updated 08:40 pm EDT, Thu March 24, 2011
Google Nexus S 4G and Google Voice tested
At CTIA we had the opportunity to try the Nexus S 4G and Google Voice integration to see how they stacked up as the respective flagships of the Android and Sprint platforms. While simple, both of them promise to change how people use the web and make calls. Read on for our quick take.
The Nexus S 4G is largely what you would expect it to be: it's a Nexus S with WiMAX for Sprint's network. That said, for some the addition may be enough if they're not already devoted to T-Mobile. We noticed a decent improvement in web download speeds for a few sites. Having said this, it's still ultimately a Galaxy S underneath, so the usual caveats for the now several months old design still apply. The 1GHz Hummingbird chip still isn't fast enough to avoid stuttering in pinch-to-zoom or scrolling, and we could tell that a much higher-performance phone like the Evo 3D was still much faster at loading pages simply because the processor was much less of a bottleneck.
As an Android 2.3 reference phone, though, it immediately gets a lot of our favor simply because of all the implications a stock OS brings. You're guaranteed to get OS updates much faster and with less fragmentation than on Sprint's own Epic 4G. You get a front camera and NFC wireless for those moments when you'd like them. And since the bootloader is unlocked, it's possible to use custom firmware without having to bypass firmware locks.
We're hoping that Google puts out a much faster reference phone soon, but we'll take this over most theoretically faster devices. Having control sometimes makes a large difference. We're not sure if we'd get this over an iPhone unless we were opposed to Apple's app policies or just preferred Android, but it's an easy choice to make until the Evo 3D shows in the summer.
Google Voice isn't tied to the Nexus S 4G, but in many ways it's a companion. The service works much as you'd expect: you can pick either your Google Voice or Sprint number to be the one attached to your phone. Either way, your number is shown to others when you call, and you get the inherent features such as having the number ring multiple devices, cheap international calls, call recording, and person-by-person voicemail personalization, and voice-to-text transcription.
What we most liked about trying it was simply the ubiquity. A Google Voice account is free for anyone in the US, but knowing that your cellphone and your account share the same number means that service is transparent. On the web, it also means never having to apologize for calling from an unfamiliar source. The Nexus S 4G is an ideal match to us: since Google has an official app of its own, you're effectively managing some parts of your own phone account directly from the phone without having to go to the web or a carrier-specific app.
We can only hope now that other carriers do the same, as well as other phone makers. Sprint has promised more in the future, but an iPhone on any network with such a deep VoIP tie-in could be a very compelling device for those who either don't like or can't get something as tightly linked as the Nexus S 4G.