Review: Google's Android 2.1-based Nexus One smartphone offers lots of eye candy and fine features. However, the promising voice-to-text input feature keeps the mobile device from getting a great grade. Calls are fine, as are text and voice mail features, but the phone's vacillation between T-Mobile's EDGE and 3G networks was annoying. Once the service problems and experimental software snafus such as with networked voice recognition are worked out, the Nexus One line could be excellent.
I've been using the HTC-built Nexus One smartphone
for two days and concluded
that this is easily the best Android device on the market.
I did not attend the Jan. 5 Nexus One launch event
at Google's headquarters, but
Google was kind enough to send me a loaner device.
This device was serviced by T-Mobile and carried a 4GB SD memory card. Readers can see my unboxing and set-up pictures here
Let's start with how it felt in the hand. It
was perfect. The Nexus One is thin, only 11.5 millimeters, and shorter than
most writing implements.
It makes the Droid seem clunky by comparison,
which makes sense when you
consider that the Droid weighs 6 ounces to the Nexus One's leaner 4.6.
However, I liked the way the Droid looked in my hand, even if it was a bit
square and dark. The back and some of the front of the Teflon-coated Nexus One
is a drab gray, except for the screen, which is gorgeous.
The Nexus One's screen size is the same as that of the Droid-3.7 inches
diagonally-but the widescreen WVGA AMOLED (800 by 480 pixels) display is crisp
and bright. Not since I hooked up my Toshiba LCD with high-definition video for
Christmas have I seen such a beautiful screen. Not only that, but the Live
Wallpapers made the device seem alive, with vibrant colors and scenes pulsing.
Calls and text messages made from the Nexus One were fine, with active noise
cancellation to chisel out background noise being a major strength. I can commiserate
with the hundreds of complainants who noted
that the service flipped back and
forth from 3G to the EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution) network. One
thing you need in any phone is consistency in wireless coverage. It's not to be
found here, so let me focus on what I liked about the device and applications
when it worked.
The processing speed from the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor was
impressive-it's definitely a notch faster than the Droid and the iPhone 3GS.
Coupled with the great new Android 2.1 operating system,
the processor quickly answered
search queries, whether for pizza, local bike shops, bakeries or movie times. Battery
life was excellent; fully charged, the device lasted about 9 hours, with
regular use of calling and other applications.
Google applications such as Gmail and Google Voice worked well on this
device. The facility of the latter is a big deal given Google's grand plans for Google Voice.
The 5-megapixel camera is complete with auto-focus and flash, and video
features on the phone are similar to those on the Droid and other Android
devices, but there was none of the stickiness that plagued picture-taking on
the Droid when it suffered an auto-focus bug.
There are five screens, two of which were devoid of apps or widgets. This
allowed me to easily long-press, or put my finger on an icon and hold down,
apps such as Facebook and drag them to the empty screen for great customization.
To switch between screens, users either swipe across from one screen to the
next, similar to navigation on the HTC Droid
Eris, or touch the dots on the lower left and right of the home screen.
My loaner device came with a great weather and news widget on one of these
screens. This was very useful once I consented to give the phone my location
during the Google Account sign-up process. Giving Google your location
information is key to enabling many of the great Google apps, including Google
Latitude, Near Me Now and, of course, the Google Maps Navigation turn-by-turn GPS
feature of Google Maps.