This week I upgraded my phone to a Google Nexus S (sold at Best Buy). I just wanted to share a few thoughts and impressions about the phone. For the past two years I have owned the original G1 android phone and have really liked the environment and the available free apps. The last update they pushed out for my old phone was v1.6 and since then a lot has changed with android and with many of the apps.
There are a ton of choices these days with Android based phones. You can look at screen size, camera megapixels, processor, memory, slide out keyboard or not, and a variety of physical features. What pushed me over the edge to get the Nexus S is that it runs v2.3.1 Android and every other phone I looked at was still at v2.2. I know that vendors will probably push out updates for these other phones eventually, but at some point they EOL the phone and you stop getting updates like with my old phone. So the ultimate deciding factor for me was to get the absolutely newest possible verison of Android. Honestly I couldn’t tell you one thing that is different between v2.2 and v2.3.1 — am I then shallow for using that as my main criteria? 🙂
I’ve had a couple days now to run my new phone and explore the new features. There is a lot that is very much the same as my old android phone. Many (most) of the apps I had on the old phone are still the exact same version on the new phone. But even if many of the apps are basically the same, there are still many new tweaks and polish to the apps, and overall it is much faster than the old phone.
The Nexus S screen is a lot nicer, brighter, higher res, and just a bit bigger compared to the old G1. One problem with smart phones is they give you tons of features, but a small screen and an itty bitty keyboard. They fit in your pocket, but it is hard to do any “real” work with them other than skim your email and respond with short terse messages. (Notice the popularity of the the ipad which addresses this issue with a much bigger screen.) The Nexus S still doesn’t have a “big” screen and it still fits nicely in my pocket. But with the bigger brighter screen and much higher pixel density, the over all feeling is that you aren’t looking at your stuff through quite such a small soda straw as with the G1. I don’t feel nearly so claustrophobic using the Nexus S as I did with the G1. It still won’t replace a tablet or an ipad, and definitely won’t replace a laptop or PC, but it certainly pushes forward in what you can comfortably do with it.
The voice recognition for searches (browser, navigation, map, etc.) seems to be way more accurate on the Nexus S. This is something I noticed right away. With the G1 I had a lot of trouble using the voice recognition for anything when I needed it. The only time I used it was to play around and see what funny mistakes it would make. The Nexus S actually seems to work really well, and it seems to nail what I say usually on the first try. With the Nexus S the voice recognition is a useful feature which it never really was on the old G1.
One really cool new feature on the Nexus S is that it can act as a wireless access point for other devices and the traffic gets routed through the phone’s 3G/4G data connection. When I’m traveling or working away from my office, or stuck someplace that wants to charge you for wifi access I can still connect my laptop up to the internet wirelessly via my Nexus S. From the laptop perspective, it just sees another access point out there; enter the password, click connect and you are up and live on the internet. I even managed to connect my old G1 (that no longer has cell service) to the internet through the new Nexus S and was still able to do gmail, google voice, calender, web, etc. off the old out of service phone … cool I guess, not that I can think of a reason I’d need to use two smart phones at the same time. Tethering my laptop isn’t a feature I’ll use every day, but when I do need it, it will be great to have and because it’s wireless, you can share the connection between a couple devices if everyone agrees to play nice.
The built in web browser now has “flash” support so I can go to all those flash sites and see all the spinny, flashy, blinky animated advertisements. Even the real google maps pages work right on the phone inside the browser. I discovered I can even edit my google docs “Documents” through the phone (although it doesn’t look like I can edit google docs “Spreadsheets” from the phone yet … hopefully that will get added in some future update.) The Nexus S comes with google earth (not available for my G1) which is kind of cool, but not quite as cool as I was hoping because it doesn’t show any of the buildings like the PC version does.
The other “new” (for me) feature is the two finger “pinching” to zoom in or out. This is really nice when browsing web pages or maps. Also, in maps and google earth you can use 2 fingers to “rotate” the view which is intuitive and fun. With maps you can drag two fingers up or down to change from a more top down to a more 3d perspective vantage point. More cool features my old phone didn’t support.
So all in all, could I have survived another year or two on the old phone running andoid-v1.6 and been just fine? Sure! I could still tether my laptop via the usb connection and get on the internet wherever I needed it. Live desktops aren’t a critical feature, the internet is still the internet. The new phone probably isn’t so much better that it will change my life. But it is faster, newer, more polished, has more megapixels on the camera, and has lots of fun little (and a few big) new features that I’m discovering as I use the phone more and more. So for a few special days I am having a blast with my new phone.
In another week or so I’ll have found all the new features, figured everything out, and have gotten used to it all and it will seem normal. Then I’ll walk into a tech store next month and I’m sure they will have 10 new phones that are all twice as good as this one … and ughhh 1 year, 11 months till I can upgrade again at the cheaper price … life is torture!!! At least I can have happiness for a couple days before my life returns to it’s normal “way behind the technology curve again” existence. 🙂
And then one day Android v2.4 will show up automatically on my phone with all it’s new spectacular and glorious features and for a few more days life will be good! I’m just hoping that because this is the google endorsed phone, I’ll get the newest versions of everything before everyone else! (At least for a while…)