Name: Samsung Nexus S 4G
Price: $200 w/two-year contract
The Back Story: It was last summer when Sprint was first out of the 4G gate with its WiMax network and HTC's powerhouse, the EVO 4G. But after blazing into town on its high horse, the carrier was soon jogging into deserted territory, adding only one speed demon to its Android line-up within the past year: the Galaxy S-branded Samsung Epic 4G. After losing its high-speed belt to Verizon's powerful LTE service, the nation's most overlooked network sets its crosshair on the 4G throne with the Gingerbread-ready Samsung Nexus S 4G. Tackling the same spec sheet as its T-Mobile twin, Sprint’s upgraded version sports two huge benchmarks that make it the favorable option among the two: Google Voice and true 4G capability. So where does Sprint’s handset rank among the 4G elite? Answer: Higher than most. We gave you a minor briefing in our Top 15 Android Phones list, now here’s the full breakdown.
• WiMax- and NFC-enabled: We found Sprint’s third 4G phone to push faster data and web browsing speeds than the carrier’s other high-speed devices when possessing strong signal coverage. YouTube videos and flash-heavy websites launched immediately, while app downloads and menu browsing were speedy to say the least. The phone also supports sensor-swiping technology in the form of a built-in NFC (Near Field Communication) chip, which is sure be a godsend for shoppers once Google fully rolls out its mobile payment service, Google Wallet.
• Sprint’s first Gingerbread phone: Spring's Nexus S gives you the most pure Android GIngerbread experience you can currently buy. There's no UI overlay, no bloatware—just plain ol' Android 2.3. With that comes an improved virtual keyboard, copy-and-paste functionality, download management, and improved 3D graphics performance. Sleep mode gets a minor facelift as the screen displays a zap-like effect before being put to rest. Android’s stock music player also sports a sleek looking UI and offers the option to sync your tunes to Google’s music cloud service, Google Music.
• Google Voice Integration: Those of you who still use your phones to make phone calls will view Google’s telecommunications service as the best feature on the Gingerbread-ready device. Take full advantage of cheaper international calls, Internet calling, visual voicemail, call forwarding, and several other wireless options. Another dope twist: Google allows Sprint owners to use their cell number rather than assigning them a new Google Voice number. Nice.
• Vibrant AMOLED display: Those familiar with Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen already know what to expect. Crisp text, images, and video output, as well as exceptional viewing angles and clear 480 x 800 pixel resolution. It also does a great job of fighting off highly reflective lighting, providing quality outdoor visibility.
• Sleek and unique design: The concave lower back is molded perfectly to fit right in the palm of your hand and its sturdy plastic covering is an unnoticeable, but more reassuring upgrade from the Galaxy S casing. Overall, its a solid phone that can take a few drops and spills, but don't take that as encouragement to be clumsy at will with it.
• Spotty network reception: We found it difficult at times to get strong WiMax coverage throughout New York City. But once we broke free from 3G mode, performance was snappy.
• Outdated specs: The Nexus S 4G could have benefited from a dual-core processor, but instead, it's stuck with the same 1GHz Hummingbird CPU found in most Galaxy S handsets. Also, the rear 5MP still camera snaps grainy images and doesn't live up to its 720p recording capabilities: capturing non-HD 480p-like videos.
• No additional memory or LED notifications: While the handset comes with a generous 16GB of internal memory, Samsung chose to pass on memory card slot. It also doesn't have a notification light to indicate incoming texts, missed calls, or social media updates.
• Limited media format support: Though you’re graced with Samsung’s beautiful display, the phone doesn’t allow you to play XVID and DIVX files, or uploaded HD videos.
Final Say: As far as high-speed performance goes, the Nexus S 4G proves that Sprint’s WiMax service is progressively reaching the lightening-fast pace of Verizon’s LTE network. If you can pull a strong signal, that is. Besides the addition of Google Voice, it carries the same spec sheet and design as its T-Mobile counterpart. Android’s Gingerbread OS is more polished than the standard Froyo software and its performance upgrades do enhance the user experience as far as command execution and navigation. We wish there the storage options were more flexible, especially considering how gorgeous the screen is—adding music, a couple movies, and few seasons of TV will quickly fill the built-in 16 GB drive. But Samsung’s handset does offer a promising look at Sprint's 4G future, as well as its Android handsets. And that's a win-win.