When the Nexus S was announced, it was to mixed reviews and minimal fanfare from the phone community. When the original Nexus One came out a year ago, it was a halo device that set the standard on processor and features. Its specs and hardware are now found in most of the new devices which are released today. The Nexus S seemed to be too closely related to the Galaxy S line to be innovative, and its Samsung parents are not looked upon favorable by many who have owned their products over the years and have been burned by their lack of updates.
I was the first to say that I wasn’t interested in the Nexus S. First, it was only available on T-Mobile. Second, it had no SD card slot. Third, no LED notification light. Fourth, it was made by Samsung. Despite the fact that I wasn’t interested in it, I needed to check it out. I spent about 30 minutes playing with one on the Saturday after it launched at Best Buy, and it immediately won me over. The next day I located a store about 30 minutes away that had them in stock, and bought it without hesitation.
I was able to work around most of the issues above except for the fact that it’s tied to T-Mobile, but I was willing to give that a shot too. After almost 30 days with the Nexus S, I’m going to begrudgingly return the device to Best Buy this weekend. The phone itself is not without flaws, but it’s a fantastic device. The SAMOLED screen is absolutely amazing, with black levels that I’ve never seen, brilliant colors, and touch sensitivity that makes my Nexus One weep. Call quality has been excellent, and the earpiece sounds nice and crisp without any hint of crackle. I’ve experienced good battery life, but pretty comparable to my N1. The NS is exactly what I’d been hoping for; a pure Google phone with a large 4″ screen, front facing camera, and “open” – a Google device with an unlocked bootloader that is prime for rooting, custom roms, and tweaking. Issues? The mobile hotspot refused to enable. I had to go through 4 devices to get one that worked properly. The other issue? Random reboots. Yep, most annoying. On the flip side, it’s BLAZING fast, and everything is buttery smooth.
What’s the dealbreaker problem then? T-Mobile. Unfortunately, almost all of the issues I’m having fall squarely on their shoulders. At my office in downtown Louisville, it is blanketed by HSPA. However, the best I ever see is 1-1.5Mbps down, and most days I’m lucky to see 1-200kbps. There are a few areas in town where the speeds are pretty fantastic at 3-5Mbps, but I’m never in those areas. Compared with AT&T speeds in the majority of areas where I frequent, T-Mobile’s data network is lacking. While at CES last week, Las Vegas is blanketed in HSPA, and I had a pretty impressive experience except for on the show floor. Comparably, my AT&T N1 showed “Emergency calls only” most of the time.
The other T-Mobile issue that continues to be a problem is MMS. From day one, pictures received on the NS were blurry and pixelated. I went through a lot of hassle to get in touch with someone at T-Mobile who got the right people working on it. As impressive as that encounter was, the issue popped up again. Some days my phone will be sitting on my desk, and I won’t get any notifications for a while. I’ll check, and it shows connected to 3G but there isn’t a data connection. After a reboot, it starts working again. Not so good for staying in touch. This behavior is not replicated when using my AT&T sim in the same device.
You may think I’m writing this whole article to place blame on T-Mobile. Not at all. Instead, I’m writing it because I’m going to actually follow my own advice for once. People always ask me what carrier they should use, and my response is always to pick your carrier based on coverage first then pick your phone. If I stay with T-Mobile, I’m not doing that. The entire reason I was trying another phone and carrier to begin with was my terrible experience with AT&T in downtown Louisville. It’s a huge fail. However, it works great everywhere else I go, and data speeds are pretty consistent everywhere in Louisville. As much as I love the Nexus S, it’s just not a sensible thing for me to spend the $561.79 plus $60 a month on a device that isn’t going to fix the issue I originally purchased it for in the first place.
If you’re a happy T-Mo user, the Nexus S is an awesome device. I’m going to be really, really sad to take it back and return to my Nexus One, even though that’s also a great device.
I’ll be waiting for the next great device to come along. Judging by what I saw at CES, it won’t be long.