Google Nexus S review: Contacts and calling
Something we were keen to test on the Google Nexus S is the ability to integrate contacts seamlessly across a multitude of accounts.
On one hand, we were impressed with the offering from Google – you can add in Twitter, Facebook, Google and more to the account list, and have them all synchronised to one person's account.
On the other hand, the process of said linking was laborious and difficult at times. Setting up the Facebook and Twitter accounts to include contact synchronisation took some time to start with – the Nexus S wouldn't sync contacts to the phone for a while.
After that comes the long, long task of putting them all together. Some, with the correct phone numbers or email addresses, would link together automatically, but if you've got a list of around 200 people this is a very small number.
So the process is this: open the contact, choose to edit, choose to join them with another name, then choose the relevant one. If the correct person isn't suggested (which, in fairness, it mostly was) then you have to scroll through the list to find them.
If they have a Twitter account, then the same must be done all over again.
It's not easy to set a default account either - so people with different names in your phone and on Facebook will sometimes default to one you don't really want, and it takes a lot of deleting and editing to get it back to the right one.
When you compare this to the power of the HTC Sense offering and the sheer ease of use it offers (when you start the contacts menu for the first time, the phone will suggest a long list of potential matches and you simply need to confirm them, for example) blows this integration method out of the water.
The contact menu view was good though – the WVGA Super AMOLED screen is massively clear and allows downloaded profile pictures to show up nicely on the side of each name.
The tab that allows you to shoot through the list alphabetically is large and easy to hit, and a quick press of their picture will bring up quick options, such as calling or messaging the person.
One thing we did like was that the Nexus S will allow VoIP calling as standard for enabled accounts, so that will be a decent upgrade when enough people get their head around such a service.
If the N900, released a year ago, can manage Skype calling, then the Nexus S, designed to show what technology can do, should be able to do it as well out the box from this service, so we're annoyed off the bat that Skype isn't supported (although you can download and use Skype as a separate application).
The addition of video calling is pretty galling – it's like an iPhone 4 was held up as the bastion of smartphone creation (which, in fairness, it is to many people) and its features all integrated into the Google Nexus S.
Having to install third party software to perform the function is equally stupid in our opinion – video calling is never going to take off, let's be honest, and to not support it out the box begs the question of why an extra video camera was added, bringing the cost up further.
Call quality was much better than we expected though – the noise cancelling worked pretty well in most cases, although when speaking on the bus (don't worry, we made sure nobody else was around) we were asked if we were using a handsfree kit, because there was 'significant echo'.
But we did like the fact the speaker was nice and clear, and more importantly, easy to find on the ear when placing the phone to the head.
Going back to the earlier point about freezing on the Nexus S – we had a slight problem when trying to call someone with another call coming in at the same time. The phone wouldn't let you answer the call or hang up the old one, meaning it was terribly frustrating to watch as you left a pointlessly long voice message.
You can just pull the battery out, of course, but we wanted to wait and see what happened. This wasn't a frequent occurrence, but one that we still didn't like to see.
The dialler doesn't come with smart entry unfortunately, so you can't quickly access your favourite people with a few dabs of the number keys.
There are tabbed options at the top of the phone screen – these are consistent across the phone and contacts options, so it's easy to speak to the people you need to.
The call log is also mercifully intuitive – if someone phones you a few times in a row, the entries are grouped together, rather than sitting in separate rows and clogging up the screen.
The Google Nexus S is probably above average in terms of the calling experience on a smartphone, but the fact that the reason it's decent is that it's possible to find your contacts easily and they can actually hear you is indicative of the state of the smartphone market.