Google Nexus S review

Is Android 2.3 and a curved screen enough of an upgrade?

The definitive Google Nexus S review
The definitive Google Nexus S review

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Google Nexus S review: Interface

As we've already heard about 27,000 times, the Google Nexus S is rocking Gingerbread (or Android 2.3). What does this mean in terms of an update? Not that much, if we're honest.

It's especially true when it comes to the Nexus S, which is more ready for future technology than anything else.

Google nexus s review

But it's still the same old Android interface essentially, with a slick feel under the finger and the notifications bar you drag down from the top to see email, text and music updates as and when they land.

Another feature of the new Android 2.3 operating system is an improved efficiency around power management. This is achieved by Android keeping an eye on which applications are running in the background and shutting them down if they step out of line.

Given the Google Nexus S is also rocking a Samsung 1GHz Hummingbird processor in the background (which offers up some fantastic speeds) we weren't surprised to see judder or freezing kept to a minimum.

However, they weren't completely eradicated – there were times when background applications could still bring the phone to a halt, be it on the lock screen or swiping around the Home screens.

We know that the root of this was often applications we downloaded messing about in the background, but still – we expected an iPhone-like flawless experience.

Another big problem - our review unit was subject to some random shutting down for no reason at times - be it in the music player, making a call or just sitting on the desk. Google is aware of this problem and promises an imminent fix, but overall we're not impressed by this fundamental flaw.

Other than a few improvements, there's not a lot more to talk about in the new Android OS.

Google nexus s review

The user interface has been tweaked slightly – things like a black and green notifications bar (which changes to grey on the odd occasion, seemingly depending on which app you're in) are a nice touch, as are menus that 'bleed' into the main display – but overall it's nothing special.

We're still treated to the cool 3D scrolling menus, which the dedicated GPU handles with aplomb, and five Home screens aren't that much to write home about.

Google nexus s review

The amount of widgets on offer from Google needs to be improved – the power control offering is the only one we really care about.

The music widget is tiny and ultimately terrible compared to the ones you can download from alternative players, although the news and weather offering isn't too bad provided you've set up your RSS feeds correctly.

Being able to rate places such as restaurants and businesses is cool though – it's a new offering we haven't seen yet and allows a quick star score to be put through about nearby vendors.

Google nexus s review

One thing that everyone is talking about though – the 'TV Off' style animation for the lock screen, where the image shuts down to a thin line then to a small point, in the same way as CRT televisions of old.

Is it useful? No. Is it a real crowd-pleaser that epitomises what makes modern smartphones so cool? Yes. And for that we love it.

But overall, we're not as impressed with the Google Nexus S interface as we have been with other phones. The lag aside, the offering from the Galaxy S is much better (with pull down power control and music control from the notifications bar) and HTC's Sense is just as slick with more widgets and the awesome Leap View too.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.