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I've been using a Nexus One for the past year and half and am very happy with it as a phone. I am not, however, happy with my carrier and so will be trading up very soon. Amongst the current crop of 4G phones, the Nexus S has caught my attention, largely due to its similarity to the Nexus One.

One major difference between the two has me concerned, however — I absolutely love the trackball on my N1 and am having trouble picturing how I'll be able to use a phone as effectively without one. My main concerns are:

  1. Text entry. I tend to edit my emails / text messages / etc. as I write them by jumping back and forth frequently. The trackball makes this very easy to do with great precision.
  2. Games. I play a number of puzzle games (Shortyz, Vexed Pro, Andoku, etc.) which all benefit greatly from the "scroll-and-click" interface of the trackball.

Does the Nexus S (or Gingerbread) offer anything to fill the holes left by the removal of the trackball? I've seen mention of a "brand new text-selection paradigm" introduced in Gingerbread, but haven't the faintest idea what that's in reference to.

I had been hoping for something like arrow keys on the soft keyboard, but if a setting for them exists, I'm not able to find it.

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just breathe and you'll live... – eradicus May 17 '11 at 8:32
@Joset: breathing is necessary, but is not sufficient to sustain living. To live, you also need water, food, and a phone with a trackball. Some politicians would also want to include housing, sanitation, education, and/or healthcare, but they were not basic needs in any sense since you can sustain life without all those luxuries; however it is not possible to live without air, food, water, and a phone with a trackball; they are the only 4 basic needs of humanity. – Lie Ryan May 17 '11 at 10:47
@Lie I'd add heat and shelter, and unlimited internet access to that list and I think you're there. – GAThrawn May 17 '11 at 12:45
I think people are taking @Joset's comment too seriously and/or missing the point. – Chance May 17 '11 at 13:23
@Joset — But this is serious! :-D – Ben Blank May 17 '11 at 14:57
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Keyboards like Smart Keyboard and Better Keyboard (*Tap ?123 and then <> key to access) do indeed have arrow keys that can appear below the normal onscreen keyboard or as a separate keyboard containing arrow keys alone.

The caveat being, the onscreen keyboard will use up some of your screen real-estate while in use.

As regards games, most non-HTC Android devices are without trackpads and D-pads too (unfortunately!), so most game devs would bear that in mind. I don't know if the onscreen keyboard would work in the games you play, however.

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I'll definitely give both of those keyboards a look, thanks! – Ben Blank May 17 '11 at 15:00
I'm still playing around with it, but Smart Keyboard is just impressing the heck out of me, for more reasons than I can get into in a comment. I suspect they're going to walk away with three of my dollars soon. :-) – Ben Blank May 18 '11 at 1:15

I'll be honest it's probably not something you'll miss at all after a few weeks. My previous Android phone was an HTC Magic, apart from text selection I found the trackball pretty useless on that. Since upgrading to a Galaxy S, that has no trackball/pad/d-pad at all, I can honestly say that I haven't needed one since about the first week, I think I've found two games total that needed a trackball, and they had so many "needs a trackball, doesn't work on my phone" type one-star reviews, that the devs must have changed them by now.

Gingerbread has a text selection feature based on tapping in the text and dragging your finger that works very well, Samsung's Touchwiz interface has had an incredibly similar interface for text selection since Eclair (I think) and that works well.

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And on the games note, with so many developers releasing their games on both Android and iOS these days, there's going to be less and less of them making any use of the trackball at all. As the iPhone doesn't have a trackball and it's easier for them to use a similar control scheme on both platforms, makes sense for them to use a totally touch/accelerometer/gyro/compass based interface. – GAThrawn May 17 '11 at 13:39
Shoot, I was hoping the hubbub was about something more impressive than the new text selection. I have enormous fingers; in a quick test, it took me four tries to successfully place the insertion point between a pair of "t"s. :-/ – Ben Blank May 17 '11 at 15:05
@Ben I had that problem on and off, until I realised I was really pressing down on the screen. Being a capacitive screen, it only needs the lightest of brushes of your finger, and the lighter you press the smaller and more accurate your touch-point is. Also once you've put the cursor in roughly right the right place you should be able to drag it the few characters to the left or right as needed fairly easily. – GAThrawn May 17 '11 at 15:14

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