What's hot: Latest Android OS, excellent display, pure Android.
What's not: 4G eats battery, reception is mediocre.
Reviewed May 11, 2011 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The Google Nexus S by Samsung isn't a new kid on the block. The original Nexus S with T-Mobile 3G bands came out in December 2010. Unlike the original Nexus, it didn't boast better specs than any other Android phone on the market at release, so it didn't make quite the splash as did the original. One sorely missing feature, 4G, took the GSM Nexus S down a notch, and Sprint has remedied this with their Nexus S 4G.
In all other respects, the Sprint version is identical to the Nexus S we reviewed in December, so we'll simply go with a quick run-down here and a video review. The Nexus S 4G joins Sprint's already strong lineup of Android smartphones, but what sets it apart is the pure Google experience. Since this is a Google "designed" and branded phone (though made by Samsung, just as the first Nexus was made by HTC), it runs pure Android OS 2.3.4 Gingerbread. The Nexus S phones are currently the only Android phones running this latest and greatest OS that adds support for NFC (near field communications) and video chat via Gtalk. Since this is pure Android, there are no Sprint apps like Sprint TV or Navigator, but you do get a wide selection of Google apps, in fact more than you'd see on most Android phones.
The Nexus S 4G has 3G EV-DO Rev. A and 4G WiMAX as well as WiFi 802.11b/g/n. It runs on a 1GHz Hummingbird single core CPU with 16 gigs of flash storage but no microSD card slot. The phone has Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, NFC, a GPS that works with Google Maps and Navigation as well as third party navigation apps, a VGA front video chat camera and rear 5 megapixel camera with autofocus lens and 480p video recording. Since it's a Samsung phone, the Nexus S 4G has their excellent 4" Super AMOLED display running at 800 x 480 resolution. In mid-2011, those are respectable but not superphone specs. However, the Nexus S 4G is a fast, stable and attractive phone that outperforms several other phones in its class thanks to its clean OS. It managed a very good 1748 score on the Quadrant benchmark. It's also easily hackable and rootable for you tinkerers and developers.
Call quality is excellent, with clear and loud voice on both ends, even when reception levels are low. Reception is slightly below average for 3G on Sprint's network, and 4G reception is weaker than the HTC EVO Shift 4G and Sprint's other 4G smartphones. We have decent WiMAX coverage in the Dallas area, but we had to go outside to get a 4G connection since WiMAX doesn't have good building penetration. With our EVO Shift, we managed one bar of 4G indoors. The EVO 4G and Samsung Epic 4G also managed a stronger 4G signal in our tests.
4G does take its toll on battery life. The 1500 mAh battery can easily handle 3G, but leaving 4G on sent us to the charger by 5pm. Our phone shipped with 4G off, and when you don't need it, we suggest you leave it turned off to extend battery life. On 3G, we had no trouble making it through the day and into the next afternoon with moderate use.
If you're looking for an Android phone with the latest greatest OS and a guarantee that you'll see future OS updates too, the Google Nexus S by Samsung is hard to beat. It's sleek, light, has a wonderful Super AMOLED display and 4G. The pure Google experience means earlier access to OS updates and a faster phone. It's also a more pocketable phone than the HTC EVO 4G for those of you looking for a candybar Android 4G smartphone. The only drawback? It doesn't have terribly strong reception on 3G and is particularly weak on 4G.
Price: $199 with 2 year contract, $459 without contract.
Display:4", 800 x 480 capacitive multi-touch Super AMOLED display (curved Contour display) with 235ppi pixel density. Has accelerometer, proximity sensor and ambient light sensor. Has haptic feedback and 3-axis gyroscope.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Performance:1GHz Hummingbird CPU (ARM Cortex-A8) with POWERVR graphics. 512 megs RAM and 16 gigs iNAND flash storage with approx. 13.5 gigs available.
x 2.48 x 0.43 inches. Weight: 4.55 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital phone with 3G EV-DO Rev. A and 4G WiMAX.
GPS:Has GPS with aGPS and digital compass.
Camera: Main (rear) 5.0 megapixel with autofocus lens and LED flash. Can shoot HD 720 x 480 video. Front camera: VGA camera for video conferencing etcetera.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR.
Software:Android OS 2.3.4 Gingerbread. Standard Google apps including the Android Market, Google Maps with Navigation, Google Earth, Google Talk, Google Search, Google Voice, Google Talk, Gmail, Email, Voice Actions and YouTube player.