One week with the Nexus S.

I think I might like the iPhone 4, but since Jobs, in his infinite wisdom, refuses to sell it in India, or unlocked, or without a contract, I’ve done without one so far. I do have say that I did use the original iPhone for about a month before tossing it out the window. A fraud of a phone, it was worse than the worst Motorola brick phones I’ve ever had the misfortune to use. I do like the iPad, and the latest Touch, but the iPhone so far just ticks me off. Sour grapes, I guess.

Best Buy had a Nexus S on display, and the sales guy kept pestering me, as Best Buy sales guys do, that he had “just one left.”

So I bought it, and have had it for a week.

Before we get into the good, the bad and the ugly, let’s get rid of the downright stupid right now, shall we?

It can’t handle wifi proxies. I’ll say it again, slowly, so that the village idiots from Google can understand this. It doesn’t work behind proxies. I’m told, but can’t be bothered to check, that it does have options on mobile networks, and there are hacks available as well.

Why did Google do this? My theory is so that they can track location accurately. Why care about the fact that it makes the phone unusable in a corporate environment, if you can track users’ locations to better serve ads?

The good:

It’s fast, build quality is pretty good, but not in the iPad class, the UI is reasonably intuitive and in some ways better than IOS. The soft keyboard and spelling system is way better than IOS.

The Nexus S doesn’t come with Swype, pity.

Almost all the apps I need are available for free on the Android Market. There’s also a banking app from ICICI which doesn’t even exist on IOS.

Voice quality on calls is good. No one asked me if I was driving when I was driving, on speakerphone. Apparently Google has a new noise reduction algorithm in play; works really well, I guess.

I like the four fixed function keys, very usable both with and without haptic support.

The settings app is well designed, unlike Symbian. You don’t need to have a cheat sheet in your head to find settings – except for wifi proxies, of course.

Charging over USB is supported, which is a major convenience over the older Nokias.

Finally, since this is the Google platform reference phone, updates should come really quickly. The phone came with 2.3, and it updated pretty quickly and easily to 2.3.2 over wifi.

Compare with IOS which needs USB to do anything. Compare with Nokia, where updates depend on the device, the region, the operator and in my experience have been pretty poorly spaced out and unreliable.

The bad:

We’ve covered the wifi proxy scam. There’s another weirdness with wifi; it doesn’t always switch to a stronger AP. In fact I’m not sure that it even tries. I found a wifi analyzer which can switch APs at will, but the fact that you need something like this tells you that something in the wifi stack is really immature.

Bluetooth support is weak. I couldn’t get my Mac to browse the filesystem on the phone. It’s as lame as IOS in other aspects. I don’t use Bluetooth headsets, so I don’t know or care how good that support is.

The ugly:

Battery life, compared to the worst Nokia that I have, makes the Nokia look really good. The claims on the Google spec page are laughable. Change their days to hours and divide by two to get a real idea of how poor battery life really is.

Bottom-line: will I keep it or toss it out? My Nokia E71 was the best phone I’ve ever used. No touch screen etc, but the build quality and battery life were superb.

I find the Nokia X6 sluggish but usable.

The Nexus S tries hard to be state of the art and configurable, and kind of succeeds. The only reason to keep it over the Nokias’ is that Android definitely has developer attention.

The deal breaker right now is the broken wifi proxy support. Battery life being poor is something I can work with – charging overnight isn’t really a big deal.

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