19 Jan Google Nexus One First Impressions

Since I first reviewed the T-Mobile G1 with Android OS last year, I was really looking forward to the improvements Google and HTC could bring to the end user experience with subsequent products.  The G1 felt like a beta piece of hardware and software at the time, but I was impressed about many things too.  The difference between the G1 and the Nexus One is significant and I wanted to share with you my first impressions.  I evaluate many smartphones for various reasons; to better understand the user experience, the importance and linkage to cloud computing where AMD is a leading supplier of silicon, and the interaction between phones that require a client PC to reach their full potential. While there are many areas it can improve, the Google Nexus One is truly amazing and in my opinion eclipses the Iphone and Blackberry on many vectors.

Google Nexus One “Plusses”

Thin: The Nexus One (119 x 59.8 x 11.5 mm) is smaller than an IPhone (115.5 x 62.1 x12.3mm) and the Blackberry Storm 2 (112.5 x 62.2 x 13.95mm)

Display: The 3.7″ AMOLED touchscreen display is gorgeous and displays at 800 x 480 pixels, higher than the Iphone’s 3.5″  480 x 320 resolution display.  Pictures, video, and web look awesome on the Nexus One.

Camera: The camera captures at 5MP (Iphone 3MP) and has a nice flash, autofocus, and supports geo-tagging.  The quality reminds me of the Blackberry Storm camera, which I liked a lot.  Lots of megapixels, good focus, and nice flash.  Geo-tagging rocks when you plug the pictures into a program like Picasa, that automatically supports the coordinates. Iphone users are still waiting for that flash. :)

Voice command and control: While skeptical at first, I was VERY impressed at what I could do just with my voice.  I wrote an email, searched the web, looked up contacts, mapped locations, navigated to locations, and texted with a very high degree of accuracy.  I have used a lot of voice apps before and without any training, it worked well for me.

Navigation: The Google Maps Navigation operated as well as any commercial system I have used.  One of my favorite features was navigating in satellite view, where you see the actual satellite imagery of streets and buildings as you are navigating, versus cartoony streets.  The voice is a bit robotic, but it wasn’t distracting.  Make sure you plug in the Nexus One as you are navigating, because it sucks an enormous amount of battery. Also, there are pre-programmed options to see parking, gas stations, ATMs, banks, and restaurants as you drive near them in real-time.

Widgets: Widgets are like Windows PC gadgets or Google PC gadgets but for a phone.  This saves time to get to relevant information like weather, stock prices, even Twitter and Facebook Updates.  So instead of requiring you to enter the application, it just shows up on one of the main phone screens.  This saves a lot of time.

Gallery: Gallery is the fancy name for the place where you can view pictures and videos.  This is very sexy in that it makes use of the accelerometer to get the best view of the content.  Tilt the phone to the left and the pictures re-orient to  give a better view of the pictures. Gallery also supports geo-tagging so you can view by location.

Google integration: Of course with a phone from Google, you would get tight integration with Google properties. The Nexus One has very tight integration with Gmail, YouTube, Picassa, Calendar, and Google Maps.  Integration just makes it easier to accomplish certain tasks.  For example, when you are viewing a picture, you have built-in ability to share with Google properties.  Google doesn’t restrict sharing I must point out.  If you install an app like Facebook with hooks to Gallery, it will show up as a share option as well.  What I don’t understand is the lack of integration to Google Docs.  If someone can explain that to me, please do so in the comments section.

Android Market: Conceptually like the Apple App Store and Blackberry App World, the Android Market provides many applications, some free and some for a fee.  There were only a few apps that I miss that aren’t currently available in the market but in the Apple App store: TweetDeck and E-trade Mobile Pro. This a HUGE improvement from the G1 days.

Multitasking: Unlike the Iphone, the Nexus One multitasks virtually any application.  The Iphone has improved by adding a few multitasking capabilities, but I couldn’t find any limitations with the Nexus One.  I don’t like limitations.  There is a price, though.  Get 5-10 apps running at the same time and the Nexus One bogs down a bit.

Google Nexus One “Minuses”

Task switching: While multitasking is a benefit, it is difficult to task-switch between applications.  The Blackberryshave the advantage with task switching.  Just hold down the activity button on a Blackberry and you can see all the apps that are currently running and switch to that app.

Microsoft Exchange Support: The Nexus One doesn’t have it, but there is talk of an “Enterprise version”.  Blackberry is the monster of big business and we all know it supports the enterprise.

Virtual keyboard: I know I say that the virtual keyboard is awesome below, but awesome in the context of virtual keyboards.  The Blackberry Bold real, physical keyboard is still “king of the hill” in terms of text input.  If you do serious typing, the Bold smokes everything out there, including the Palm Pre.

Video recording: The specs state that it only supports 720 x 480 at 20fps.  The low fps is is bizarre to me given the sophistication of the phone…. and the fact that Iphone supports 30fps.  I need to investigate the bit rates a little on these to see if there is a difference in quality that allows the Iphone to capture at such higher frame rates or if it is a true Nexxus One limitation.

Movie rentals: While I would venture to guess that a small percentage of Iphone or iTouch users rent movies and watch on their smartphone, I do in fact take advantage of this application.  Unfortunately I couldn’t locate an application to rent or buy movies.  Please let me know if you find one.

Google Nexus One “Too Early to Tell”

Touch screen: The virtual keyboard was awesome even with my big fingers, but the touch-screen at times had a little delay a few times, very few times.  Most non-geeks won’t notice, particularly if they haven’t ever used an Iphone.

Battery life: I didn’t do any scientific tests, but I did not get the claimed 6.5 hours internet browsing as claimed. Also, I couldn’t find any details on the methodology either.  Apple provides a wealth of information on their battery life methodology.

Conclusion on the Google Nexus One Smartphone

Regardless of some of the bashing the Nexus One received, I am thoroughly impressed with the Nexus One.  I just didn’t have the issues that others are reporting having with the unit as I just plopped in my T-Mobile SIM card and it just worked.   I cannot overstate how far the Android OS and apps ecosystem have come in such a short time. And if you compare it to the different versions of Windows Mobile, it’s even more impressive what Google has done.

While I won’t trade the Nexus One for my BlackBerry Bold because I want a physical keyboard and need Exchange support, if you want a thin, touch-screen smartphone with some amazing capabilities, you should try out the Google Nexus One.  Some very distinguishing characteristics versus other thin, touch-screen are the camera features (5MP/flash/geo-tagging), voice command/control that actually works, built-in navigation capabilities, Google integration and the on-screen widgets. If you are interested in other Google Nexus One reviews, check them out atEngadgetPC MagazinePC WorldCNETjkOnTheRun, and the NY Times.