Google Nexus One review

February 2nd, 2010

Here’s my review of the Nexus One, Google’s first phone. This one is manufactured by HTC.

These days, everyone seems to love Google (everyone besides the Chinese government, Apple, Microsoft and other competitors) so let’s see if I love the Nexus One.

Since it’s very subjective I don’t generally comment too much on a phone’s appearance. That said I was pretty disappointed when I first got the Nexus One. It looks like an ugly HTC phones from a couple of years ago. It really has an appearance deficit. Anyways now that I’ve had it for a few weeks I don’t really notice it anymore but I thought it was worth mentioning.

The Nexus one supports quad band EDGE but only has HSPA support on AWS bands (1700/2100Mhz). In Canada the only available network that currently supports AWS is Wind. I have a Wind SIM but I don’t have Wind service in my house (I’m about 5 mins from 3G coverage) so I tested the Nexus One mostly on Rogers network and on WiFi.

The display is a 3.7″ OLED with a resolution of 800×480. It looks fantastic indoors and manages to make most phone’s regular LCD displays look washed out. What’s irony is that it washes out when it’s sunny so keep that in mind.

In front there is a trackball and 4 touch sensitive Android navigation areas along the bottom of the display. The left side has 2 volume buttons. On top are the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack while there is a lone micro USB connector on the bottom for charging and hooking up to a computer. The back has a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash plus the speaker is located there too.

Check out my unboxing to see more:

The back comes off to reveal the 1400mAh battery, SIM card slot and Micro SDHC slow. Google includes a 4GB card in the box.

I did notice two usability issues with the Nexus One. The bezel isn’t very wide so I often found myself accidentally touching the side of the screen with my the palm of my hand. This can cause unexpected behavior. The second problem is that the menu buttons are part of the touch screen on the bottom. I found myself accidentally pressing them from time to time while other times I’d brush them with my palm.

In the end I found the Nexus One difficult to use with one hand. Typing is particularly trying.

The volume buttons are difficult to differentiate. It’s not a huge problem but I usually have to look at them before I can adjust the volume.

The trackball is mildly useful – It’s good for correcting spelling mistakes and some games but otherwise I rarely used it.

To save power the screen has an auto dimming feature so it will increase the brightness when it’s bright and lower it when it’s dark. – at least it’s supposed to. I found that the Nexus one had the most annoying auto dimming feature ever. It’s way too sensitive – I just ended up disabling it.

At the heart of the Nexus One is a 1Ghz Snapdragon processor. It works great in the Nexus one. While the Nexus one can lag occasionally when multitasking it’s generally very snappy feeling.

When inputting text there is usually a voice recognition button on the on screen keyboard. The voice recognition generally works quite well, the problem is that there’s a noticeable delay from when you finish speaking to when the Nexus One recognizes what you said. It seems the Nexus one actually uploads what you said so Google can recognize it – so if you don’t have 3G it can take a few seconds.

If you want to use the voice search feature just press and hold the search button and then tell it what you want it to do.

To get the most out of the Nexus One it helps if you use Google stuff like GMail, Google Calendar and GoogleTalk. When you start using the Nexus One you enter in your Google login and it will automatically download your contacts and calendar information plus it will push your Gmail to you.

If you want to use your own non Gmail/Google Apps email there’s a separate email app that can handle POP, IMAP and Exchange.

The browser works well and handles multiple browser windows with ease. It’s relatively quick and after a new firmware update a week or so ago it can handle multitouch like on the iPhone and Palm WebOS devices.

You can download programs from the Android Market. There are a ton of programs in the Market. Some are good and a lot are no worth downloading. Still, like the iPhone App Store I had a lot of fun downloading and trying programs.

I liked the picture gallery, it’s pretty fast and the firmware update I mentioned a while back added multitouch support.

To add music to the Nexus One you connect it to your computer, mount the SD card and then copy your music files to the Nexus One.

If you tether your phone a lot you should know that the Nexus One doesn’t come with a tethering solution out of the box. You’ll have to go out and find one.

Google Maps is built in. It’s very good at getting a GPS fix very quickly and it’s pretty easy to use. It has navigation in that you can ask it for directions – the catch is that there’s only voice guided navigation in the ‘States so up here in Canada I don’t have the option for it. There is multitouch support for zooming in and out of maps.

There is an app called Car Home which you can use to search for a location and phonebook entries using your voice.

The camera has a resolution of 5 megapixels. Quality wise It’s about average as far as 5 megapixel autofocus cameras goes. The flash tends to wash out subjects while the sensor could be more sensitive so pictures captured in low light lack some detail. The autofocus feels a hair faster than with most camera phones (though it’s still way too slow).

The camcorder captures video at 720×480 (DVD quality) into 3gp files. Video quality is above average but the microphone isn’t very good.

I noticed that the Nexus One uses a ton of data in the background. I managed to pull down around 25MB of data minimum each day which is quite a lot considering I wasn’t streaming anything besides a few short YouTube videos every couple of days. In fact according to a data counter widget I installed (search the market for “Data counter widget”) I used up 1GB of data in about 2 weeks. What more incredible is this is all over EDGE. Make sure you have a beefy data plan if you’re going to get a Nexus One!

Please note I’m still in the process of testing the Nexus One’s RF. I don’t have Wind 3G service in my house plus I’m running into some APN issues – I also have a Wind Blackberry Bold 9700. Check back in a week or so and I’ll have some observations on the Nexus One’s RF performance.

Battery life is pretty weak. The Nexus one will struggle to make it through the day. I’m terrified to see what the battery life will be like once I have 3G service. The included battery has a capacity of 1400mAh. I’d like to see manufacturers start using bigger batteries to keep up with the faster processors, bigger displays and more capable operating systems.

In the end I really liked the Nexus One. This really confused me since I didn’t enjoy using the Nexus One from an ergonomic standpoint – The bezel is too narrow which means the keyboard is difficult to use and the screen unpredictable at times. After more thought I realized I really liked how the Nexus One pairs Android (version 2.1 on the Nexus One) with a 1Ghz processor.

So I guess while I liked the Nexus One I’d advise you to see how similar upcoming phones are (like the Sony Ericsson X10).

Howard Chui
02.14.2010

Entry Filed under: Google,HTC

6 Comments Add your own

    matthew Cosar  |  February 15th, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Hi Howard,

    Great review, really appreciate it.

    My question is that with the Nexus One working only on EDGE, was that sufficiently fast to daily things like calling, texting and some video streaming?

    I am looking to getting a N1 and was wondering if I should wait for a European version as I want it to be GSM compatible but would like the ability to run 3G in Canada with either Telus or Bell. Just wondering if you know if new systems will be HSPA compatible.

    Thanks,

    Matt

    Howard  |  February 15th, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Being on EDGE won’t have an impact on calling and texting. While it’s possible I don’t think video streaming over EDGE is usable.

    A phone currently needs HSPA 850 to run on TELUS or Bell.

    aamo  |  February 19th, 2010 at 11:53 am

    For the data-hungry side of the phone, for me I went from a daily 10-20MB to about 2MB when I turned off Picasa sync in my Settings.

    I have quite a few albums in Picasa, so I suppose that every time I was loading the gallery it would load those pictures.. Ouch. I burned 120MB in 4 days. 4 more days later and I’m at 130MB or so, since I stopped Picasa,

    AG  |  February 21st, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Hey,

    I have contacted WIND several times. Looks like they are going to provide N1 soon but no body knows when. If this takes very long, what are the cheapest alternatives of getting N1 here in Canada?

    Thanks.

    Fascinating  |  March 5th, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Nice review Howard. I would’ve like to see more info on the battery in terms if it is replaceable by the user or does it have to go back to HTC for replacement.

    It was mentioned that there are a “ton” of apps on the market for it. I went to the Android Market website and I did NOT see that many apps. If there are other sites out there, it would be worth mentioning. As it stands, the apps available are very very weak.

    Lukehluke  |  March 5th, 2010 at 5:24 am

    I want to see how it will compare to the HTC Desire :D

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