By the numbers: Nexus S vs. HTC Incredible S vs. iPhone 4

We put it out in the open that the recently launched Nexus S is probably one of the most overpriced smart phones in the local market today (this is of course not considering absurdities like the Vertu et all). We find this rather odd considering a similarly speced HTC Incredible S that was launched on the same day is close to RM500 cheaper than the Google phone.

Is the premium on the Nexus S warranted? Some seem to think so. The supporters claim that the Nexus S delivers a pure, unadulterated Google experience and that being the only device currently available that’s running the latest version of the Android OS — Android 2.3 Gingerbread — the additional cost is warranted.

But is it? Is the Nexus S a better phone compared to its closest competitor the HTC Incredible S for it to command such a high price? Spec for spec how would both of this top shelf Android devices compare with the iPhone 4?

We’ve compiled all important specs for you to compare you can make the right choice. Head on over to after the jump to get all the details.

Here’s how the devices stack up against each other.

In terms of processing power, the Incredible S edges over both the Nexus S and the iPhone 4 with its massive 768MB RAM and newer Snapdragon MSM8255 coupled with the Adreno 205 GPU. To the user this means much improved graphics performance as well as better efficiency that is very likely to yield better battery life.

It’s worth pointing out that the Samsung Hummingbird Arm Cortex processor in the Nexus S is identical to the one powering the Samsung Galaxy S that was launched in early June 2010. This means the processor on the Nexus S is three months short to being a year old — an eternity in processor years. Having said that, independent testing have revealed the Hummingbird S5PC110 to be a competent processor and delivers performance on par with the newer Snapdragon.

Where the Nexus S excels is in its graphics performance attributed to the PowerVR SGX 540 GPU being inherently better than the Adreno 205 in the Incredible S but the additional RAM in the Incredible S should square things off.

Meanwhile, the A4 processor on the iPhone 4 sits in the middle. While still based on the Cortex A8 chip like the other two devices, the A4 is newer compared to the Hummingbird in the Nexus S but underclocked to run 777MHz rather than the possible 1GHz clock speed.

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Overall, all three devices offer competent performance in terms of responsiveness and processing power with all three using different ways to deliver a slick user experience. No complaints here.

Internal Storage
At first glance, it would seem that the Nexus S and the iPhone 4 has the advantage over the HTC Incredible S with both offering 16GB of internal storage while the HTC offering only 1.1GB. But if you consider that the memory in the Incredible S is expandable up to 32GB using Micro SD card and that both the Nexus S and iPhone 4 doesn’t support expandable memory then advantage is back on HTC’s side on the account that it is potentially capable of holding double the internal memory of the Nexus S and iPhone 4.

Clear win to the HTC Incredible S on this one.

There has been much debate about the lack of Super AMOLED on the Nexus S. Many see the Super LCD on the Nexus S that are shipped to Malaysia as inferior. In our experience, there is really no discernible difference between the two display technology, not to the naked eye at least. So in this respect we have no qualms that both the Nexus S and Incredible S uses 4-inch Super LCD screens.

Although the technology are similar, the displays on both the Nexus S and Incredible S behave differently. We note that the refresh rate and white balance on the Nexus S is better compared to the slightly slower refresh rate and warmer tone on the screen of the Incredible S. So in this case we chalk up a point for the Nexus S.

How does the 800×480 4-inch Super LCD screens on both devices compare to the 960×640 3.5-inch Retina Display on the iPhone 4? Again, just by looking at it we struggle to find any difference between the three devices. In fact, having compared all three, we’d still stick with the Nexus S as the device with the better display with its cooler colours and faster refresh rate, all things being equal.

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Battery capacity
We haven’t had the chance to test both the Nexus S and Incredible S extensively so we can’t say much on the battery performance but on battery capacity alone the Nexus S leads the pack with a 1500mAH battery compared to 1450mAh on the Incredible S and 1420mAh on the iPhone 4.

We’d like to point out that battery capacity only tells one part of the story. So without extensive testing we won’t be able to say which device has the best battery performance.

In terms of camera specs the Incredible S is way ahead with an 8MP sensor and dual-LED flash for its rear camera and a 1.3MP forward facing camera. Both the Nexus S and iPhone 4 get a 5MP read camera with single LED flash and a piddly 0.3MP forward facing camera.

In terms of video recording capabilities, both the iPhone 4 and Incredible S can shoot 720p videos. Unbelievably, the Nexus S can’t. This strikes us as very odd considering that the Samsung Galaxy S that the Nexus S is heavily based on can shoot decent 720p videos.

While we can’t comment on the camera performance of either the Incredible S and Nexus S, we can’t accept that a flagship phone like the Nexus S is not able to shoot 720p when its hardware is perfectly capable of doing so. Disappointing.

So that is some of the key features that separate the Nexus S and the Incredible S. From this, it does appear that the Nexus S has its fair share of shortcomings when pitted against a class competitor. But what about the cost of ownership of these devices?

For customers who are interested in taking up a contract for a cheaper up front payment on the devices we’ve crunch the numbers for you and sumarise it in the chart below. And once again the Nexus S stands out as a not so good value for money purchase.

In the cost of ownership comparison chart above we’ve taken the liberty to choose the cheapest plan (in the case of the Maxis Android and iValue plans) and discount the fact that the cost of phone calls and SMS can skew the final cost of ownership. This is done to simplify calculations but these assumptions don’t detract from our objective of finding which plan with which device is cheaper for you in the long run.

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And as you can see in the chart, the HTC Incredible S with DiGi’s Smart Plan produced the cheapest cost of ownership across both 12- and 24-months contract by some margin. Surprisingly, the cost to own the Nexus S is even more expensive than owning a 16GB iPhone 4. Considering that the iPhone 4 is generally perceived as a premium product it’s mind-boggling to think that Samsung would want to price the Nexus S higher.

Does Samsung perceive the Nexus S as even more premium than the iPhone 4? If they do then they are delusional. The Nexus S is made mostly out of plastic while the iPhone 4 uses strengthened glass as its primary construction material. How is it possible for plastic to cost more than glass?

At the end of the day
So what can we take away from this on paper comparison of the Nexus S, HTC Incredible S and iPhone 4. Well as far as Android devices go, we’re struggling to find the appeal of the Nexus S.

Pure Google device? Gingerbread? All these arguments are moot considering that the Incredible S will get a Gingerbread update in June. As for pure Google, although we don’t have any qualms with the plain vanilla treatment on the Nexus S, there’s really not much wrong with the HTC Sense UI skin on the Incredible S either. In terms of UI then, it would seem the decision making will come down to preference of whether you’d want your Android in plain vanila flavour or with some UI garnishing on top.

But one key factor when making a smart phone purchase is cost. And with the lack of expandable memory, less pixel count on both front and rear cameras and the glaring omission of 720p video recording, it’s hard to come to terms as to why the Nexus S costs so much yet at the same time the HTC Incredible S can offer so much for RM500 less.

If it was our money going to the purchase of one of these Android devices, based on what we’ve revealed here, it will go to the HTC Incredible S.