We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Nexus S world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. For the most part, call quality was admirable and we detected little static or feedback. Voices didn't always sound natural (see below), but we could hear our callers clearly and our friends could understand us with few issues. Like on its siblings, the volume on the AT&T Nexus S was a bit lower than we'd like. It wasn't a problem in most locations, but we had trouble hearing in busy public places.
When compared with the other Nexus S models, the AT&T handset's audio sounded closer to Sprint's phone than it did to T-Mobile's. It was sharper and a bit robotic, while the T-Mobile Nexus S' audio was deeper and somewhat smoother. On the other hand, while the AT&T phone also has a bit of "GSM buzz," it wasn't as apparent as on the T-Mobile device. Either way, we don't think the difference is huge, but it is noticeable just the same. Most callers could tell that we were using a cell phone.
AT&T Samsung Nexus S call quality sample
Sprint Samsung Nexus S 4G call quality sample
T-Mobile Samsung Nexus S call quality sample
Speakerphone calls were satisfactory. The volume can get quite loud, but it gets pretty choppy at the highest levels. Callers could understand us when we stayed close to the phone and we could understand them if we kept background noise to a minimum.
We didn't notice any difference with the GPS feature. It's best when you use Wi-Fi, of course, but even without it the phone found our location quickly and was off by a city block at the most. The 1GHz processor remains speedy, too, though it will lag behind the newer crop of dual-core Android phones.
As mentioned, it's disappointing that data speeds on the AT&T Nexus S top out at 3G. We realize that LTE isn't a possibility at this point, but HSPA+ support would have been nice considering AT&T already has a section of handsets that support its faster network. Eight months ago we wouldn't have been making such a fuss, but following Sprint's WiMax-enabled handset, AT&T's Nexus S looks behind the curve.
Here's how the three handsets compare when opening full versions of four Web sites. Not surprisingly, Sprint's 4G WiMax network delivered the best speeds by far. T-Mobile's 3G network also was faster, though by a smaller margin, and AT&T's network was faster than Sprint's 3G network. What this means to you will depend on your situation. If you live in a Sprint 4G area, we'd have to recommend that handset (even with the), but T-Mobile offers the best experience when running only on 3G.
|AT&T||Sprint (4G)||Sprint (3G)||T-Mobile|
(All times are in seconds)
The Samsung Nexus S remains a great device in many respects. And when a great device lands at a new carrier, we're usually happy. With this Nexus S, however, AT&T is just a little late to the game. Not only is it landing at AT&T eight months after its original release, but also we don't get anything new. And when you consider that it's arriving after Sprint's Nexus S 4G, you wind up with a device that just looks rather dated. We still love it for its Gingerbread and stock Android OS, but at this point there are more powerful choices in AT&T's lineup.