Judie: When Dan, Larry and I attended Digital Experience, a product showcase at CES, there was one particular device which caught our immediate attention. Unlike all of the other gadgets and electronic items we saw on display and which were currently available for purchase, the HTC Google Nexus One was the one that we gathered around, drooled over, and all immediately made plans to order.
Dan and I purchased ours as soon as we got back to our rooms that evening to be delivered FedEx overnight to my hotel in Las Vegas by Friday afternoon. Our experience would later become blog post fodder, ultimately ending up in a month-long quest to get our original purchases refunded. Larry was patient and smart; he waited until he had returned home before placing his order. While Dan’s and my returns were in limbo, Dan just couldn’t stand it … he ordered his second Nexus One before the first had been refunded. I decided that I would wait until I got my money back before I tied up any more. While I was waiting for my refund, I was pleased to receive notice that I would be sent a sample unit on 30 day loan.
Now all three of us have had time with the device, and we are ready to share ten things we like about the Nexus One, and five things we don’t.
But first, let’s talk about specifications and then take a walk around the device.
Display – 3.7-inch (diagonal) widescreen WVGA AMOLED touchscreen; 800 x 480 pixels; 100,000:1 typical contrast ratio; 1ms typical response rate
Camera & Flash – 5 megapixels; Autofocus from 6cm to infinity; 2X digital zoom; LED flash; User can include location of photos from phone’s AGPS receiver; Video captured at 720×480 pixels at 20 frames per second or higher, depending on lighting conditions
Cellular & Wireless – UMTS Band 1/4/8 (2100/AWS/900); HSDPA 7.2Mbps; HSUPA 2Mbps; GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); Wi-Fi (802.11b/g); Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR; A2DP stereo Bluetooth
Power and battery – Removable 1400 mAH battery; Charges at 480mA from USB, at 980mA from supplied charger; Talk time – Up to 10 hours on 2G, Up to 7 hours on 3G; Standby time – Up to 290 hours on 2G, Up to 250 hours on 3G; Internet use – Up to 5 hours on 3G, Up to 6.5 hours on Wi-Fi; Video playback – Up to 7 hours; Audio playback – Up to 20 hours
Processor – Qualcomm QSD 8250 1 GHz
Operating system – Android Mobile Technology Platform 2.1 (Eclair)
Capacity – 512MB Flash; 512MB RAM; 4GB Micro SD Card (Expandable to 32 GB)
Location – Assisted global positioning system (AGPS) receiver; Cell tower and Wi-Fi positioning; Digital compass
The Nexus One measures about 4.7″ long x 2.4″ wide x 0.5″ thick, and it weighs about 4.6 ounces. The body is composed of a combination of dark gray plastic and lighter gray metal which combine to create a device that feels solid and substantial – without feeling too heavy or thick. The large 3.7″ capacitive touchscreen is absolutely gorgeous, brilliantly bright, and at 800 x 480 it manages to make the iPhone’s 3.5″ 480 x 320 screen look dingy and lame.
Judie: In hand, the N1 is all about smooth corners and lots of screen surface; it is a comfortable device to hold, and it doesn’t creak when squeezed or lightly torqued. The overall impression that I get when looking at the N1 is a best described as industrial chic. It’s spartan and gray, but it isn’t ugly at all. Oddly enough, the placement of the trackball is slightly reminiscent of the iPhone’s center home button.
The earpspeaker on the N1 is covered in a fine mesh; tucked behind the mesh is a charging and notification LED.
The only physical button on the N1′s front is the opalescent white trackball which not only pulsates with three LED colors for notifications, it also allows for quick navigation and clicks for selection. It gives the otherwise staid phone a little bit of “wow” when the LED is pulsing, but I didn’t really use the trackball much at all; the Nexus One is meant to be controlled by touching the screen, not by rolling a trackball.
The four illuminated icons running across the bottom of the screen are actually capacitive touch buttons for Back, Menu, Home and Search. I found that these were most reactive when touched near the top of each icon; my instinct was to touch them in their middle, which never seemed to register. This doesn’t seem like it should have been that big of a deal, but I thought that it was truly obnoxious.
On the left side of the device is a rocker volume switch.
On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and the Power button.
There are no buttons or switches on the right side; as you can see, the design is very clean.
The largest dark gray section on the back is the removable plastic battery cover. I think it’s really cool that the lighter gray metal strip can be engraved, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that unless you’ve had the chance to check out an N1 live, and you are 100% sure you won’t want to return yours.
Built into the battery cover are the oddly bulging 5megapixel camera lens, an LED flash, and the external speaker. The little divot to the left is the second microphone, used for noise cancellation. I found that the external speaker, which is used in speakerphone mode and for listening to music, to be decent but not above-average because the louder the volume the more distorted items sounded. Those who are used to phones with stereo speakers, like the Nokia N series or even the iPhone [with its single speaker], will be able to tell a definite difference.
On the bottom are the connector pins (for use with the optional cradle / dock), the microUSB port, and the microphone for voice calls.
The 1400 mAh Li-Ion battery, the microSD card and the SIM card are all kept under the battery cover.
The Nexus One’s camera quality is on par with other HTC 5 megapixel cameras I’ve tried in the last two years, which is to say not quite as good as a Nokia’s 5 megapixel Carl Zeiss for instance, but much better than many others — including the iPhone’s 3 megapixel camera (which has no flash). Images taken did seem to capture and refresh promptly, probably due to the Snapdragon processor and perhaps because of the Nexus One’s software enhancements.
Here are some examples of the Nexus One’s camera in action. All pictures are thumbnails, and they can be expanded by clicking.
The Nexus One’s hardware is quite well done; the phone looks professional without being too blocky or dark; the phone is caressable, which means that the handset is curvy enough that users will want to hold it. The software is Android Mobile Technology Platform 2.1 (Eclair), which has a distinctly Google feel to it, versus the HTC Sense UI which we have seen on other HTC Android devices.
So, without further ado …
Ten Things We Like:
Number One: Live Wallpapers
Judie: Perhaps the most striking thing about the phone’s software is all of the on-screen movement you see from the moment it is first switched on.The active wallpapers are eye-candy of the highest order, grass waves in the breeze, a Tron-esque landscape is revealed, a swaying branch in the breeze … but of course these treats are at the cost of the battery’s life. Not that you will likely care, as their “wow” factor makes the phone that much more desirable. I liked the live wallpapers, which offer lots of eye-candy with 3-D scrolling and other effects … but at a huge cost to battery life. I tend to have a charger nearby at all times, so I was comfortable leaving the live wallpaper on.
Dan: Live wallpaper it is a neat feature for sure. The first time you see it there is no question that it elicits a reaction of “wow”. Moreover, there is a nice selection of different live wallpapers which means that there are numerous opportunities to have the same reaction over and over. It is also a neat feature for those times when you’re showing off the device to someone else. You may have become used to the live wallpapers but others have not been there for you get to enjoy their initial reaction as well. That noted, however, the live wallpapers are little more than eye-candy and they are eye-candy that consume precious processing power. For that reason I turned them off about an hour after I got the device.
Larry: Coming from the iPhone the simple ability to choose my own wallpaper behind the home screen icons was nice, but to add the “live” feature to them was the icing on the cake. I kept wanting to turn them off to try to conserve battery life, but they were so much fun to look at I always turned them right back on.
Number Two: Near Perfect Google Integration with Google Accounts Including Gmail, Gtalk, Calendar, Contacts, Picasa, and Google Voice
Dan: I live in Google’s applications. I use Gmail constantly. My Google calendar actually consists of a dozen different calendars each one representing a different aspect of my life. I use Google Voice and love the ability to have one phone number that rings multiple phones. And the fact that it allows me to send different voicemail messages to different groups of contacts is awesome. I love to use Google Reader as well. I know that I’m not alone. For those of us who live in Google’s applications a device like this is fantastic. The tight integration, the ability to have Google Voice “take over” the phone functionality, and the ability to put in your login information once and have it access Google’s applications globally is tremendously convenient.
Yes, I have increasing concerns about Google and privacy issues but I don’t see myself leaving Google and its applications anytime soon. For that reason an Android device is a great solution and of all the Android phones I have tried (five and counting) this is by far the best. I miss the tight integration now that I’m back on the iPhone.
Judie: If you had told me even two years ago that I would be using Gmail as my main inbox, that I would be maintaining eight or more Google Calendars, that syncing to my Google Contacts would be integral, or that my Google Voice number would allow everyone to reach me no matter what phone I was using, I would have said “impossible!” … and yet, here I am. The Nexus One beautifully integrates with all the Google services I depend upon, which yes – I expected it to, but having a phone ask me to enter my Google information right out of the box, and then seeing how that was the magic password needed to put so many things on the phone without any computer syncing whatsoever; it was a beautiful thing.
Larry: Having recently gone “all-in” with Google I really appreciated the seamless integration. Not having to think about any of the settings when it came to configuration of my account made the phone easy to use. Everything just showed up.
Number Three: Build-quality and General Feel of the Device Is Awesome; Teflon Coating Is Great
Dan: The device feels super solid. The Teflon coating made me feel like I could carry the device long-term without a case. One of the things that really stuck with me was the fact that the device feels so solid yet it has a removable battery. Apple argued that they could not have a replaceable battery because it would have made the device too thick. This… proves… that… wrong.
At the same time, the phone is so thin that, at times, I found it to be a bit challenging to hold and type on at the same time. I have no doubt that I would have become far more accustomed to the phone’s style if I were to have used it for a longer period.
Overall, having used numerous devices from HTC this one has the best build quality by far. It’s styling doesn’t stand out to any particular degree but it’s a darn good phone.
Judie: As I mentioned above, the phone is comfortable to use, comfortable to hold, and it has a great weight to it. The Nexus One feels solid, extremely well made, and just about as nice as the HTC HD2; although I will admit to liking the HD2 ‘s form factor (and its 4.3″ screen) slightly better.
Number Four: Large, Bright, Hi-Resolution AMOLED Screen
Dan: Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. Images looked crisp and clean. The icons look great. And watching video on it was a dream. The high resolution screen was, in and of itself, a thing of beauty. It was also a fingerprint magnet. I did not realize how much I appreciated the iPhone’s fingerprint resistant screen until I began using the Nexus One.
Another complaint that I and many others have encountered is the fact that the touchscreen on the iPhone seems to be a bit more precise than the one on this particular machine. It’s not that the touchscreen on the Nexus One is bad, but there’s no question that the touchscreen on the iPhone is better.
From a resolution perspective though this phone is the best I have used. And it made going back to the iPhone a bit tough.
Judie: There is no doubt that this screen blows away the iPhone’s. It’s kind of funny how when you use the iPhone exclusively, the screen seems okay, even if a little bit small. Going to a phone like from the iPhone this makes you wonder how Apple has continued to get away with not upgrading theirs, and yes — it makes going back to the iPhone (if that’s what you wind up doing) tough.
Number Five: Extremely Fast Processor
Dan: Prior Android devices felt a bit laggy to me. This one was far less so thanks to the SnapDragon processor. Then again, there were times when it DID feel like it got a bit bogged down to me. I’ve become spoiled by the iPhone 3GS. It is so fast that a device that’s even a tiny bit slower is noticeable. That was my experience with the Nexus One. It wasn’t slow. Not by a long shot. But it did feel a bit slower. What has me extremely intrigued are the people who have used the upcoming iPad and say that it makes the iPhone 3GS feel slow.
All that said, this device is the fastest Android device I have used. I had no major complaints about its speed and when I put it up against the Camangi Webstation it looked and felt like a rocket ship.
Judie: There is no doubt that the Snapdragon processor is speedy and able to handle just about anything thrown at it when using this device; I had absolutely no issues with its speed, and I didn’t notice any lags worth mentioning.
Number Six: Noise Cancellation Feature on the Microphone
Judie: Having the two microphones makes it so that there is hardly any background noise whatsoever when speaking to people on the Nexus One. It’s similar to the technology we’ve seen in some Bluetooth headsets, and it is amazing when it is built into the device itself. What this means is if you are in a noisy room or outside, you’ll be able to speak to your caller without them hearing all of the background noise. When driving, you should still use that noise-canceling headset, though.
The dual microphones made me realize that there has been so much innovation with regard to smartphones and their move toward powerful computing but relatively little innovation by way of the actual ability to make phone calls. I need my smartphone to be, first and foremost, a phone and this is one place where many of the devices I have tried have fallen down time and again. This was a nice piece of innovation and, overall, it worked quite well. When I made a phone call asked the person on the other side what they thought I got a great deal of positive feedback with regard to the call quality.
Number Seven: Web surfing experience
Judie: Not all sites play nicely with mobile phone browsers, which is why so many sites (including Gear Diary) will use a plugin that is supposed to be recognized when a mobile device is visiting, thus automatically showing the mobile version. Even though the iPhone has an excellent browser, it still recognizes the mobile optimized one and gives you a choice about whether to use it or not; in contrast, the HTC HD2 Internet Explorer does not recognize the mobile version, and it will not show the optimized mobile site. I was pleased to see that the Nexus One immediately recognized the plugin and displayed the Gear Diary mobile site.
There are still some sites which don’t offer mobile optimization, and so a phone that can handle a true browsing experience is required … and the Nexus One delivers.
Dan: Browsing on the Nexus One was a nice experience. Even though it did not have multi-touch at the time I had it, the ability to zoom in to content was great. The browser felt quite fast and when a page would finish rendering it looked fantastic thanks to the high resolution screen. There is no question that the iPhone still dominates mobile browsing but this device clearly has the potential to change that. I don’t think it will move ahead of the browsing experience on the iPhone but it sure can catch up to it. I prefer browsing on the iPhone but this was a pleasant experience too.
Number Eight: a Growing Selection of Apps
Dan: Android devices are quickly catching up to the iPhone with regard to the number and quality of apps. While I had to make some adjustments with regard to how I used the device because of some differences in the available apps, overall I found that there was an app or two for just about everything I wanted to do. Oh, and the RSS readers available for the Nexus One- awesome!
Judie: It is definitely exciting to see how developer’s have embraced Android, and to see how quickly they have come out with quality, currently desirable applications. Unlike some platforms which seem to be stagnating (:cough: Windows Mobile :cough:), the Android developers community seems to be energized and focused. Sure, there are some crApplications available, but there are also plenty of great applications and utilities available directly on the phone, from the Android Market.
Larry: I keep a ton of apps on my iPhone and I was worried at first that I might have to sacrifice apps on the phone. In the end I was pleasantly surprised at the number of applications I was able to find suitable replacements for.
Number Nine: Native Voice to Text Transcription
Dan: This was going to be one of the killer features for me. I love Dragon Dictation on the iPhone and Vlingo on the BlackBerry. The fact that the Nexus One uses Google Voice to text transcription service and is available globally on the device was awesome. Unfortunately the quality of the transcriptions could be a bit on the “hit or miss” side. Having the service available everywhere was… neat.
Number Ten: Better than average 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash
Judie: The 5 megapixel camera is definitely better than average, and the addition of the LED flash makes it light years better than the iPhone’s camera. I did miss some of the apps that I use to manipulate photos on the iPhone, but that’s not a deal-breaker.
Dan: I didn’t do a lot with the camera while I had the device but the pictures I took did look pretty good. I have, however, become accustomed to being able to take a picture and then manipulate it on my handset to a great degree. I will often edit pictures, crop them, rotate them, and even blur out sections that had personal content (for those times when I would post an image to the web). The lack of Multi-Touch on the Nexus One (at the time I had it) was a huge hindrance to doing this. Now that Multi-Touch is available, however, I suspect this is not an issue.
Bonus Item: Native GPS application
Dan: Google has dedicated GPS companies running for the hills. Okay, maybe they aren’t running for the hills but they are looking for ways to fight back. Google’s navigation solution isn’t as accurate as some of the mobile applications I have tried but it has one huge advantage — it is free. I suspect that most people will be satisfied with “pretty good and free” and as result will choose Google’s offering over “even better but at a price”. No, GPS on the Nexus One is not as good as a dedicated solution like Telenav or Magellan (it got me lost once in my use of it) but hey… it is free and it works pretty well.
Five Things We Disliked:
Number One: Battery life
Dan: I had high hopes for the battery life of the Nexus One. Sadly it came in at about the same run-time as my iPhone most days. Translation… it was not very good. I tried to solve some of the issues I encountered with battery life by turning off the live wallpaper and changing my e-mail notification timing but time and again I found that by mid afternoon the device needed to be charged. Then again, since the battery is user replaceable getting an extra battery and simply swapping them out mid-day would be a simple enough thing to do. Take THAT iPhone…
Larry: I was expecting the phone’s battery to at least be better than that of the iPhone. It was better but not by much. I was very disappointed to find that on some days I couldn’t make it into the mid-afternoon without a re-charge.
Number Two: The buttons on the bottom are totally misaligned
Judie: When I would tap the middle or near the bottom of the four capacitive buttons, nine times out of ten my touch will not register. I found the best way to get consistent button-pressing success was to aim high on the button, somewhere along the top edge or on the top 25% anyway. This was annoying, to say the least.
Dan: I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the buttons on the bottom of the device but I never really made into any problem with it. My taps usually registered the first time I tried and I never fully understood where people were running into a problem.
Larry: I had the button problem right away and remember telling Dan when I got my phone that I thought there might be something wrong with it. He thought I was crazy since he wasn’t having an button issues. I search of the web yielded many users with the same issue. Once I found the sweet spot, my button pressing seemed to improve slightly.
Number Three: Applications must be stored in internal memory
Dan: I do not get this. Seriously. Why is it that all 32GB of an iPhone (and 64GB of a touch) can be used for apps while the apps could only be stored on the Nexus One’s meager allotment? I’m perplexed. Still, I added a ton of apps and never had an issue with running out of space.
Number Four: You either get 3G speeds with T-Mobile or EDGE speeds with AT&T
Judie: I got to try the Nexus One with a T-Mobile SIM, so I was able to see the phone working at 3G speeds as well as EDGE. As someone who doesn’t live in a predominantly 3G area, I am so used to AT&T’s EDGE that it usually doesn’t bother me. However, if I lived in a 3G area and expected to see 3G speeds on my $80/month smartphone, I am pretty sure that I would have to go to a T-Mobile SIM … but their coverage is not as good around here as AT&T’s.
If I stayed with AT&T, which has superb coverage in my area, I would never be able to enjoy 3G speeds. It’s a trade-off that I don’t think many people will be happy about — unless they live somewhere with better T-Mobile 3G coverage than AT&T’s.
Dan: As I’m sure you know, the device can be purchased through T-Mobile at a subsidized price or it can be purchased unlocked at full retail. I did not want to have to get an additional SIM card so I purchased an unlocked version of the device. I figured I would be happy enough with using it on AT&T with one of my SIM cards in dealing with only having EDGE speeds. I was wrong. I missed having the high-speed browsing experience when I was out and about.
I don’t understand why Google and HTC would build such a high end device, selling unlocked in the United States and not including the radios to allow it to work on both T-Mobile’s 3G network and AT&T’s. It felt like a major oversight to me.
Number Five: Customer Service Was Awful
Dan: Seriously, the entire experience was AWFUL. I WILL NEVER USE GOOGLE CHECKOUT AGAIN… not until they implement something like Amazon’s level of care. Seriously, I had an issue with something I bought from Amazon last week and had a rep on the phone in 27 seconds. It just drove home how very bad Google was. Enough said…
No, actually, I have more to say…
This was one of the worst customer experiences I have ever had. We have documented all the ins and outs of our horror experience elsewhere on the site and so I won’t go into detail but I will say this- after everything Judie and I went through, after all of the e-mails we sent, and after the posts we put up on the site, the fact that no one from Google’s customer service has reached out to either of us once again sends the message that they just don’t care. I like giving my business and money to companies that make great products AND give two hoots about their customers. Google doesn’t. Now I’m done…
Judie: Yeah, everything about the order process after we hit submit was pretty much a total bust. How different everything would have been if we had actually received the overnight delivery that was promised on the Google order page, or even if we had waited until we got home to order. If our phones had been a day or two late then, it would merely have been an annoyance. Not being able to communicate with a single human being when everything began to g south was frustrating, and as a result, I don’t think I would ever be tempted to order anything directly from Google again. Although to their credit, they have finally added a live support number for those in the US who have issues ordering or setting up their device ( (888) 48NEXUS (63987) between 4 a.m. and 7 p.m.).
Larry: My experience when trying to return the phone was simply horrid. Each time I called HTC I was connected to a person who seemed more confused than the one I’d spoken to previously. In the end I had to send the phone back at my own expense because they could not find a way to get me a pre-paid shipping label.
Judie: I used the Nexus One off and on for about a month, both with and without the T-Mobile SIM card that Google was kind enough to include. Since sending my review unit back, I have been splitting my time between the iPhone and the Nokia N900. I can’t say that I miss the N1.
Dan: The Nexus One is the best Android phone yet. Android is maturing and the hardware of gorgeous . That noted, I still prefer the simplicity of the iPhone. (And did I mention that I hated dealing with Google?)
The HTC Google Nexus One is available directly from Google.
MSRP: $179 with two year service contract through T-Mobile (requires $80/month service plan, plan includes 500 talk minutes; unlimited nights and weekends; unlimited T-Mobile to T-Mobile minutes; unlimited domestic messaging including SMS, MMS, IM; Android Unlimited Web); $529 without a contract
You might also want to check out Thomas’ first impressions of the Nexus One.