Social Apps and Voice Input on the Nexus One

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-01-13 Print this article Print

Google Goggles was the first application listed when I went to the Android Market from the home screen. I downloaded it in 15 to 20 seconds, like a good sheep. Probably no surprise there; Google wants more people to use its experimental visual search application, which lets users snap a picture of an object and see search results concerning the object. This worked as well on the Nexus One as it did on the Droid I reviewed in November.

The Nexus One, like the Droid, comes equipped with a Facebook app, which I tested and found equally competent on the Nexus One and on the Droid. To use Twitter, I had to download an app from the Android Market. I chose two: the Seesmic app and Swift App for Twitter. Both loaded in 15 seconds.

Both Seesmic and Swift App worked well, but I'll bet if you ask most iPhone fans who see it, they'll still laugh it off as compared with the handful of fine Twitter apps for iPhone. For a comparison of the Nexus One and the iPhone, read MG Siegler's balanced report on TechCrunch.

One thing I should mention, which I also noticed using the Droid, is that the auto-suggest capabilities on Android devices are excellent. For example, I sent a Twitter message, "Tweeting from the Nexus One!" without having to complete a single word. I would type one to three characters and Google would offer five choices of words I might be looking for. Very efficient.

That brings me to the feature that most excited me about the Nexus One: voice input, which lets users fill text fields for Gmail, Facebook and other apps by speaking into the phone, which also boasts two microphones to enable active noise cancellation.

Voice input is an experimental feature using Google's networked speech recognition. There were some fits and starts but I was ultimately able to call up e-mail contacts by speaking into the phone and sending short messages.

For example, I spoke my sister's name, and Google returned her name spelled correctly from a phonetic standpoint, but missing a letter. Google will need to improve this. I tried to sign into my Google account verbally, but it responded with "clintdalton." No good.

I then tried sending an update to the Facebook app, saying, "Testing voice input on the Nexus One." Google recognized the words pretty accurately, but inexplicably substituted "card" for the one word "one" at the end of my spoken phrase. I was able to search movie times for a theater near my home, and voice queries for "Sherlock Holmes" paid immediate dividends.

Ultimately, iffy voice recognition, along with the sketchy service from T-Mobile, are the biggest problems I have with this phone. I realize that experimental releases, betas and dogfooding are part of the Google Way, but it's hard to give the device its full due when Google puts a feature on it that holds so much promise but disappoints so often.

That's what keeps me from giving the Nexus One a great rating. That and the inconsistent experience of typing on the touch screen (not as intuitive as on the iPhone) and the obnoxious track ball.

But this is a darn good device. Once the service issues and experimental software snafus are worked out-competent networked voice recognition ranks high in degree of difficulty-the Nexus One line could be excellent.

However, while Google executives stressed that a Nexus Two won't follow the Nexus One in two months the way the Nexus One followed the Droid, I can't help but get excited about how some of Google's more iterative apps, such as voice search, input, Google Maps Navigation and Google Goggles, will look and feel on subsequent Nexus devices.

As always in this space, we are looking toward the future. 


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