Nexus S takes on iPhone
Cape Town - The Google Nexus S smartphone from Samsung has been touted as an Android answer to the iPhone from Apple.
Tastes may vary, but it is a pretty device running the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) operating system. It seems to fit well in a (large) hand and the "buttons" on the touch screen fall conveniently below the thumb.
Samsung is currently the biggest handset provider in the US according to research firm comScore and Android is the most popular operating system on smartphones according to a Pew Research Centre study.
It would appear then, that this device should be an easy slam dunk for the company in a developing market like SA.
The device is fast with a 1GHz processor. One never feels that an instruction manual is required to operate even some of the more advanced functionalities.
The built in GPS receiver makes it incredibility useful for finding your way around your home town, or if you find yourself on unfamiliar turf.
The Google feature that finds restaurants, ATMs and garages close to your location proved helpful, but was a bit of a letdown outside major metropolitan areas.
Still, as more small retailers list their businesses, the database will grow to become more accurate.
The phone also features the popular Google Voice Search feature which scores a plus for understanding search queries - even when the user slurs his speech.
The Nexus S has two cameras (5 megapixel and VGA) and the pictures are decent - especially when viewed on the 10cm display, which is slightly bigger than the iPhone.
Even in direct sunlight, using the device was easy and the touch screen feels solid, even though we couldn't bear to test it to destruction in the News24 offices. The phone weighs in at about 130g.
The display has a built-in curve to make viewing easier and the back cover has been designed to fit snugly in the hand.
All that display, however, does take significant battery power and the Nexus S required a charge more often than one would like for a mobile device.
The lovely display encourages you to watch video, but the battery struggles with the demands of YouTube over extended periods.
In a bit of a contradiction, external memory is built-in and you get about 16GB, but no micro-SD card slot. Moving content onto the device is a quick USB plug-in to a computer and you can transfer files immediately. There is no third party application that needs to be installed.
The biggest disappointment for this device that has been on sale worldwide since December 2010 is the price. It was difficult to swallow the R6 000 plus asking price on prepaid, and most users would probably opt to upgrade on contract packages.
In contrast to the iPhone, the Nexus' plastic cover seems to have a somewhat cheaper feel than the iPhone 4 and BlackBerry.
In that price range, it's cheaper than the iPhone 4, but more pricey than the BlackBerry Torch.
Also, Samsung has launched the upgraded Galaxy Gio and S II in SA and this makes the Nexus S look a bit dated, even though it still has bragging rights as quite an addictive smartphone.
In the US, smartphones make up 35% of the market according to the Pew Research Centre, and Africa is poised to accelerate the adoption of smartphones as manufactures race to bring their products to a new eager audience wanting to connect to the internet.
As to the question of its threat to the almighty iPhone, one must accept that the Nexus S does look better than the previous generation device from Apple, and the added touches like the ergonomic cover and curved glass screen make it quite attractive.
But in the stratosphere of smartphone devices, the iPhone remains king - for now.
- Download the News24 Android app here
- Follow Duncan on Twitter