Google Nexus S 4G Review

Introduction and Design

Building on the mystique of the “pure Google” Nexus One, the Nexus S made its debut back in December bringing Gingerbread to the market. Whereas the HTC Nexus One had a mystique to it and differentiated itself from the market with hardware, the Nexus S was basically a slightly redesigned Samsung Galaxy S without the TouchWiz UI. Although the Nexus S might not sport all the latest goodies found on some of the most recent Android phones, it undoubtedly still has some more life left in it. What comes to prove this is that Sprint has now decided to release the Google Nexus S, but improving it by bringing a 4G compatible version to market, the aptly-named Nexus S 4G. Specs remain otherwise unchanged, so in this day of dual core phones let’s see how the Nexus S 4G stacks up.

Included with the Nexus S 4G you’ll get stereo headphones, a microUSB cable and AC adapter along with the standard users manuals and quick start guides.


Design-wise, the Google Nexus S 4G remains unchanged from the Nexus S, and since there is no carrier branding on either, you cannot distinguish the two without removing the battery cover. The phone is similar in feel to any of the original Galaxy S phones, such as the Fascinate or Vibrant. That means that the phone is light and thin, thanks to extensive use of plastic by Samsung. It does not have the heft of the quality feel that the Nexus One had, but that is not to say that the Nexus S is poorly constructed. It slips nicely into your pocket and is thin enough that you forget it’s there. The contour of the phone makes it comfortable both to hold and have it against your face. The front face has a contoured curve to it, which enhances its aesthetics and comfort. That said, the 4” Super AMOLED display is amazingly bright and vibrant. It can be read in almost all lighting conditions and from almost all angles.

You can compare the Google Nexus S 4G with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

There is one main gripe we have with the design of the Google Nexus S 4G. It is related to the navigation button placement: Back, Menu, Search, Home. While we’ve seen some variation between devices, the Nexus S deviates greatly and it takes a while to get used to it.

Google Nexus S 4G 360-degrees View:

Interface and Software:

Again, nothing here has changed from the original Nexus S. The Nexus S 4G runs an unadulterated version of Gingerbread 2.3.4 which includes the net Google Talk video chat. The service works well enough. Though the concept may be similar to offerings from Tango, Skype and Fring, Google of course pulls it off nearly seamlessly and intuitively. Video quality could be better, but it was more than acceptable and was better than the other services we’ve used. In addition, the Sprint Nexus 4G is the  first Google Voice integrated handset, as part of the carrier's recent initiative to offer Google Voice on most of its phones. What this gives you is access to plenty of smart features, related to calling and messaging. The beauty of it is that you can seamlessly set your Sprint number to be your Google Voice number, without the need of porting. And since you can link many lines to your single Google Voice account, this allows you to give just this single GV number to your contacts, and have calls redirected to either your personal phone, or office one, etc.

There is no third party software loaded on the Nexus S 4G, including carrier apps such as Sprint TV or Sprint Football Live. Texting NASCAR or NFL to 7777, the usual way to download these Sprint apps, got us a response and website, but when we tried to download the items weren’t actually there. For those looking for the Sprint services look elsewhere.

Perhaps because of this lack of UI customizations, the Nexus S 4G was blindingly fast. When we signed into our account, all 58 apps we have on our EVO restored to the Nexus (ahh, the beauty of ASOP) but we did not notice a speed difference at all. The Nexus S 4G flies through everything we’ve thrown at it, then asks for more.

Internet and Connectivity:

With the addition of 4G data speeds the Nexus S seemingly gets better, but we actually encountered issues. Despite getting normal upload speeds of about 1Mbps, our download speeds were only running about 650-700kbps. We verified this with another Nexus S 4G unit to make sure we did not have a defective phone and go the same results. Speed tests over 3G were actually about 50% faster on the down link, getting around 1Mbps and Wi-Fi speed results were normal as well. For comparison, we ran tests with our EVO concurrently and regularly achieved down speeds of 6.5-8.5Mbps, ruling out any network issues.  Still, the stock browser is smooth and fluid, and there are many other options in the Market if it doesn't suit you for some reason.

Of course the Nexus S 4G is CDMA device, so it lacks the worldwide roaming capabilities of the GSM Nexus S, and being a Sprint device 4G runs over their WiMAX network. The phone also has Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and like the Nexus S the 4G has a NFC chip incorporated into the battery door.

Camera and Multimedia:

Our images made with the Google Nexus S 4G turned out well for the most part. We even liked them more than what we got out of the Nexus S, but we guess the better weather conditions were responsible for this.   Pictures turned out with plenty of detail and accurate color reproduction (although slightly oversaturated), though the flash performance was pretty weak. Videos can still only be recorded at 720x480 (DVD quality) which is quite strange for a phone with an otherwise stellar spec sheet.

Google Nexus S 4G Sample Video:

Multimedia on the Nexus S 4G runs through the stock players which work quite well, but for those looking for more file support, a different UI or just something different there are of course many options available in the market. Google’s new Music Beta service will help out with the lack of expandable memory on the Nexus S 4G.

Performance and Conclusion:

Call quality was quite good on the Nexus S 4G. Callers rated it an 8/10, saying that we sounded slightly distant but not finding much to complain about. On our end it was plenty loud with a good voice reproduction even as the other party was driving through the back country of Kentucky. The phone did get much warmer on our ear than we’re used to, but that’s not a major issue. Battery life was above average for a high end Android handset. The battery is rated for 6 hours of talk time, and with light usage we were able to go three days of use on Wi-Fi. 4G drained the battery faster, but not as noticeably as it does on our EVO 4G.

Overall, the Google Nexus S 4G is a very good phone, if not a little late. If it were any other device we’d probably chide Sprint more for taking so long to pick it up, but it’s more about what the Nexus S 4G represents than the actual handset itself. Having a second carrier offer a pure Google phone is only a good thing for consumers and for the Android platform. The smartphone itself is still pretty capable though. Although it relies on a single-core processor, it's still very speedy, while it also doesn't miss on any other crucial feature, except for HD video capture.

A pretty good Android alternative, which adds a physical QWERTY keyboard and comes at $50 less is the Samsung Epic 4G. Another pretty decent option is the WP7-sporting HTC Arrive, if you feel adventurous. Ultimately, the Google Nexus S 4G is a phone for the purists, like the next Nexus will be, and hopefully Sprint will play a bigger part in that phone’s launch.

Software version of the reviewed unit: 2.3.4 GRJ22

Google Nexus S 4G Video Review:


  • Very fast, unadulterated Android experience
  • Updates directly from Google
  • Amazing display
  • Good battery life and call quality


  • No expandable memory
  • Potential 4G issues

PhoneArena Rating:


User Rating:

7 Reviews

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