I took delivery of a shiny, new Nexus One a few weeks ago. Unlike Randall, who started blogging exuberantly about his iPhone the moment he got it, decided to live with the phone for a little while before writing a review.
Why I chose the Nexus One
My last few phones have been two- or three generations out of date. I have been using a Blackberry Pearl for the last two years, for example. It just kept getting slower as the limited software I had for it kept pace with newer phones, leaving my hardware in the dust. I wanted to move from the trailing edge to the cutting edge.
The iPhone was never really an option for me. It is a great device, but I do not like Apple’s draconian, closed-source business model. I am a Linux guy at heart, and I am embedded in Google’s platform, so Android made more sense. That meant the Motorola Droid, if I wanted the cutting edge, until the Nexus One arrived.
I also liked the Nokia N900 a lot, but Maemo, its operating system, is very new and has fairly limited community support. And the Palm Pre. I have always had a soft spot for Palm, and the Pre’s WebOS is a sweet platform.
But when the Nexus One came out, it seemed to satisfy all my priorities. With Google finally getting behind a phone, I could count on the Nexus One getting plenty of attention, long-term support and updates. Plus, it was built with cutting-edge technology, including a faster processor than the iPhone and Pre. Price helped, too. The Nexus One on T-Mobile is significantly cheaper than the iPhone on AT&T or the Palm Pre Plus or Motorola Droid on Verizon.
So, faster, newer, Google-friendly phone with the prospect of healthy support from Google, all at a lower price? Sold.
Purchasing the Nexus One
The only way to buy the Nexus One is at google.com/phone. It costs $529 unlocked, or $179 with a two-year contract on T-Mobile. Overnight delivery via FedEx is included. I ordered mine Saturday afternoon, and it was processed and shipped Monday night, then delivered on Tuesday morning.
The Nexus One is a solid, attractive device. In the looks department, it is probably Miss Congeniality when measured against the iPhone and Pre, but it still looks darn good.
The case is mostly metal and glass, so it feels substantial in the hand, but actually a bit smaller than an iPhone. Build quality, from what I can see, is excellent. HTC’s torture testing is surely the reason. The screen is large, bright, and responsive. The operating system feels fast, but not necessarily faster than a 3G S or Droid, despite the faster processor.
The camera, at 5 megapixels, is more powerful than my point-and-shoot. At the same time, I am not sure the Nexus One can really take advantage of all that detail. The tiny camera lens seems to be the bottleneck. Pictures are a little oversaturated and grainy, and the white-balance is off, despite the big hardware. I dropped the megapixels to 3, which helped, but the camera needs some tweaking.
The call quality and sound are great, including the speaker phone. I had read that some people were having trouble with speaker volume, but I have found it perfectly adequate for my needs, which do not include using my phone as a boombox.Which brings up a good point: if you want to use the Nexus One as a music player, you will want to replace the 4GB microSD card it comes with. You can expand the storage to 32GB, which then makes the Nexus One a decent music player, though not on par with the iPhone.
The only glitch I have encountered seems to involve the proximity sensor, which turns the screen off when you are talking on the phone, and the notifications panel. The touchscreen locks up about every third or fourth phone call, making it impossible to use the dialpad or hang up the call. I am not sure whether this is a hardware problem with my phone, or a software problem that will be fixed soon. Google updated the software on February 4th, so hopefully that will fix the issue. (Update: So far, this seems to be the case.)
Android is a very good operating system, and the Nexus One comes with the latest version, which has some nice tweaks. For example, you can add a convenient “power” widget to your desktop, so you can easily turn the various radios (3G, wi-fi, GPS) on and off, and control screen brightness. The photo gallery app is updated, and you can add some fancy “live” wallpapers, which are very pretty, but useless eye candy.
Android is built to integrate with Google, so I was pleased, but not surprised, to see how easy it was to integrate with Google Voice. I added my Google Apps account, so I had access to all my contacts, and then set the phone to always use Google Voice for outgoing calls and text messages. Done. Now, I use Google Voice with every call, transparently, and my friends, family, and clients, are naturally making the switch. My cell phone number remains the same, of course, so they can still reach me that way, if they like.
Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts are all outstanding. Checking e-mail on an iPhone is a chore compared to checking it on the Nexus One. Which makes sense. Google built the software to work with its services. You have full access to the features of your mail, calendar, and contacts, and the Nexus One will integrate your Facebook and other social networking contacts, as well, to make your phonebook even more useful.
I was particularly excited to try Google Maps’ new GPS navigation features, which is free, and works great, as advertised. I do not own a regular GPS device, but I see no reason to buy one, now. I just need to figure out a way to mount my Nexus One on the dash. (There are rumors that Google plans to release a dash mount in the near future, so I may not have to wait long.)
Part of the advantage of a modern smartphone is the ability to customize it with apps. The Android Market may not be quite as large as the App Store, but you will find most of what you need. All the Google Apps are available, of course, and all the social networks (Facebook has an official Android app, and Seesmic has a very good Twitter app). I got Evernote, as well, so I am nearly set up. The only things missing are Freshbooks and Dropbox, both of which have yet to release an Android app, although I am confident they will do so in the near future.
The Android Market has ways to go in the gaming department, but I was satisfied with Robo Defense, which is plenty of entertainment for me while I am sitting in a waiting room.
Get one. This is a sweet phone. Do not shy away from the high price of an unlocked Nexus One. You will pay less for the Nexus One over a two-year unlocked contract with T-Mobile than you would pay for an iPhone on AT&T, Droid on Verizon, or Pre on Sprint or Verizon, over a similar contract.
One caveat: this is a Google-centric phone. It will work just fine with MSN/Hotmail, Yahoo! or other accounts, but it really shines when you use Google’s services. Kind of like the iPhone is at its best with Apple’s MobileMe services.
I will be writing more about the Nexus One, because I am keeping it. I love this phone.