Product: Google Nexus One
Specifications: 119x59.8x11.5mm, 130g (with battery), 3.7-inch 480x800 touchscreen, Android 2.1, 5.0 megapixel auto-focus LED flash camera, microSD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, miniUSB, Quad-band, 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth
Price: £330 (ex VAT and exchange rate dependant) or depending on contract
NOT SINCE Apple's Iphone came out has another mobile device garnered so many column inches, but then not since the original Iphone has a real contender hit the market. The Nexus One doesn't have to beat all comers, but it has to beat the Iphone and in almost every way it does just that.
For Google, the Nexus One represents the first consumer oriented physical product it has produced and as debuts go, the search giant takes the biscuit with fantastic hardware and software both. By using HTC's Bravo the hardware in most cases far surpasses that of anything that's out there now, with the exception of HTC's own HD2.
Powered by the same 1GHz Snapdragon processor found in the aforementioned device there's more than enough grunt to see it through running Android. There's enough system memory too, with 512MB for both Flash and RAM. This is supplemented by a microSD slot with a 4GB card included. One of the more peculiar points is that Google is only allowing 192MB of the 512MB flash to be used for application storage. Since you can't store applications on the microSD card it does seem to be a trifle limiting. Google says that this restriction will be lifted once it fixes certain security issues.
Other headline features include what can only be described as a stunning 3.7-inch AMOLED 800x480 screen which is bright enough to play a role in a Jean Michel Jarre concert. Image capture capabilities are good too with a 5 megapixel auto-focusing camera with LED flash that can capture 720x480 video at 20 FPS. There's "real" GPS along with additional cell tower and WiFi positioning and, thanks to a digital compass, it knows which direction you are travelling, something which is becoming increasingly important for the slew of augmented reality applications available on Iphone and Android devices.
Although users in the United States have complained about poor 3G speeds on T-Mobile, the experience of an Iphone 3G on AT&T is hardly mesmerising either. At least here in Central London O2's 3G network seems to be just fine and in casual usage seems faster on the Nexus than it does on the Iphone. Of course your mileage will vary depending on whether you get 3G at all. The Nexus does support HSDPA up to 7.2Mbps but frankly that figure could just as well be 56kbps thanks to the dismal bandwidth quotas afforded by mobile networks.
Battery life is surprisingly good thanks to a 1400 mAH removable unit. With WiFi and 3G radios enabled you can expect to charge every other day with average browsing, push email, listening to music and of course phone calls. Even using the processor at full tilt it will take around six hours to drain the unit completely. Considering the speed of the processor as well as the resolution and brightness of the screen that's pretty impressive.
As Apple has shown, it isn't the hardware that makes the phone, so while it's all there Google has to provide the wow factor that the Iphone OS did back in 2007. The Nexus One is the first handset to ship with Android 2.1 or Eclair. It's clear that Android is maturing into something that has the finesse of the Iphone OS along with the raw capabilities of Windows Mobile. Thankfully, stability wise it's firmly aligned with the Apple devices, but with glitzy features such as active wallpapers and a far more customisable home screen, the full implementation of the Eclair OS has more glam than the Iphone.
Thanks to widgets that can be used for browsing information or single click access to any particular feature, such as putting the phone on silent, the multiple home screens become your main port of call. As part of the visual feast you can replace bog standard static wallpapers with ones that have moving objects and react to your screen presses. It's all quite impressive even for an 30 month Iphone user, but where it all comes together is in the speed of transitions, opening applications and switching between applications when notifications occur. Granted, much has improved with the Iphone 3GS, but the Nexus One really pulls out the stops thanks in large part to its processor.
After what seemed like stagnation for most of 2009, thanks to Motorola's DEXT and Milestone devices, Android came firmly back on the radar. DEXT showed that even a smartphone can cater for the Facebook crowd with it's powerful social notworking integration features. The Nexus One doesn't go overboard with the integration but it does provide good out of the box coupling with Facebook, Twitter and of course Google's own applications. One example is with Facebook. If you give it your details, it will automatically match information from your friends on Facebook with the associated friend in your phone's contact list. That is of course if your Facebook has any real friends on it.
There's pretty tight integration with Google's own applications. If you don't already have a Google account you'll need one to get the most out of the Nexus. That's not necessarily a bad thing but it just reminds you that while Android treats applications and services as equals, some are more equal than others.
Shopping on the Android Market is a little more involved compared to the App Store. Because the hardware isn't homologous between Android devices there is a chance that applications on the store will not work with your phone. On the whole the experience is fine with few problem apps but the fact that such a possibility exists is a downer for the Android platform in general.
There are further inconsistencies, the biggest of which is the lack of multitouch capability even though the Android operating system supports screen based gestures. This issue was highlighted with the Verizon Droid and the Motorola Milestone, both of which are identical except for their internal radios (Verizon uses CDMA) and their enabling of multitouch. Whether this is due to patents held by Apple or something else is unclear however at CES Dell showed that its new mini 3i has multitouch at the get-go while developers have already shown browsers and other applications with similar capability.
The Nexus One seemingly has two direct competitors, HTC's own HD2 and the Iphone 3GS. The HD2 features virtually identical hardware however it is let down by Windows Mobile 6.5. If your organisation depends on Windows Mobile then your choice is made, but otherwise the Nexus is the phone that the HD2 should have been.
As for the Iphone, if you already have one then you'll have to look at how much you've invested in applications. As you can't port apps over, the price of the Nexus One is more than just the MSRP. For those on the fence, the Nexus One represents one of the best all round phones money can buy. It has the hardware and, in Android 2.1, the software to match and even surpass the Iphone in certain areas.
The Nexus One is great package. You get cutting edge hardware coupled to an operating system that is far better than Windows Mobile and far more customisable than on the Iphone. There's very little to dislike including the fact that the Nexus is trying to stick it to Jobs' Mob through offering greater openness. Google says the Nexus will arrive in Blighty sometime in the Spring and we say that's enough notice for you to start saving up now. µ
Superb hardware specification, runs Android.
Application incompatibilities between Android devices.
Not directly available in the UK yet.