The Orange View (on hiatus) Because Apple is great but it isn't perfect

26Apr/11Off

Is there anything worse than Dave Winer buying your favorite gadget

Dave Winer doesn't like being described as curmudgeonly but the famed web developer and critic isn't shy about sharing his dislikes with the world. Unfortunately for me, Winer's latest toy is the Samsung Nexus S "Google" phone, aka the same phone I have.

There's nothing inherently wrong with Winer sharing his various and sundry negative impressions about the phone. He thinks the screen is "pretty bad," the feel is "light, cheap plastic" and, compared to the iPhone 4,  the Nexus S is like a "McDonald's happy meal toy."

It's certainly Winer's right to voice his off-the-cuff opinions and it informs the conversation to some degree. But in isolation, I don't find his critique sufficiently balanced or useful for people making their own purchasing decisions. In fact, I recently lost my Nexus S and went through a fresh April, 2011, phone purchasing decision. And I ended up buying another Nexus S.

So I'll write this entry as a short rebuttal and link back to Dave and see if that doesn't more fully inform the greater gadget consciousness online.

Look and feel may be the most subjective and personal of phone traits. The Nexus S is very light and sculpted to fit nicely in the palm. Unlike the iPhone 4 and many others, it is not symmetrical and thus you know just how to orient it right side up in your hand without looking at it. Very handy when grabbing out of a pocket. And the screen is detailed and bright and readable in all but the harshest sunlight.

And the build quality is also extremely high. I have dropped my phone, carried it in pockets with keys and generally whacked it all over and there's not a scratch on it. It's far more robust than my iPhone 3GS which took a licking and just stopped ticking.

Some things I wonder about Winer's reactions:

  • Is the automatic brightness setting, which defaults to less than 50% in most situations, tripping up Winer's screen assessment? [UPDATE: In comments below, Dave says this isn't it]
  • Winer paid "almost $600" at Best Buy because he wasn't getting the phone with a two-year contract, which also seems to have influenced his evaluation ("For a $600 piece of hardware..."). Most people buy at the subsidized price, which is down to only $100.
  • Will his opinion change after weeks, not just hours, with the phone? The merits of the superior virtual keyboard, integration of Google Voice and other Google services and many more bits of the OS that I use hundreds of times a day only became clear after some weeks.
  • How much does he use his phone for watching video? That's not one of my primary uses and it's one of Android's biggest weaknesses. If he, or any other potential buyer, are focused on watching lots of first run movies and TV shows, the iPhone is the far better option right now.

Posted by Aaron Pressman

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  1. Is there anything worse than someone disagreeing with you and making it personal? 🙂

    I carefully labeled by observations as those of a newbie.

    To your question about comparing the screen to the iPhone’s being a matter of it not being bright enough, not true. Try using an iPhone and you’ll see. There’s a world of difference.

    I am using it. I bought a prepaid SIM for it. And I’ve been an Android user since the Droid came out. So I’m not a newbie there either. Though I have invested a lot more time in learning IOS, partially because I am a daily iPad user.

    I sent a link to your piece to all my Twitter followers. I’m glad you posted your comments, and I’m also glad you used a blog instead of a corporate silo like Facebook or Quora.

    • You have to learn how to use iOS?

      Hmmmmm woulda thought the nexus s screen would be better for videos with it being bigger.

      S-AMOLED 235PPI vs 326 PPI LCD

      hmmm need a side by side comparison I suppose, but PPI would in theory be equalized by the smaller screen that you would have to look closer at, UNLESS no matter what the size you kept the phone at the same distance.

      • @Gab, there are MANY issues about screen display but I’ll call out two:

        1. If you hold a 3.5″ diagonal screen 10.5″ from your eyes, it looks exactly the same size as a 4″ diagonal screen held 12″ away. Then, how many pixels are there? The Nexus has only 5/8 as many, so it’s blockier.

        2. The “PenTile” Super AMOLED displays from Samsung have only 2 colors at each location, so the resolution is further reduced — net-net, it can only show about 43% as many independent items.

        Photos and videos on PenTile displays are reported to look quite pleasing, but are “softer,” less focussed than other displays with the same resolution. Fine text, especially some color combos like blue on white that are normally easily read, can get downright fuzzy and harder to read.

        So yes, give that side-by-side a good look. If you use your smartphone for much reading on websites or extended reading of books (my wife loves the Kindle app on her phone), you might be even bring a jeweler’s loupe and check how the text might be eye-straining.

  2. There were reports everywhere (specifically either androidandme or androidcentral or one of those blogs) about random dropped calls . . . was that ever a problem for you?


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