Enabling Google/Samsung to use a curved screen is the company’s choice of an AMOLED display. In fact, it’s one of Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays, that in terms of specs is identical to that on the Samsung Galaxy S. It’s 4in from corner to corner and packs in 480 x 800 pixels, making it very much par for the course these days. It is a notch behind the iPhone 4’s 640 x 960 pixel display and the 480 x 854 pixel models used in Motorola’s latest Android phones but most other smartphones have similar size and identical resolution panels.
When we assessed the Galaxy S, and when we’ve looked at some previous AMOLED displays which use a Pentile arrangement of subpixels, we’ve found them to look a little grainy due to the large gaps between all the pixels, and to some extent this is also the case on the Nexus S. However, whether due to better anti-aliasing in the latest version of Android, more subtle tweaks to the display hardware, or just perception, this display seems more usable. Certainly helping out in this regard is its more natural colour temperature, as compared to the Galaxy S with its slightly blue tinge.
Regardless, while not the highest resolution or sharpest screen going, it is very much usable for day to day tasks and thanks to the incredibly vivid colour it produces, its very high contrast and its infinite viewing angles, it absolutely excels at showing video.
Below the screen are four touch-sensitive buttons for Back, Menu, Search, and Home. The white logos for them magically appear out the blackness of the bezel when the phone is turned on and in doing so make us all fuzzy and warm inside – it’s the little things in life. The button order seems a little peculiar with us preferring the most-often-used Back and Home buttons to be in the middle but it’s a minor point as otherwise they are responsive and easy to use.
Responsive and easy to use is a phrase that could also be used to describe the interface of the Nexus S. While the enhancements to the latest version of Android are subtle, they all add up to a much slicker overall experience. Generally swiping your way around the interface is smooth and free of any stutter, while nice little touches have been added to make the whole experience more intuitive and visually attractive – things like the little flash of orange that appears when you reach the end of a list. There are a few little areas that still need work, like the notifications drop down that requires a very long dragging motion to activate it, rather than the quick flick it should need but these seldom cause significant frustration.
Performance is also helped by the nippy 1GHz Samsung Hummingbird (ARM A8-based) processor with its impressive integrated graphics keeping all the interface animations running nice and smoothly. Some might argue the 512MB of RAM is a bit miserly but we noticed few issues with the phone slowing down or running out of memory and requiring us to close programs. Only when apps were simply being irksome – like the web browser struggling to load a flash video – would things grind to a halt.
Other basic tweaks include the move to a darker theme, where possible, as this helps to use less energy on phones with AMOLED displays (it doesn’t help for LCD as they require a constant backlight). The new styling also looks a tad classier. One last thing we do love is the animation that accompanies locking the screen – it thins to a horizontal line then a point before vanishing, just like old CRT TVs used to. Just like the touch sensitive buttons, it’s of little practical benefit but it brings a smile to your face.