Hands-on – Google Nexus S

Launched yesterday, touched today – exlusive pics and hands-on with Google's new superphone

Google's Nexus S lives... and we got our hands on a pristine handset to wipe our grubby finger smears all over. So, is Google's latest good enough to do battle with the good and great of smartphone royalty. We very much think so...

First thing you notice on Google's Samsung-built smartie (apart from the unusual shape – more on that later) is the depth of its AMOLED screen. Blacks are deep, almost to the point you can't work out where the display ends and the bezel begins, and icons look vibrant – almost begging to be touched.

Here's a closer look. Nice, eh? And the Nexus S flies along. There's no jitter when you tap and swipe – it feels as fast and natural as an iPhone. There are some nice touches too, like the old-school TV switch off graphic when you power down the screen.

And there's this wraparound scroll effect that cascades hidden apps down a non-existent wall. Call us suckers for a bit of eye-candy UI, but we're suckers for a bit of eye-candy UI.

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Like the Galaxy S, the Nexus S has a reverse chin. But the back panel has been trimmed in and making the phone feel more solid in your hand. The whole unit feels tighter – and much more droppable. Not that we'd dare.

Not the most exciting angle, perhaps, but here you can see the end (bottom) mounted jack, mic and USB connector. Oh, and that curvy form, but that's better seen from the side.

Like so. Not much more we can say about that, is there? Except that this is a pre-production device (it doesn't feel like one), and Google says the one that we'll be reviewing shortly may have an even more crazily banana-shaped form. Gadzooks!

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In case you missed the news, the Nexus S is also the launchpad for Android 2.3, known to its friends as Gingerbread. The big deal? Near Field Communication (NFC) is present for the first time. Yes, we know you had it on a Nokia years ago, but who's ever used it? Here's the Nexus S using a sticker to navigate to Buck House's website. We're promised there will be better things to do with it in future – like checking into Foursquare or Facebook Places, paying your bus fare or buying milk.

Here you go, version fetishists – this one's for you. Oooh, just look at that Baseband version. Yummy. While we're here, it's worth pointing out that the Nexus S is claiming a bigger battery life. Granted we were blasting all over the place with it, but we got through 13 per cent in as many minutes. We'll have a full test soon to confirm whether it can hold up longer than the competition.

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And there's a spanky new keyboard as well. It looks nicer... it is nicer. Typing is fast and fluid even with our drunken fingers (we weren't actually drunk, we're just a bit clumsy). 

Here's a nice touch. Hold down one of the top line of keys and you get numbers and special characters. No more zipping off to a whole new keyboard when you're typing in addresses and passwords. Good thinking. Equally easy is one-touch word selection... in fact, Apple could learn a thing or two from Android's new finger tapping tricks.

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It feels a bit pedestrian in the grand scheme of things, but there's the (now standard) 5MP cam on the back. We suspect it's the same glass you'll find in Sammy's Galaxy S, but can't confirm yet.

Ah, the obligatory iPhone comparison shots. Sadly, only with a 3GS (all that was handy in Stuff's gadget bin in the rush to get out the door).

And that, as they say, is that. You can colour us impressed with Google's latest. And the fact that it's guaranteed to be kept up to date with new OS releases means our first impressions declare it should be the Android fan's new handset of choice. We'll shore up that hunch with a full test very soon. Watch this space.

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