Saturday, July 23, 2011

5 months down the line....thoughts on my Nexus S

Now that I have had my Nexus S for five months now, have rooted it, and installed custom ROMs, I thought I should give a bit of an update to personal peeves and enjoyable things I have found about it.

First off, the good. After tinkering with it for some time, I managed at one point to get a custom ROM/custom kernel combination that netted me 45 hours of battery life on one charge. I have since moved on to a newer ROM that isn't that great on battery life, but it shows with the proper settings and software that one can really crank out the battery life on this phone.

Secondly, the minor annoyances. There are really only three types of ROMs at the moment. There are tons of actual ROMs, but all come from the same variances. It's either CyanogenMod 7, AOSP (the basic stock option that comes with the phone initially), and MIUI (a Chinese derived variant with some blendings of Cyanogen and AOSP and custom UI).

I spent a lot of time with Cyanogen because of all the customization that worked so seamlessly. However, CyanogenMod has been unstable at times. It's slowly improving, but not fast enough considering Ice Cream Sandwich will be out by the end of the year and they haven't even managed to lock down 2.3.4 stably enough for daily use. It was my go to ROM until recently.

MIUI, on the other-hand, has just as much customization, if not more, than CM 7. However, I found that certain themes would cause my text to be rendered too dark to read. Because of many of the Chinese oriented themes which clash with my American sensibilities, I found I had to put together a hodge-podge theme. In the end, I couldn't really get the ROM the way that I wanted it in spite of its benefits. I still keep a backup just in case I want to upgrade to newer versions which are improving all the time.

Right now I'm rocking SuperAOSP 8.6 . It's a hybrid ROM combining AOSP with CM 7. This gives it the stability of AOSP with the customization of CM 7. I have to say that I passed up on this ROM for some time. I had a backup of it but did little with it. After dealing with Voodoo color issues, reboots, and other problems, I have abandoned CM 7 for the time being. My current ROM is the most up to date at 2.3.4 with only a few minor quirks like Voodoo color taking a second to kick on after turning my screen on.

Finally, the bad. There seems to an issue with the back capacitive button on my phone. It's fairly intermittent and it seems to span across all ROMs, but I'm not sure if it is a hardware or software related issue. Basically it seems that the button is either difficult to press or outright non-responsive. Sometimes though, like after playing Gem Miner for a bit, the button works flawlessly. My Zagg shield may be partially to blame, but I'm not sure right now.

I've had issues finding a decent case to keep it in. The lightweight plastic is a liability for me and my phone was purchased off contract so I'm not taking any chances with it. I initially used an Amzer Jelly case with my Zagg shield. It was decent, but I wanted to up the protection. I tried TPU cases, but they made it where I couldn't push the power button without difficulty. I already have issues with the back button so I chose to abandon these types of cases. I then moved on to a Trident Aegis case. The case itself is actually wonderfully designed and very unique. However, the plastic part of the case (two piece case) has soft touch material that began to flake off, likely because of how often I put it in and removed it from my pocket.

In the end, I went with the Seidio Convert case. It consists of a snap together soft touch plastic case (materials are better with this case than the Trident one), which can be upgraded to a second case that goes on top of it, making it like a Otterbox Defender case that I had with my Nexus One. It also comes with a belt holster which was something I decided to move to. Having the case on my belt actually saved battery because it was no longer next to my leg giving off heat which causes the processor to work harder. The battery itself heats up as well which is also not good for overall performance. So far the case has been great. The snap together case is difficult to get off if I need to, but not agonizingly so. The back button issue may be exasperated by the case, but I'll take the risk.

Aside from all this, the phone is really good. I'm disappointed that no companies have really jumped on the idea of using the NFC chip for debit transactions. Paypal was supposed to do this, but seems to be slow going to get to it. I was personally hoping that the whole NFC thing would take off, but as of now it is a useless feature that draws battery when its on. I likely see NFC getting big if the next iPhone adopts the technology like everyone predicts it will. Sad to see Apple dictating when people should be adopting technology.

I'm a little depressed at the limited accessory offerings. Unlike the Nexus One, that has a wonderful desktop dock and car dock, the Nexus S desktop dock is really rather bland, costly, and can only be ordered through Samsung's site. I don't really have an opinion of the car dock. Neither were available through the website for some time before the desktop dock was finally made available. I sense that the Nexus S isn't doing as well as one would hope from its limited accessory offerings. I see this as a problem from Google. Had they utilized a different chipset (the first gen Hummingbird could only do 7.2 mbps max), or chose to not try to cram in a NFC chip when the tech wasn't being adopted (it's the reason why the Nexus S doesn't have 720p recording because of the front facing camera and NFC taking up a great deal of space) they might have succeeded better. The loss of the SD card for this phone is really the baffling part as all Android phones, down to the crappiest one you can find, have SD card slots.

Still, the phone is good in spite of its shortcomings. It will definitely hold me until the rumored Nexus Prime comes later this year. Hopefully, Google is willing to do what they did with the Nexus One and push the bar while providing a good mix of future proof technology.

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