressive features. The following is our original review from Dec 2010, by Ginny Mies of PC World US

Google Nexus S: Camera

The Samsung Nexus S has a 5Mp camera with a flash and the same resolution as the rest of the Galaxy S pack. As I've mentioned in other Galaxy reviews, the camera quality is good, but not superb. (I'm not going to lie: I was keeping my fingers crossed for an 8Mp lens.)

The Samsung Nexus One also had a good, but not mind-blowing camera. Colours in indoor shots looked a bit faded, and generally, photos were slightly grainy. My outdoor shots looked drab, but I'm not sure that's really the fault of the camera - it's been a miserable, dark day in San Francisco today. One feature Samsung and Google overlooked is a dedicated shutter key on the phone's spine. It is a small detail, but it really makes a difference when snapping photos.

The camera's user interface has a nice variety of settings that you can tweak to your liking. It has autofocus, macro and infinity modes, four resolutions to choose from, nine scene settings, three color modes, three quality modes, and exposure metering. Overall, the camera app is simple and straightforward, and I really hope that manufacturers don't try to replace it with their own custom apps on future phones.

The Samsung Nexus S sports a front-facing VGA camera for making video calls or taking self-portraits. As mentioned above, Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread's camera interface adds support for multiple cameras.

You can shoot video as high as 720x480 pixels at 30 frames per second. A video I shot outdoors looked pretty good, if a bit jittery when a fast-moving object went by. Colours were accurate, and details appeared fairly sharp. Take a look at our sample video.

Samsung Nexus S

Google Nexus S: Memory/performance

If you plan on taking a lot of photos or videos, be warned: the Samsung Nexus S does not have a microSD slot. The device has 512MB of RAM and is capped at 16GB of internal memory. And unlike the Apple iPhone, there's no 32GB model available.

Powered by Samsung's 1GHz Hummingbird processor, the Samsung Nexus S is quite speedy. Scrolling through web pages was fluid, applications opened quickly, and navigating around the menus was smooth and fluid.

Call quality (using the T-Mobile network in the US) was very good. Calls sounded crisp and natural with an ample amount of volume and no static. Callers on the other end of the line were also impressed with the little to no background noise during my calls - even when I was calling on a busy street corner.

Next page: Our expert verdict >>

See also:

Best deals on Samsung Nexus S

Google Android 2.3 review

Google Nexus One review

Group test: what's the best smartphone?

Samsung Nexus S: Specs

  • 1GHz Hummingbird processor
  • Google Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' OS
  • 512MB RAM
  • 16GB internal memory
  • 4in Super AMOLED display
  • 5Mp camera with flash
  • video at up to 720x480 at 30 frames per second
  • NFC chip
  • 124x64x11mm
  • 128g
  • 1GHz Hummingbird processor
  • Google Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' OS
  • 512MB RAM
  • 16GB internal memory
  • 4in Super AMOLED display
  • 5Mp camera with flash
  • video at up to 720x480 at 30 frames per second
  • NFC chip
  • 124x64x11mm
  • 128g

OUR VERDICT

We can see why Google chose the Samsung handset design to show off its Gingerbread 2.3 OS – unlike the many HTC and LG devices, it’s distinctive. Judged against the stunning Desire HD, however, the Google Nexus S is unable to convince us of its supremacy.

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