I’ve been hemming and hawing about replacing my aging iPhone 3G, bought in mid-July of 2008. The phone was taking forever to complete everyday tasks such as opening apps to a usable state, loading web pages, and performing general functions. The battery was worn too, struggling to last the day. Furthermore, a lot has changed since I bought it. The world has leapt ahead, especially with Web 2.0. When I bought my iPhone, I didn’t have twitter. Few did. Foursquare wasn’t on anyone’s radar, at least, until Google killed Dodgeball. The way we interacted with our phones was fundamentally different.
I was planning to wait until WWDC to see if they’d drop a really nice iPhone, but then I took a hard look at the Nexus S. I was impressed with what I saw. The drawbacks were few, the opportunities were greater. It looked like a smooth, fast phone, and I felt it would drop seamlessly into my lifestyle, not to mention cushioning me from constant accusations of hipsterism. So I called Rogers and asked if they had a deal. We agreed on a free phone, 300 weekday minutes, 6PM evenings and weekends, unlimited messaging, unlimited nationwide calling to 10 numbers, and 1GB of data, all for $55/month plus tax. I practically skipped to the store yesterday: the old guy could retire.
While the clerk did some paperwork, I installed and configured my key apps. He looked over and said “I guess you don’t need a tutorial?” It turns out I did. He casually mentioned I could access voicemail just as before, forgetting visual voicemail. I’m going to miss that. Hopefully Android will get it before long.
With the knowledge to be able to check my messages, I departed. Right away I noticed that issues relating to my sloppy typing were exacerbated on this phone. But the speed with which it functioned was amazing!
I certainly have a few reservations about the phone, however, they are largely insignificant. The phone lacks a certain polish, which is probably due to it coming with a pure build of android. There is nothing built-in to notify of new messages if the speaker is off, no email counter exists (à la iOS email icon), the calendar icon doesn’t show the date, the weather app icon doesn’t show the icon, and there is no percentage on the battery meter. These are the few that I notice regularly, and can mostly be fixed with apps. If you purchase other Android phones, the manufacturer has patched many of the perceived defects to suit their hardware.
The battery life had initially left something to be desired, though I feel that that was largely due to being in a rural area the first few days, and treating my phone like a kid in a candy shop. Battery life has stabilized and I can now make it through the day without fear of my phone dying.
My key beef is the keyboard. I was a sloppy typist on my iPhone, and I find it worse on the Nexus S. I’m sure if I slow down and train my fingers my accuracy will improve, but the keyboard may be slightly at fault too. Even after a week, I feel my acuity isn’t improving. I’ll really have to sit down and practice typing accurately.
Other deficiencies with the phone lie with the developers. Twitter hasn’t enabled push notifications, which is a total PITA for an addict such as me. The Foursquare app lacks polish too, with the nearby venues list populating much more slowly than I’d expect, and no ability to peer into a friend’s checkin history, save the most recent one. Sure, that may sound somewhat stalker-esque, but there are times when it’s handy, particularly when engulfed in a points or mayor race.
App selection has been satisfactory at worst, wonderful at best. I wish kijiji had an app, to improve my pending selling spree, but I’ll make do. There’s no official CBC livestream app, which I hope changes before long. I’ve enjoyed QR Droid, a powerful QR reader, Angry Birds (which I’d sworn off on my iPhone), and Tweetdeck. There are a few apps I use infrequently, such as Google talk, which is good but not great. The key miss there is the lack of ability to flip from front to rear camera in a voice call.
None of these grievances is enough to coax me into returning the phone, but I do hope developers get together and bring this functionality to us end users.
Other nitpicky complaints include the camera’s shutter noise (unnecessary. Rules requiring it were designed to stop a few people from doing upskirts, which is problematic, but shouldn’t prevent me from having a silent camera. I tried to take a picture of a robin this weekend, and it heard the noise and flew away. I’ve since learned to turn the ringer off first.) There’s no ability to take a screenshot, which is handy when reporting problems or saving records of events.
Overall I’m very pleased with the phone. If I think of any more problems or delights, I’ll post them here. If you’re considering an iPhone 4, and don’t mind the lack of polish and inability to play your DRM iTunes music, the Nexus S is definitely worth a second look, if only for the speed, wide availability of free high quality apps, and a rapidly improving OS and user community.