Experiences in Day 7
Thanks to the ‘Google’ in the Google Samsung Nexus S, this second Google official Android device has the privilege to run the latest version of Android – Gingerbread or 2.3.3, and the only word I can used to describe it is – Tasty. In general, Gingerbread has a well-refined user interface, better keyboard than the one in Éclair and Froyo, some new features like Car Home, NFC, and some butter.
If you have been using Android devices running Android 2.0/2.1 (Éclair) or Android 2.2 (Froyo), you won’t find Gingerbread a stranger as it is still pretty similar to the previous version of Android in terms of appearance except some enhancements, added support and refinement, and Gingerbread’s color scheme is now in black by default. And the butter I am talking about, it is all about the smoothness and user experience exists in Gingerbread – agreed by all of my friends using Froyo and Éclair devices. Even some of my friends using iPhones feel pretty impressed for Nexus S that Google and Samsung brought together – it is definitely something great to know.
What I have newly experienced in Gingerbread?
Fresh and refined User Interface – Gingerbread now has a less glassy interface and the color theme have ‘finally’ officially changed to black, which is really cool and matched with the Nexus S. Besides looking cool, the black theme is really designed for more practical usage – check out the notification top bar. Notice the green-colored icons for Wi-Fi status, mobile network status and battery life? For example, the Wi-Fi status icon would be in grey color when the phone is trying to connect to the wireless network, and it will turn into white color when the phone is connected to the network, or green color when it is connected to Google server. (Updated on 28/03/2011. Thanks sablesg!) The icon itself also act as an indicator for the network strength. In just a single glance, you get to know all the statuses of your phone – a pretty great enhancement I must say. Black theme also goes easy with the eyes too!
Window animations are definitely feel a lot smoother than Froyo, and I can see that the new user interface is aimed for easy-to-use-and-learn direction. In Gingerbread, Apps Manager is now easier to access from the Menu in the homescreen. It also take care of car users – the Car Home mode first appeared in Froyo, is also available in Nexus S, allows the users to access some phone features slightly easier while driving (though it is not advisable to do so). Gingerbread also has a Downloads app built-in, allowing the user to review all the files downloaded from email or web browser (not from Android Market though).
Improved keyboard for typing and editing – Soft keyboard for touchscreen-based device has been long evolved since the release of devices with resistive screen, and tons of user interfaces for soft keyboard have been designed and aimed to improve user experience. Gingerbread (or rather should I said Android) does not choose to include unconventional keyboard layout; a QWERTY keyboard – though an improved one, is available for the user.
Soft keyboard in Gingerbread is now more user-friendly with the multitouch key-chording (similar to the soft keyboard that can be found in Apple iPad). Numbers and symbols can be now inserted without manually changing the input modes. Together with the black theme, Smart Suggestions system really enhance the user experience with the orange glowing texts. Though I am slightly disappointed since the new soft keyboard wasn’t optimized for single-hand typing, as I always tend to press the smiley key while typing with my right hand.
Other than that, word selection is also slightly improved in Gingerbread. A new cursor mode is now available in the new text input system, which works quite similar to that of in iOS. It is now (a lot) easier to select several words during typing by dragging the selection cursors – a much appreciated feature in editing high number of texts, such as emailing and blogging etc.
Improved device management – Realizing Android devices are being used by many power users, Gingerbread also has some improvement in battery management, as well as apps management.
In the new battery management app, user can understand easily the battery usage via the graph generated (example at the left image), as well as the services using the battery. If you concern about the battery used by some apps, you can also force stop them in here.
Similar to Froyo, Gingerbread has an advanced app management app which allow the user to transfer most of the apps to the 15GB USB storage available in Nexus S from the 1GB internal storage, though I am yet to use it since the 1GB internal storage is really adequate, considering some of the large size apps (usually games) automatically store the files in USB storage. In the same app, running and cached services are also shown more intuitively, and the user can stop these services – a good feature to have for power user (therefore in a way, Advanced Task Killer is no longer needed).
Near Field Communication (NFC) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – Thanks to the additional NFC support in Nexus S and Gingerbread, this second Google phone is somewhat future-proof, as it is believed that the NFC is the future in mobile payment (even there is rumor saying the iPhone 5 will have NFC built-in). If you are in Malaysia and you aren’t aware, the Touch’n’Go system in the country is in fact using the NFC technology. With my Nexus S’s NFC turned on, the phone is able detect the card, though it is detected as an unknown tag, which is expected. Currently the technology is still pretty new, so let’s hope the developers are able to find a good use of it (Update 28/03/2011: Charge Anywhere seems to be the pioneer to turn Nexus S into a full mobile payment terminal).
Google Nexus S with Gingerbread also claimed to have natively supports VoIP and SIP account calling, though I never really have a chance to test it. However, a brief test using the Skype app in Nexus S really impressed me – the call quality is really good, and it seems to be even better than the call made through GSM, but I am aware that it is also depends on the internet quality, and it is using P2P system rather than the supported SIP. It is nice to have VoIP/SIP natively supported, but I can foresee that the telecommunication companies won’t be very happy about this.
All the above summarized all the new features that I have been experienced in Gingerbread and Google Nexus S. In Day 8, I will reveal the hidden apps I mentioned previously, not two, but three, in the Google Nexus S I received.
More experiences tomorrow!