Nexus S: initial impressions

I've been playing with my Nexus S phone for about 2 weeks now. I'll be blunt: I'm disappointed. I used to play with and program for an iPhone 3G and I currently own an iPad 2, and the user experience is just so much better on the iDevices. The reason I chose the Nexus S is mainly because I'm not a big fan of Apple (and I'm probably the closest to a Google fanboy you can get without actually being one), and also because I wanted to develop for Android. I really really want to give Google the benefit of the doubt. After spending time researching Android phones, dismissing all the ones that were ruined by custom telco firmware, I finally decided to go with the only 'true' Android smartphone there is, only to be disappointed.

So what am I disappointed in? The answer is: everything, really. The hardware, the software, the design, the battery life. Just everything. The battery life is "decent for a smartphone", but is 2 days of light usage really decent? What happened with all the technological advances in batteries? I remember the good old days (2 weeks ago) when you were able to use your phone for over a week without charging. It's not just the battery though. For some reason I always take my phone out of my pocket up-side down. I admit that this may be a result of my nutty head, but it's still something Google/Samsung could have improved on. The iPhone has a very distinct button that is impossible to miss, the Nexus S has a very slightly indented thing that could either be a speaker or a microphone. And no, the slight bulge at the bottom doesn't really help either when you're trying to take out your phone quickly.

The buttons aren't brilliant either. On the plus side, I love the tactile feedback you get when you press one of them. But the iPhone system with one button is just a lot simpler. And then there's the volume buttons and the on/off button. This is just terrible. I can't count the number of times I've accidentally pressed the on button while in the middle of something. I just can't seem to hold the damn thing properly. It's particularly problematic when holding the phone horizontal and watching videos. Every time I change volume I accidentally press the on button. Not funny. What's also mildly annoying is how quick the screen turns off when you're not using your phone, and that it doesn't light up when you've got a call. I'm sure these are just settings somewhere in the menu, but I haven't been able to find them. It's very annoying to have no visual clues at all when there's a phone call, especially if you've got headphones on.

Finally, there's the software. I love programming for Android. I'd rather write 10 Android apps than a single iPhone app. When I'm developing for Android I am pampered with lovely nice features and developing assistance that I cannot have on the iPhone. The internals of Android just 'click' for me from a developer's point of view. Objective-C has not ever clicked for me and I doubt that it ever will. It turns out to be a completely different story where you're on the user side of the OS, though. Android is laggy, slow and the thing I hate most is how scrolling and zooming just plain sucks compared to the iPhone. Why can't it be as smooth as the iPhone?! It's really frustrating. The built-in browser frustrates me as well: I always seem to accidentally hit Go when I try to type a letter. This rarely ever happened to me on an iPhone. But I do realize that this can be attributed to my fat fingers. One thing I do love about the keyboard is how it gives you suggestions while you type the words. This is absolutely excellent.

And then there's apps. I'd continue my rant here on how Android is so bad, but it isn't. All the useful apps are there. There's less crap apps and more free apps than there are on iOS. And at least I don't have to register with anyone to download apps.

I'm not entirely sure why I'm so negative about my phone. I really want to like it, but perhaps I've been exposed to iOS too much already. I'd like to think that I'm fairly objective, and I certainly don't want to dislike my phone, but it's just not as good as an iPhone. I really hope Google will kick Apple's ass with their next smartphone. Since they acquired Motorola they'll be able to build it exactly the way they want. Hopefully something excellent will come out of that. Until then, I hate to say it, but I recommend people to buy an iPhone instead.

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