Google Nexus One Review
The Nexus One is Google’s latest self-branded smartphone. It has gone a long way since the Google G1 over a year ago. So, before you have one delivered to the Philippines, check out our Google Nexus One review first.
First, let’s get one thing out of the way — the Nexus One wasn’t really manufactured by Google. HTC is the company behind it, the same phone manufacturer that did the Google G1. Google’s involvement is with the design concept and software integration. It’s an interesting partnership since HTC also promotes its own Android-powered handsets like the HTC Magic and HTC Hero.
The Nexus One has a solid design — combine a thin form factor, sexy curved edges with a polished finish and you get an almost perfect body. What’s a bit disappointing is the color tone used in the finish of the handset — the brown and dark gray combo turned out drab, bordering on ugly. Had they gone with a brushed-metal finish, it would have turned out nice (like that of the HTC Hero).
There’s not much physical buttons here — besides the optical trackball and power button, the only other button present is the volume rocker on the left side. There are dedicated touch points engraved on the bottom of the capacitive screen for Search, Home, Menu and Back. The bottom end houses the micro-USB port aligned with small metal contact points that’s used to connect to the optional dock (sold separately). At the back is the 5MP camera and LED flash.
The 3.7-inch screen is impressive — bright and crisp AMOLED display with resolution of 480×800 pixels. The screen real estate is large enough for comfortable viewing of web pages, Google Maps and watching videos. What the screen really is missing is multi-touch especially for browsing, viewing photos and navigating the maps. However, there are reports that the handset is capable of multi-touch and can be activated by a software update (The UK model has multi-touch and it is rumored that Google had a secret deal with Apple to temporarily disable multi-touch on the Nexus One for the US due to patent issues).
The Nexus One is powered by QualComm’s SnapDragon processor running 1GHz and you can really feel the responsiveness and how quick tasks and applications run on this handset. I’ve used the HTC Hero beside this unit and you can really spot the difference between the 528MHz and the 1GHz CPU. I’ve also tried the HTC HD2 (same 1GHz CPU) run WinMo 6.5 smoothly. The CPU performance really adds to a better over-all experience.
The connectivity options worked just fine — 3G/HSDPA, WiFi 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth. There’s no noticeable problems with 3G on both Globe and Smart, contrary to earlier reports in the US. What’s telling is that the Nexus One does not have native controls to turn on/off mobile internet — Google really expects you to have connectivity all the time. Good thing there’s a 3rd-party widget/app you can install to control this (saves on data charges and battery life). On the contrary, I have that widget built-in with the HTC Hero. The handset does not recognize the 3G network so APN settings have to be manually inputted.
The Google Android OS 2.1 has a number of improvements in it compared to version 1.5 which I am using on the Hero. However, they’re mostly cosmetic upgrades — live wallpapers, slightly new UI and better contacts list, among others. Using GMail is way better as the Contacts list automatically fills up the recipients filed as you type in the email addresses, a feature I didn’t have with the Hero.
The apps in the Android Marketplace is now more appreciated than ever, with applications and widgets running much better. I have yet to purchase a paid app though so that will be for another entry in the future.
The virtual keyboard is comfortable to use and responsive. Text input is still a pain in the first few weeks of using the unit. It gets better as you add more terms into the built-in dictionary. The predictive text gives you multiple choices at a time but you need to teach it which terms to include in the dictionary. The voice-to-text feature is nice, especially for searching. Unfortunately, my diction/accent doesn’t help a lot with the translation.
One other feature of the Nexus One that got my attention off the bat was the performance of the camera. The camera is snappy and has fast focusing. The photos have good white balance and color saturation too. Here are sample photos I took:
Video recording is almost as impressive and nearing HD quality (720×480 pixels at 20fps).
At the same time, video playback is smooth and not jumpy although the player is very simple and doesn’t support fit-to-screen to maximize viewing size. Random skipping from scene to scene is a snap and the audio is always in sync with the video. Audio volume is decent but not loud enough for open playback.
As for battery life, the Nexus One scored low in this aspect. I’d say one and a half days on regular use but expect to re-charge the handset at the end of the day, especially if you’re into mobile GMail and Twitter. Always bring the charger cable with you.
There are some stuff and features I missed from the HTC Hero with HTC Sense UI and Android 1.5 that I’ve been using for months:
- I missed the HTC Sense UI. It’s a nice addition on top of the Android UI. I missed the customizable calendar widgets and weather widget.
- The Calendar app on the HTC Hero is better compared to the Nexus One in terms of usability. It’s more visual and a lot less like the boring Google Calendar.
- The Nexus One only has 5 panels while the one on the HTC Hero has 7 (due to HTC Sense UI, Android 1.5 has 3 panels by default). That’s one point there for the HTC Sense.
- The optical trackball auto-scrolls the panels on the go with the Android 1.5. With version 2.1, the trackball selects widgets/icons in a row of the current panel before it scrolls to the next panel. Doesn’t make sense from a usability stand-point — I don’t need the trackball to select an icon/app/widget, I use the touchscreen.
The Nexus One is a great handset. The 1GHz SnapDragon is the heart of it all, if you asked me. This is more evident when doing a lot of multi-tasking. And for $529, I think it’s a steal. The Android OS 2.1 didn’t bring much to the table aside from eye-candy compared to the older versions of Android.
Update: The official Google Nexus One blog posted an entry that a software update will be available starting today. This includes a fixed to enable multi-touch functionality. Coolness! The update is not yet available on my unit though.