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Nexus S 4G: Gingerbread phone gets a 4G boost

Ginny Mies and Mark Sullivan , PCWorld | May 31, 2011
Google and Samsung's joint collaboration is enhanced with Sprint's 4G data speeds, but the Nexus S still has a few hardware oversights.

When PCWorld reviewed the GSM Nexus S last winter, one of our biggest complaints about it was its lack of 4G connectivity. Thankfully, a CDMA version has arrived on Sprint with support for the carrier’s 4G WiMax network. With the exception of 4G as well as Google Voice integration, however, the Nexus S 4G ($200 with a two-year contract from Sprint; price as of May 15) is virtually identical to the GSM version. It has the same camera, AMOLED display and slick design, but you’re still capped at 16GB of memory as the Nexus S does not have a microSD slot.

 

Hardware and design

The Nexus S isn’t exactly leaps and bounds ahead of the Nexus One in its hardware. Like the Nexus One, it has a 5-megapixel 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 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, we 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 4.9-by-2.5-by-0.43 inches thick, the phone is a bit larger than the Nexus One. Weighing 4.5 ounces, the Nexus S is lighter than its sibling.

Like the Samsung Galaxy phones (the Vibrant or the Epic 4G), the Nexus S sports a 4-inch 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.

 

Android 2.3, 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 we 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.

 

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