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Google Nexus S: Hands On

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As Google has developed its Android mobile phone operating system, it has released a number of flagship phones to both show off the software's abilities and give phone manufacturers a hint as to what direction to take with hardware design. First was the T-Mobile G1, which debuted Android; then the Nexus One, which first showed us Android 2.0, both built by HTC. Now we have the Google Nexus S, which is the first handset to run Android 2.3, or Gingerbread, as it's become known.

Made by Samsung, it combines the hardware craft of that company with Google's latest software creation, making for a treat that's certainly worth amusing your bouche with. However, primarily, both ingredients are simply refinements of dishes we've seen before so this is less of a Blumenthal-style reinvention and more of a Gary Rhodes style honing.

You'll be able to get this phone literally just in time for Christmas as it will hit general availability on December 20th. However £550 is what you'll need to hand over to get one SIM-free or you'll be looking at £35pm on a 24 month contract to get it free.

The first thing you notice about the Nexus S is its curved screen. The concave curve runs top to bottom and is apparently meant to make the phone easier to handle and better fit the contours of your face. Upon initial handling, though, we're not so sure it adds too much to proceedings, at least not to any particularly notable extent. It perhaps makes the phone a tad nicer to hold and gives it a unique and appealing profile but that's hardly reason enough to buy one phone over another.
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Unfortunately for the Nexus S, it could rather do with the curved screen being a more compelling feature as the rest of the device doesn't particularly blow us away.
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There are two key problems. The first is build quality. Just as with the Galaxy S, the phone with which the Nexus S shares many components, the glossy plastic back of the Nexus S just doesn't feel premium – it picks up fingerprints and smears easily, scratches will no doubt be a problem and there's a just about perceptible amount of give to it. In essence it feels a bit lightweight and flimsy. Some may argue it's a price well worth paying given the phone's other abilities, but we've long maintained that we not only want a device to perform in a premium way but feel like it too. The Nexus S doesn't really leave us with that impression.

That said, the actual design is very nice, if you like glossy black. The gentle curve adds an organic appeal to it and it generally looks nice and minimalist. A single piece of glass fills the entire front of the phone with touch sensitive buttons appearing from the darkness at the bottom when the screen is turned on. The lack of physical buttons at the bottom does mean you have to reach for the screen lock/power button on the right edge, but it's not too difficult a stretch.
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The other area of concern is the screen itself which is a 4in, 480 x 800 pixel Super AMOLED panel. In terms of colour reproduction, brightness, contrast and viewing angles, it's top notch. However, just as with the Galaxy S, we find the dot pitch too high (or pixel density too low, if you like) resulting in a grainy quality to the picture, which in particular makes text look rough round the edges. As we've said before, this is very much a personal preference issue where some people find this enormously off-putting and others are quite happy to live with it. For us, it's something of a fundamental failing as compared with other premium smartphones.That said, given our brief time with the device we're reserving any sort of complete judgement until we have one in for review.

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