Google Nexus S: 16 tips and tricks £549.95

24th Dec 2010 | 12:40

Google Nexus S: 16 tips and tricks

Supercharged with even more hidden hints

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

A solid if unspectacular performance from Google - it's a great phone with a very usable interface, but perhaps lacks the wow factor of some of its contemporaries

Like:

Snappy OS; Android 2.3 with early future updates; Stunning AMOLED screen; Improved battery life; Cool lock screen animation;

Dislike:

Underpowered UI; Not enough Home screen widgets; Slight freezing at times; Light design; Random phone restarting;

So you've read TechRadar's in-depth Google Nexus S review, you've reconciled the (now much lower) price and you've ordered the latest smartphone - now it's time to turn into a power user.

Here's a round up of the secrets and tips you'll need to know to get the most out of your latest gadget, so read on to go from Android amateur to Nexus know-it-all.

1. Reclaim the comma

One of the first irritations you'll encounter with the Google Nexus S is the lack of a comma - the keyboard has a voice search icon where the oft-used symbol should be.

Nexus s settings

But there's a way to reclaim it - head into Settings, and choose Language and Keyboard. Tap Android Keyboard and in there you'll see a dropdown menu labelled Voice input.

From here you can select whether the voice search icon is on the front screen, the symbol menu or delete it altogether - and more importantly, the comma is back where it belongs.

2. Inbuilt battery graph

A massive problem for smartphones is the battery maintenance - so many devices have offered such poor battery life that some have been rendered virtually unusable.

The Nexus S isn't that bad in terms of holding its charge, but if you want to see what's happening with your battery, the phone comes with a battery graph built in.

Nexus s battery graph

Simply go into Settings, then tap About Phone. Open Battery Use and hit the smaller battery graph at the top - this then opens up into a fully-fledged graph complete with information on how fast your power depleted and what the phone was doing at the time.

3. Get rid of unwanted apps quickly

You probably know already how to uninstall applications on the phone in the menu system.

But this can take a while, and ultimately frustrate you into leaving some apps that you didn't reach.

But if you open up the Android Market, you'll see a Downloads tab that shows you everything you've nabbed from Google's portal.

Nexus s uninstall apps

Choose any of these and the option to Uninstall is present in the bottom right-hand corner - the list is easier to access and quicker to use, and you can give feedback to the developer on why you uninstalled it too.

4. Boost your media experience

The media experience on the Android 2.3 platform is unfortunately not that good natively - incompatibility with many file types and basic operation mar the experience.

For music, we recommend MixZing - it has all the features of the Android experience but also has Genius-like abilities to mix a playlist based on a single song choice, as well as a decent inbuilt EQ make it a real step up.

Nexus s media

For movies, mVideo Player is the one we reach for instantly whenever we pick up an Android phone. The powerful player has a high level of file compatibility, multiple bookmark options and even a slider for brightness management.

You can even see the clock when viewing a video if you so wish - an oft-overlooked feature.

5. Unlock the power of voice

We mentioned we didn't like the voice input icon on the keyboard, but that doesn't mean we aren't fans of voice search.

From calling and navigation to text entry and Google searching, your voice can be activated by simply holding down the search key.

Nexus s voice search

If you're already in an application (say text message editor) you can hit the icon to simply say your text - although you'd have to ask whether a phone call makes more sense at this point.

6. Stop the constant sipping

We've mentioned battery management earlier - and there's a way you can stop it plummeting downhill instantly.

If you head into the Settings menu and choose Accounts and Sync, there's a large checkbox for background data.

Nexus s battery life

If you only periodically check things like social networks or email, then this is a great way to save some power, as you can get the same functionality by just manually updating when you open the app.

It does mean things like push notifications won't work, but if you're after a decent battery saving and don't care about instant updates, give this a go.

7. Go 3D with Google Maps

Google Maps 3D is here - well, for Cardiff and Birmingham in the UK. The new Google Maps 5.0 for Android is by far the most powerful offering so far, with the 3D vector view allowing you to zoom in and twist around certain cities from your mobile.

Nexus s google maps

Other additional functions include compass orientation, for easier foot navigation, and offline caching, where the phone cleverly works out the places you frequent the most and downloads the date when you're on Wi-Fi and plugged in (ie on the nightly charge).

8. Unlock your file system

Although some phones (like the Samsung Galaxy S) include an inbuilt file management system, the Google Nexus S has no such functionality.

This means when you've copied media across to the phone but can't see it in the gallery you're pretty much stuffed - unless you download a file manager.

Nexus s file manager

We're fans of Astro - not only is it ridiculously easy to fly through the folder branches, it can also unzip folders and search for file names - and it's free too.

9. Take a picture of yourself

One of the new features of Android 2.3 is a support for video calling, and to that end the Google Nexus S has a front-facing camera to facilitate it.

The problem is there's no mainstream application to let you call using the front VGA camera - but you can still use it to take pictures.

Nexus s front camera

Simply fire up the camera and hit the camera switch icon in the bottom right-hand corner - you can take slightly gawpy pictures of your mug as quick as a flash.

10. Easier copy and paste

Android 2.3 comes with enhanced copy and paste, making it easy to just hold down a word and see it copied to the keyboard.

In text editing, you can cut or copy the word, and on the internet you simply need to long press on a phrase and drag the tabs to choose the selection you're after, with a quick tap auto-copying the text.

Nexus s copy and paste

The tabs are now much larger and easier to manipulate as well, making it a much more simple experience when trying to move text from one place to another.

11. Check out the downloads

This might sound like a simple update, but there's now a dedicated application for items you've downloaded from the internet.

Nexus s downloads

It saves you having to delve into the internet browser to get pictures or applications you've snaffled from the web, and delete them easily too.

12. Bars to stop you scrolling

When you're running through a list and get to the bottom, sometimes you're not sure whether you've reached the end or if the phone is still loading more options.

Google has added in some orange flashes when you hit the top or bottom of a list as a visual cue - it's not the most piviotal upgrade, but it's certainly adds to the sheen of your phone.

13.Magic tricks with photos

OK, not technically magic, but it certainly feels as cool as a card trick.

When in the gallery view, you already will know that the stacks of pictures mean there's more than one item in that category - but here comes the awesome part.

Put two fingers on the top of the stack, pull them apart and watch as the pics fly between your two digits - not only is it visually a veritable thrill, but you can easily see what's in there too.

14. Access the special characters with ease

If you're after a bracket or @ sign, you don't need to faff about with the symbols section - simply holding down the full stop key will bring up a grid of them.

Simply slide up your finger to access new characters, including dashes, colons and the ever-popular + symbol.

If you do the same with the comma key (assuming you've moved it to the front screen) then this will also offer up and easy way to see the settings for the keyboard too.

Google nexus s review

15. Auto-correct supercharging

Google ushas ed the Android 2.3 upgrade to make auto-corrected typing a little easier: simply start writing a word, and when the autocorrect has an option, the space bar lights up to indicate you can confirm and use it.

If you've done this, but it's the wrong word, simply tap the offending selection of letters and the autocorrect options will spring back up too.

16. Quick access to numbers and capitals

Using the multi-touch hardware doesn't just make it easier to type faster, it adds quick flick options for speed keystokers.

For instance: hold the shift key and press a letter and it will capitalise it without needing to enter the shift mode separately.

Or you can hold the symbol key down and use your other finger to hit the numbers - let go and the ABC keyboard springs magically back in.

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Liked this? Then check out our Google Nexus S review

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