We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung Nexus S 4G in San Francisco using Sprint service. Call quality was very good in most places. Our conversations were clear and we didn't notice the background hiss that we heard on the T-Mobile phone. We had some trouble hearing in really noisy places, but it wasn't a big deal. Similarly, while voices could sound a bit tinny at times, it was nothing unusual for a cell phone.
As with the Nexus S, our callers had few complaints and some couldn't tell that we were using a cell phone. However, a few did mention that we also sounded a bit tinny. And when we compared the audio samples from the two phones we had to agree. The T-Mobile sample is a bit deeper, though with a slight hiss, while the Sprint sample is just a bit harsher. We don't think one is necessarily better, but you might feel differently.
Sprint Samsung Nexus S 4G call quality sample
T-Mobile Samsung Nexus S call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone calls were fine. Provided we were in a quiet place, we could hear well on our side and callers reported the same. We had to speak close to the phone to be heard, but the audio clarity was satisfying. Automated calling systems could understand as well.
The GPS feature was accurate when we had the Wi-Fi activated. It located our position quickly and was off by only about 20 feet. On a couple of occasions the phone's GPS fix jumped a couple of times after it locked on, but it usually came back to our correct location. After all of Samsung's troubles with the Galaxy S series, it's nice to see that the problem has been fixed here. We also love the revamped Google maps with the 3D buildings.
The touch interface was accurate and responsive, whether we were scrolling though a list or pecking at small links or buttons. The Web browser was easy to use as well, thanks to the multitouch interface. Also, dragging our finger across the screen when using the browser or maps produced a smooth, fluid motion that exhibited none of the jerky movements that we sometimes have seen on Android phones. On a similar note, the 1GHz Hummingbird processor offers a speedy user experience that compares favorably with the iPhone.
As mentioned, we welcome the Nexus S 4G's support for Sprint's WiMax network (indeed, one of our biggest complaints about the T-Mobile handset was that it topped out at 3G). However, our excitement waned a bit when we got deep into our performance tests.
Even before we got the Nexus S 4G out of the box, we noticed a lot of complaints in Sprint user forums about its WiMax radio. Some commenters reported that they got only a minimal signal in strong 4G areas, while others said they had had the same problem with multiple devices. Our experience wasn't nearly as bad, but it wasn't as good as with other Sprint and Clearwire WiMax devices. For example, it usually took much longer--up to 3 minutes--for the phone to find the WiMax signal after we turned it on. It also was quicker to lose the signal when we entered a building or an underground transit station.
Yet, on other occasions, the Nexus S 4G didn't have any problems at all. One morning, it stayed connected long after we first locked on to WiMax and even held the signal after we got in an elevator. And on another day, it jumped onto 4G in the lower level of CNET's office building. In the end, the connection is less reliable than on the Sprint devices, but the device is still usable. It's not as good as it could be, but we wouldn't call the Nexus S 4G a lemon. See Nicole Lee's tests against the HTC Evo 3D for more information.
What's more, data speed was quite fast and comparable to other Sprint WiMax phones when we were on 4G. The handset will default to mobile sites when one is available, of course, but even full sites loaded quickly, For example, NYTimes.com loaded in 17 seconds, CNET.com in 18 seconds, Airliners.net in 25 seconds, and GiantBomb.com in 29 seconds. When 4G is not available, the phone will default back to Sprint's 3G network. You will definitely notice a difference, but still, EV-DO coverage is reasonably fast, and it's more widespread.
The Nexus S 4G has a rated battery life of 6 hours of talk time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 54 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Nexus S 4G has a digital SAR of 0.64 watts per kilogram.