January 11, 2010 11

The Superphone Cometh – Nexus One Review

By in Reviews

A Google phone has been a long time coming, for years many enthusiasts have been hoping for the search giant to develop a handset – and finally our wishes have been answered.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard of the recently and much hyped Nexus One.

I was eager to get my hands on the phone and to find out where the phone lives up to the hype, or is it just another over-hyped empty shell. I’ve now had a little time to play around with the phone, and I can tell you that it completely dominates the field.

Read on to find out more.


[All the images for the post are at the bottom of the post in the image gallery]

Initial impressions

Before you get even lay your eyes on the phone the box instantly grabs your attention (at least it did for me). Google have opted to go for an extremely minimalistic approach (see image below). There are no specifications, no product images or anything.

Personally, I welcome this approach – I’ve already bought the phone why does it need to resold to me to again?

In the box: Once inside you will the handset, battery, sync cable, a soft case, and charger.

On the surface

The first time you hold the phone in your hands, you realise just how sleek and light the device is. It really is a pleasure to just hold it in your hands.

It’s got a beautiful and bright 3.7-inch AMOLED screen, running at a resolution of 800×480 pixels. It has the only four buttons on the front (back, menu, home and search (of course!)), plus a trackball, which by the way is able to display multiple colours.

Other than that there is the usual volume buttons on the side, the power and 3.5mm headphone jack on the top and usb port and dock connectors at the bottom.

All of this is house in a gorgeous and thin chassis (it’s thinner than a #2 pencil!), and with the battery attached weighs only 130g.

I should mention that setting up the phone is extremely easy to do. When you first turn the phone-on you simply sign-in or sign-up to a Google account and within minutes your phone is populated with your emails, contacts and calendars.

N.b. You can also get the phone custom engraved, I chose not to, but from the examples I’ve seen it looks pretty cool.

Under the hood

Under the hood the phone is running a 1GHz ‘Snapdragon’ Qualcomm QSD 8250 processor – which basically means a really fast processor – and it is exactly that.

The processor handles the the visual enhancement that come included with Android 2.1 (live wallpapers, 3D effects on menu, and other animations) extremely well. During general use I’ve not noticed any lag.

Although there was occasional lag if I had Twidroid (twiter app), music player and browser running at the same time but this only seem to be apparent if I chose to go to the home screen – and even then only occasionally.

Elsewhere the phone has the usual GPS, stereo Bluetooth, digital compass, light and proximity sensors and accelerometer onboard. It also features two mics for active noise cancelling, which I’ve found to work like a charm.

Wi-Fi is provided in B and G variety also I have read at several instances that the phone is capable of wireless N, though whether this is true or not remains to be seen.

Camera

The camera’s 5 megapixel with an LED flash, and the quality compared with my previous phones (HTC Touch Pro 2 & HTC Hero) is great. There is 2x digital zoom, with autofocus from 6cm to infinity.

Of course, the camera is also able to capture video at 720×480 pixels at 20fps (or higher), and you are able to upload the videos directly to YouTube (this works very well, though due to the size of the video files you are only able to upload videos via Wi-Fi).

The single LED flash seems to work well enough, but perhaps it may have been better to have two. The only real complain I have with the camera is that sometimes it can take a little too long!

Have a look at the sample images and video below to gauge the quality for yourself.

Battery

Of course being a cell phone, the battery life is quite an important factor, Google promises:

  • Up to 7 hours talk time on 3G (up to 10 on 2G)
  • Up to 250 hours standby time on 3G (up to 290 on 2G)
  • Up to 5 hours of Internet use on 3G (up to 6.5 on Wi-Fi)
  • Up to 7 hours of video playback, and
  • Up to 20 hours of audio playback

These seem to be more or less on par with what I found during my time with the phone. However, I would emphasise that if you use the phone on a regular basis, then likely you will need to charge the phone on a daily basis.

The good news is that the battery is removable which means that you can purchase and keep a spare with you for emergency use.

Software

The nexus one boasts the latest build of Google’s mobile OS, Android 2.1 (Eclair).

If you’ve used an android device before (one that isn’t running a custom skin like HTC Sense), is that it packs a lot of eye candy – from the home screen, to the menus, to certain applications and widgets.

There are certain features that there purely for cosmetic value, such as the live wallpapers (theses are wallpapers that you can interact with), and others that make the device much more fun to interact with.

Here are some of features that I thought were particularly neat:

  • The home screen: the home screen now boasts five tabs or pages to place your apps, up from the previous three. The screen you’re on is shown by dots on button corners of the screen, and if you long press on these you get a card like overview of all your pages.
  • The menu as well as the icons have also been given an overhaul. The icons look great and the menu has a 3D rolodex thing going on.
  • One of the best features is voice search (though this was also available in Android 2.0), and the brand new speech-to-text ability. The most impressive thing is that this works for almost all text field (except fields for things like username and passwords for obvious reasons!). This is an extremely useful feature, for things like texting whilst driving etc. It is accurate (as long as you speak as if to a little child), but the only problem is that it seems to require the use of an active data connection so it doesn’t work a 100% of times.
  • There are also a couple of very useful widgets – first is a “Power control” widget which allows for one-click toggle of your wireless, Bluetooth and other settings. Secondly, there is the “news and weather” widget which gives you minute-by-minute history of the weather at your location as well as the top headlines.

Being an Google phone obliviously it works wonderfully well with Google Apps. Gmail is quite simply amazing, providing push-email as well as other features such as labels and a handy “undo” feature.

On the software side my only gripe with Google is that there is still no dedicated Google Docs app. You can view your documents and edit spreadsheets via your browser but that simply isn’t enough.

All-in-all the OS is excellent, which looks beautiful and runs smoothly. It’s easy to learn and navigate your way around as the OS is quite intuitive, though perhaps not as much as on the iPhone.

What’s missing

The phone is not perfect, there are a few features that are certainly missing here.

First, and perhaps the most important omission is multi-touch support. If you’re switching from an iPhone to this, this will become apparent and annoying very quickly.

Being able to pinch and zoom in an out of pictures, web pages, etc., as trivial as it may seem, is quite an important one. However, this feature is enabled in the hardware just not implement in the OS itself.

For example if you install the free Dolphin browser you are able to use multi-touch there. I’m guessing Google didn’t enable multi-touch as to not infringe on any patents that Apple may hold – or else there would simply be no reason to do it.

Secondly, the virtual keyboard is crappy. I think I might be a little harsh here as I’m used to an actual qwerty keyboard. Though the keyboard is certainly better than on the HTC hero (the only other Android device I’ve used), it’s not as good as on the iPhone. Again, this may be due to the lack of multi-touch, as you can only press one key at at time!

The only other major complain I have is the connectivity with my computer. Currently there are too many steps involved, this process needs to be more streamlines and efficient.

More specifically for non-US users the  Google Maps Navigation is not available (you can learn more here), and the same goes for Google Voice (learn more here). Both of these services seem absolutely amazing and have been received very well in the US – so why not make them available in the UK?

The good news is that, these all seem to be software problems – so hopefully Google will take some of the feedback onboard and improve these features in the next update for Android.

The competition

Obviously a lot of people will be asking the ,supposedly, all important question – “is this an iPhone killer?”. Whilst at the same time it’s not unreasonable to draw a comparison between the nexus one and the Palm Pre and Motorola Droid (aka Milestone).

Thankfully BillShrink [via] have come up with a very handy chart to help us out here:


How much and where can I get one

The phone can be bought directly from google.com/phone; unlocked it will cost you $529 unlocked, or £374 or us UK folks (this includes a UK adapter and delivery).

If were thinking of getting the phone on contract then unfortunately you’ll have to wait until spring, when it should be available through Vodafone. [US customers can get it on contract now for $80 p/m on T-mobile, and from spring also from Verizon and Vodafone).

[Aside: I have to take my hat off to DHL (the carrier Google ships the phone through, at least to the UK). I ordered my phone on the early morning of 6th and I had the phone in my hands on the morning of the 8th – considering the handset is coming from the states, this is great service.]

Conclusion

At the present, I would say this is one of the best phones around, even more so if your life revolves around Google apps like Gmail and Google calendar. The phone is not perfect, though it does very close, and certainly a lot closer than any other model out there.

The bottom line: The nexus one is sleek, sexy, functional and fun to use and have. If you are looking for a new phone (especially an Android variety), this is the one to get.

Besides, who knows maybe with the next update of Android we might be able to access features like multi-touch, better music app and better synchronisation. Here’s hoping…

Do you own or plan on getting a nexus one? Or do you feel repulsed by the idea of owning one? Share in the comments

Image Gallery

Click thumbnail to see higher resolution image (this may be a little slow with slower internet connections).


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  • Kbayer

    Saw your vid on youtube, clicked to catch your review… excellent, balanced, and thought provoking!
    Thanks much!

    • abhijat

      Thanks Kbayer, thanks for reading the review. I'm glad you liked it. Do you have a Nexus one yourself? I would love to hear you think of it. Or were you thinking of getting one?

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    I have been enamored with the launch of Windows Phone 7 but then the Nexus S comes out making the decision between the phones that much harder

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      Yeah, I guess I could see the problem there. In the past I’ve been extremely disappointed with devices with the windows mobile OS, but perhaps this will change. Right now, although the handsets running windows mobile 7 are very compelling they lag behind both android and iOS.

      As for the Nexus S, as much as I love gingerbread OS, I feel both Google and Samsung have failed to raise the bar when it comes to hardware.

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    While the Nexus One, Google’s original superphone, was built by HTC, the Nexus S is manufactured by Samsung and is based on the Samsung Galaxy S line of

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    iPhone is always my favorite!