Yep, I picked up a Google Nexus One. For me, it’s my first serious foray into Android and the land of the Eclairs, Donuts, and Cupcakes. Would Google’s full touch-screen phone entice me to completely drop my two-week-old Nokia N900?
The Nexus One is a beautiful phone. Period. It feels expensive – contrast that to the N900, which just feels like high-quality plastic for the most part – and HTC has done a great job with the look and feel. The front and sides are some kind of metallic plastic mix, while the back cover has a rubbery (but not cheap rubber) feel. It’s super thin and well-built to boot.
The touch-screen is a large 3.7″ WVGA (800×480) AMOLED display, and pretty much everything looks superb on it. I have to admit, though, that I am not a big fan of the Nexus One’s capacitive touch-screen. It’s very finicky – sometimes you’ll be tapping on the screen in vain while the phone completely ignores you. It’s not a common occurence, just an unpleasant one. Say what you will, but I’d much rather deal with the slightly less sensitive resistive screen on the N900 because I feel like my fingernail taps are far more accurate.
This complaint also extends to the virtual keyboard, which I have found to be less than satisfying. I’ve probably mistyped 90% of the words on this phone. I just couldn’t get used to it, and it was always more of a hindrance than a help. And the onscreen keyboard in portrait mode? Don’t even get me started.
Other faults with the phone hardware are pretty minor: the camera lens does protrude a bit from the back of the phone, and you’ll probably end up accidentally smudging it several times like I did. The trackball is generally not too useful, except for those times when I needed to edit text (I couldn’t seem to insert the cursor into any text with any precision). The loudspeaker could’ve been louder – mainly because it’s located on the back of the phone, so when the phone is lying flat the sound is muted somewhat. Definitely missed a few calls thanks to that.
Finally, battery life was above average. I was never really in any danger of running low on battery life, but keep in mind I was using EDGE instead of HSPA as I’m still on AT&T, and the Nexus One is conveniently missing AT&T’s 850/1900 bands.
The latest version of Android, 2.1, is extremely easy to use and well-suited for novice and expert smartphone users alike. It’s super fast, stylish, and intuitive. For the most part, at least. One annoyance: the Nexus One’s Home screen, which doesn’t support landscape mode. Doesn’t sound like a biggie, right? Try using the Google Search widget without a landscape keyboard: it’s damn near impossible.
Since this is a Google phone, there’s a lot of integration with Google’s core platforms – Gmail, Talk, Maps, etc. The apps are pretty much what you’d expect, honestly. Gmail works well. Google Talk works well. Maps works well, but I didn’t have much use for it without some kind of stand for my car.
One of the new features that the Nexus One brings to the table is speech recognition, or speech-to-text. The voice search feature worked surprisingly well, to the point of even recognizing really basic Chinese. That was cool. Realistically, though, I can’t see this being a useful form of text entry until we get to the point where you can just talk normally, sprinkling in voice commands with speech-to-text messages and searches. (like in say, Iron Man)
What I really liked about the software was the little touches that made the Nexus One stand out from the competition. By that I mean things like a running list of features using up the most battery, to the time elapsed since the last charge (why doesn’t every phone has this), to the live wallpapers, and even the factory reset, which actually functions like a factory reset and completely removes all traces of your information (unfortunately, your apps go with it). Super smooth kinetic scrolling everywhere was a cherry on top.
As for multi-tasking, well, I still don’t get it. I honestly have no idea what apps are open at any given time. It’s actually a little annoying. You can, however, remedy this with some third-party apps (Advanced Task Killer). It just seems sort of a strange that you’d need an outside app to do this.
There’s also no multi-touch, which I’m sure will offend a number of people on many levels. Coming from nothing by multi-touch-less phones, I can’t say that I really missed it. A review by Engadget’s review made a pretty good point though – the lack of multi-touch will certainly hurt gaming possibilities for the phone.
Comparing the Nexus One to the N900
The Nexus One has a lot going for it. It’s faster and has a far better user interface than the N900. There are a hell of a lot more apps on Android’s app store than there will, probably, ever be on Nokia’s Ovi store. And yet…I’m keeping my N900. The multi-tasking is far more robust, the keyboard is far more reliable, and – this might be the main reason – I just feel like I have more control with my Maemo-powered phone.
Of course, this thinking isn’t for everyone. There’s a good chance my priorities are different from yours. If you’re looking for a good iPhone substitute, the Nexus One is up there with the best of ‘em. It might even be the next best thing to the iPhone.