As has been a sort of a tradition of this blog, I try and post reviews of gadgets and things I buy – but I tend to wait – till I have used the object of review for a while before I write the review. There are a lot of reviews online – most of which are posted within hours (if not before) of a gadget being released. Absolved of any pressures of ensuring readership or hits, I extensively use the gadget in question like most of my readers would before I post a review.
Anyways, today, I am going to review the recently released Sprint Nexus S. As most of my regular readers know, I am a long-time Sprint customer and admirer of the company. Nothing appeals to me more than a large organization, having gone through tough times, making a strong, concerted effort to turn it around. I have also been a long time BlackBerry user – with 2 Sprint BlackBerries – my corporate phone – the 9650 and my personal – the 9630. While I maintain that the BlackBerry is still probably the best communication device on the market – the reality is that its getting long in the tooth in terms of its User Experience and multimedia capabilities.
For a long time, I was pining for a new phone and I refused to move to AT&T or Verizon to get an iPhone. So, after deliberating for a long time, I decided to get a Sprint Nexus S – because it was 4G enabled (even though there is no Wimax coverage where I live), had reasonably updated hardware (1Ghz processor, 16GB internal memory, 4 inch 480×800 pixels Super AMOLED display etc.). For a more complete list of specifications, click here.
So let’s get started.
Look and Feel: This is obviously a subjective measure – but for me, the phone was perfect. While some may not like the glossy, all plastic body, I found the Nexus S remarkably well built. There is no play or creak in the body, the parts extremely well machined and it all fits together very snugly. Does the construction compare to the benchmark for all scores – the iPhone – the answer is no. But the phone compares extremely favorably to all other non iPhones I have seen and held. And yes, being all plastic allows the phone to be remarkably light – which, day to day is a great advantage. I have had the phone for about 3 weeks now – and I have traveled extensively with it in my pocket. While its a finger print magnet (due to the glossy plastic), there are no scratches either on the screen or the body (I keep the phone without a case).
Also, the Nexus S has a unique curved design – the phone almost contours to your face when you hold it next to your ear. I didn’t think it mattered that much when I bought it – but having used it for a while now – I just absolutely love it. I think all phones need to have this profile – it is much, much more natural to hold and use.
Hardware / Screen: In simple terms, the screen on the Nexus S is gorgeous. Coming from a BlackBerry, it makes the experience even more dramatic. The AMOLED screen has fantastic blacks, contrasting whites and brilliant colors in the middle. It doesn’t exactly wash out in direct sunlight (though the contrast definitely reduces) and the 4″ screen, to me, is the absolute perfect size. It looks great when using the inbuilt Google Navigation or any of the myriad applications available on the Android Marketplace. The hardware is unbelievably fast – even though the Nexus S doesn’t necessarily come with the latest dual core processors (or the latest Tegra processor). I am not sure whether if its the “pure Google” OS on the Nexus S – but the phone is unbelievably fast and responsive. Much more responsive than any iPhone 4 than I have played around with.
OS / Gingerbread: To be honest, I haven’t been an Android afficianado. So while I have read about Andoid’s advances though each release, I haven’t necessarily experienced them personally to comment on them. I will say though – that coming from the BlackBerry OS – Andoid seems like a mixed bag. RIM prides itself in putting out an absolute no-frills OS that does what “needs to get done”. By “needs to get done”, it refers to the unique needs of business customers of being able to read emails, access calendars and make calls with minimal fuss. And yes, the BlackBerry OS does all those things really well. Android on the other hand, does each of those things – but it takes a little getting used to. For e.g. – you cant type letters on the Android keyboard – expecting it to pick up names from your contact list (which would seem the most intuitive way to get it done.). Instead, calling a contact requires a 4 step process – a) Click the phone icon b) Click on the contacts tab c) Type name of contact d) Tap on the little green phone icon to dial. On the email side, I don’t understand the need to have separate inboxes for Gmail and “Other emails”. Why not have one Messages box with all emails from all email accounts you choose to configure. Also, BlackBerry push email is lightening fast. I invariably get emails faster on my BlackBerry than my Nexus S. However, reading emails on the Nexus S is a much better experience compared to my underpowered BlackBerry (which tends to get stuck on image intensive emails due to its puny hardware specs). On other areas, Gingerbread smokes any other mobile OS I have ever used. Apps are fluid and fast. Youtube integration is just beautiful.
Phone: We are reviewing a phone after all. Like I mentioned before, I came from the BlackBerry which for all its flaws, is stellar as a phone. The Nexus S has certainly not disappointed me in this area. One critical phone feature that I always use is the speaker phone – which, to me, is absolutely critical feature of a good phone. The only difference I see between the BlackBerry and the Nexus S phone would be the volume and clarity of the cell phone. The BlackBerry speakerphone is significantly louder and just a little bit more clear than the Nexus S speakerphone. However, the phone functionality on the Nexus S is clear and the speakerphone – while not of Blackberry pedigree – is still excellent. Probably the best I have seen in a non-Blackberry device in my experience.
Android Marketplace and Apps: This is probably the most critical area for any modern mobile operating system. I was extremely skeptical before I jumped on the Android bandwagon – especially having extensively used the Apple Apps Store on my iPod, iPad and my multiple macbooks. While I am not an avid gamer and haven’t downloaded a ton of apps – every app I use on the iOS platform is available on the Android platform – including Pandora, Evernote, Facebook, Twitter etc. I can’t really comment on the quality of the games vis-a-vis the ones available on the iOS platform – but given the maturity of other applications I have seen on the Android platform and more importantly the level of handset hardware evolution (which, in my opinion, much further ahead of the the Apple iPhone platform as of now), there doesn’t seem to be a reason why the gaming experience cannot be better than that on iOS.
Sprint coverage and 4G: Sprint’s 3G coverage has been absolutely fantastic (as expected). The sound quality during calls have been crystal clear, I have yet to have dropped call during my travels all over the east coast and the mid-west over the last 2 weeks. Sprint’s 4G Wimax network (via Clearwire) however is another story. The coverage is weak at best in Central New Jersey and the Washington DC area. While in published covered areas, there is adequate coverage in the open, in-building coverage is another story. As an example, I can have coverage in one hotel room at the Westin at Reston Heights (which is literally 5 blocks away from Sprint’s corporate offices) – I won’t have any coverage in another. 4G speeds are great when coverage does exist – but the coverage is sketchy at best.
Battery Life: Again, coming from the BlackBerry, I have high standards on battery life and with the Nexus S, I have been reasonably surprised. While not as good as my BlackBerry, the Nexus S battery life has been pleasantly surprised. My Nexus S lasts me all day (with moderate usage) which is perfectly acceptable for a high drain smartphone. No worries here, especially compared to other phones in its class.
Overall thoughts: I have had the Sprint Nexus S for about 3 weeks. There are few things I don’t have buyers’ remorse with – but let me re-iterate, this is absolutely the best overall phone I have owned as a wireless subscriber over the past 11 years. I highly recommend it. And I highly recommend Sprint’s service and plans to go with it.