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Summary:

Let’s face it, when it comes to the Nexus One, aka the Google Phone, there’s really only one thing you want to know: Is it better than the iPhone? The answer, unfortunately, is not all that simple. But after using the device for nearly 10 days, […]

Let’s face it, when it comes to the Nexus One, aka the Google Phone, there’s really only one thing you want to know: Is it better than the iPhone? The answer, unfortunately, is not all that simple. But after using the device for nearly 10 days, I am convinced that this new phone is the best Android device made to date.

Rather than doing a typical review of its features -– frankly all that stuff has been blogged to death — I wanted to share with you what it’s like to live with this device, day in and day out. In other words, to tell you whether or not the Nexus One is worth the hype.

The only way to do that was to make it my primary mobile device. So I put away my BlackBerry, banished my SIM-less iPhone, and switched my personal mobile number to T-Mobile USA, the preferred carrier for the Nexus One. (AT&T’s 2G network will support the device, but not on its 3G network.) With that, I was ready. My impressions are broken down into two categories: Appearance & Features and Usability & Extensibility.

Appearance & Features: This phone is fast, thin and has a gorgeous high-quality WVGA screen. It’s made by HTC and runs Android 2.1, the latest version of the OS. The 1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor makes it as fast as the Droid, and it has a 5-megapixel camera (both still and video). It has the ability to add up to 8 GB of storage via a Micro SD card, which makes it a great device for taking photographs, shooting quick videos and listening to music.

From a purely design standpoint, the Nexus One is within striking distance of its primary rival, the iPhone. Just as Infiniti and Lexus are almost as good as Mercedes, based on sheer looks, the Nexus One is a lot closer to the iPhone than all other Android phones. While it isn’t as iconic as the Apple device, it is a well-designed, feature-rich product that stands apart in a sea of Android handsets.

Usability & Extensibility: Looks, they say, aren’t everything. And they’re right. If anyone has ambitions to beat the iPhone, then they need to bring their A-game, emphasizing ease-of-use and seamlessness when it comes to the user experience and from a software standpoint, simplicity. Here the Google Phone misses the mark.

First, let’s focus on the things the Nexus One gets right: Connectivity is easy to achieve, including for both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections. The Wi-Fi finder in particular is pretty simple — much as it is on previous generations of Android phones. The first time you access the phone, it asks if you have a Google account. If you do, just enter the information and it painlessly syncs everything — calendar, contacts, Gmail and GTalk. If you have a Google Voice account, the device gives you an option to call out using your Google Voice number. Other Google apps — such as Google Maps — are perfectly integrated with the OS.

This integration made my life easier as our entire company’s operations are based on Google apps. The browser, too, is rock-solid.

But that’s where the seamlessness ends. Android, including the new 2.1 version, isn’t as smooth as the iPhone. One needs to make more of an effort on the Google Phone to get things done. I guess you can blame that on the lack of multitouch features. Now don’t get me wrong — Android 2.1 running on Nexus One is pretty darn good. Just not as good as an iPhone.

It feels somehow disjointed  – much like all the other Android phones. When you install non-Google applications, they don’t quite have the tight integration of Google-based apps. Of course, that’s the downside of an open platform, one not entirely controlled by a single entity. Google might have to make this issue a top priority in the coming months, something I discussed with Google’s head honcho of mobile, Andy Rubin.

I think of extensibility in terms of applications. Platforms are successful if, and only if, people build on them. Such building is one of the reasons that the iPhone has been so successful. The kludgy Android Market and its wares are Google’s Achilles’ heel, in my opinion. The company needs to fix that. I downloaded some of my favorite apps, such as FourSquare and Seesmic, for the Google phone, but not anywhere close to the number of useful apps that I run on my iPhone/iPod touch. Unless Google spends a whole lot of money and effort improving its app store, it will continue to lag its main rival.

What really doesn’t work for me: I’ve had a tough time mastering the phone part of the device. It’s just not as smooth an experience as it should be.

Moreover, the touch-based typing on Nexus One has been hard to master. I keep sending half-finished text messages. My emails are full of mistakes and I can feel my ineptness at typing on the Nexus One every single minute. And I don’t mind touchscreens. I have, on occasion, typed out entire posts on the iPhone using the WordPress app. Nexus One made me yearn for my BlackBerry Bold 9700. (Indeed, I’m back to the Bold as of this morning.)

What Surprised Me: There are two things about the Nexus One that took me by surprise. First, it has only three points of distraction — one less than the iPhone: the on-off switch, the volume slider and the rollerball. Second, the device has remarkable battery life. It lasts almost a full day even with brightness at the maximum level, Wi-Fi and 3G turned on, and high talk time — roughly 1.5 hours.

Bottom Line: If there was no such thing as an iPhone, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the Nexus One is the best touchscreen smartphone available. It certainly is the best Android device on the market, hands down. But compared to the iPhone, it’s not as smooth or effortless to use. Perhaps in time it will be.

And at $530 a pop, the Nexus One is expensive. Plus, it’s married to a frail 3G network. T-Mobile USA has been rolling out its high-speed network across the country, but in San Francisco, the performance was lukewarm at best. If you can overlook these problems, and if you don’t like the iPhone, then this is the smartphone for you. I’m giving it a solid 7.5 out of 10.

  1. How interesting. Actually for me one of the key benefits of moving from an iphone to a G1 was easier use of the “phone”. I really liked the way you could simply setup a quickdial icon on the homescreen for a specific number. Not being able to quickly dial a phone no. was the iphone’s Achilles Heel as far as I was concerned and I liked the fact that the G1 (or any other Android phone) had such a simple resolution.

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    1. I guess it is more of an individual thing — not sure how else can I describe it. For others it might work.

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      1. am a great fan of apple iphone, and am in no plan to change my plan,,,but,,the one thing that i am missing in iphone is the speed dial,,,

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    2. I think the iPhone has no intention of being all things to all men – Apple have set up the App store to cater for that. There are several apps that do just what you say, allow one touch dialling in a very smooth way. And there’s always the favourites section of the supplied Phone app.

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  2. @OM Malik – I guess this phone is also missing an ecosystem “a la” iTunes/AppStore…

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    1. Not sure I even understand what you are attempting to say. Can you explain? I think they need to develop a better experience in the Android Store.

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      1. Possibly an easier way to sync and manage apps, music, photos, and other goodies between phone and computer? That’s all that I could come up with from that comment.

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  3. Om,

    Re the text input, you should download the test version of Swype and give it a shot. I’ve had the Droid for a month and just added Swype – it is amazing how much easier it is now. If only the Droid had the battery life of the Nexus One, I’d be all set!

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  4. Ak probaly meant as ekosystem as some connecity- like google store for mp3s

    cool device but electrical outlet or solar bag will come handy
    (It lasts almost a full day)
    being smart has its disatvantages..

    few more pics&menues
    http://michkhoo.blogspot.com/2010/01/google-nexus-phone-pics.html

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  5. Om, come on, Nexus One has no multitouch so answer IS SIMPLE: iPhone is superior.

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    1. If all you are interested in doing is multitouching, sure.

      However, if you would prefer to listen to pandora while browsing, then the answer is clear: you need two iphones.

      Also, if you are not interested in crossing any borders, and why would anyone, than Google voice is probably not all that important.

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      1. What is really missing in iPhone is multi-tasking and is something that Apple will fix in the next version that comes out. Both Palm-Pre and Android beat iPhone on this aspect. A lot of Apps like InstaMapper does not make sense without multi-tasking.

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    2. Oh no, it does have! But this function is softwarewise locked in the USA, whereas in Europe it is unlocked and functions excellent!

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  6. Om, I found the closing paragraph (re: SF 3G coverage) odd – given what a poor experience you’ve had with AT&T 3G there.

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    1. Good point!!

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  7. Man I was really excited for this and now i couldn’t care less. The lack of support for AT&T 3G is just sheer idiocy. I’m sorry but while the folks in San Fran and NY might have issues with AT&T, there are plenty of others that use AT&T and are quite happy with their service (like me) who would love to get an Android device.

    So it’s lack of AT&T 3G support makes me just look at this and go “meh!” I would have bought 1 today if it supported AT&T 3G

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    1. Considering the Nexus One is a global product that is sold in multiple countries, wasn’t it smarter for Google to include the 3G bands it did? I thought AT&T and Rogers supported the 3G bands that are “unusual”.

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  8. Om,

    Great post. I’ve read it twice and 7.5 feels like a generous score unless you’re a non-iPhone user. Would it be safe to say that the 7.5 is the average of what you’d think as an iPhone owner (6-6.5) vs an android or non-iPhone user (7.5 or 8)?

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  9. Great post by comparing it with iPhone. How about N1 compared with mainframe of mobile (aka BB)?

    Best,
    -Uday.

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