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Nexus One: The Best Android Phone Yet

Let’s face it, when it comes to the Nexus One, aka the Google (s goog) Phone, there’s really only one thing you want to know: Is it better than the iPhone (s appl)? 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 (s rimm), 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 (s t) 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 (s qcom) 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.

124 Responses to “Nexus One: The Best Android Phone Yet”

  1. logan

    by far my favorite unlocked phone. easy to use, big screen. i got some for my family for christmas and six months later they still love them to death!! way better than our old phones. internet is easier to use, facebook is nice, easy to surf the internet and check my stocks. processor is faster, camera is nicer. we got our 4 at and we love them. 2 thumbs up

  2. WhiteRabbit

    after reading all the comments i just cant help myself to tell all u guys tat iphone is not just the best phone its the god of phones. im using e71 bb9700 nexus one n d iphone currently but still iphone is still my first choice n fav anytime of the day. when i got my iphone i instantly jailbreak it and that is where the love begins. for your information its worthit, to hell with apple warranty.. LOL.. now my iphone multitask, fully customize frm a to z, full of apps and games and easier to use compare to the nexus. i dont like iphone before but after personally using it i cant get my hands off it.

  3. I have been using the iphone for quite some time and I have become addicted to it and like all you said about the iPhone. I have had a chance to try out the Nexus One and I am pretty much certain I would not give up my iPhone for Nexus One or any other smart phone presently available. iPhone will get smarter with the introduction of multitasking when OS 4.0 is launched.

  4. mario perez

    I have this baby rooted running full speed, has multi-touch, plus i can store the apps on my 16 gb sd card, thinking of getting the 32 gb sd card. iphone users cant touch this phone, jailbroken iphone 3gs vs. rooted nexus one has no chance, lol.

  5. I like how everyone who has an Iphone has used it for years and they give another platform a week to figure it out. Android is far from perfect but the Iphone had a good 2.5 year head start.

    For the Iphone fanboys who constantly talk about multitouch…I could have that a year ago…the phone has the ability its just not unlocked. Once summer hits all of apples patents will go to shit, so multi-touch will become available to ALL android users. And when Iphone gets released to other carriers its already too late, other then itunes the Iphone truly has nothing on android except more apps you HAVE to pay for.

  6. It really depends on who’s using it. Some people can’t really work on some phones coz they have gigantic fingers. But this was a good post though.

    On the other hand, it may be far-fetched, but i just don’t understand your comparison with cars, like you said Lexus is as good as Mercedes? I know Mercedes is a classic and most people know it since it’s pretty popular but they don’t really know which one is better. Try to check to see which ones is more powerful. Just wanted to share.

  7. firstly did you carry-out this review before or after Google released a software update to remove bugs and errors because apparently this update makes the device run seamlessly, i think a comparison to the iphone 3GS is unfair in this instance becasue apple have had a good few runs with the iphone 2G 3G and 3GS i think for a entry level OS android is amazing and through time i have no doubt things can only improve !!!

    HTC hero and iPod touch owner

  8. I’m just going to point out all the mistakes in your article.

    1. You said 1ghz snapdragon is “as fast as” Droid’s 550/600mhz OMAP. Both platforms have same Cortex A8 CPU, which would make Nexus one much faster than the Droid. 1000 > 550/600

    2. “It has the ability to add up to 8 GB of storage via a Micro SD card.” MicroSD cards come bigger than 8GB, pal, welcome to 2010.

    3. You mentioned something about sending half finished text messages because of typing. Maybe you should use the voice feature, which is very accurate and can easily be editted to your liking.

    4. You left out many important features of Nexus One, such as dual noise cancellation mic, AMOLED technology, live wallpaper, widget capability, open nature of the applications which can do more than apple’s apps because they are not restricted at all, teflon covered body.

    5. You said Nexus One comes close to iPhone in terms of looks… let me show you one little video that proves that Nexus One is much more slick and sexier than iphone.

  9. I’m just curious what font and pixel size of your font do you use for your articles. Your text looks great. I would be so happy if you could email me and let me know.

    Also I had been thinking of buying a Nexus One, but I think I’m going to use that money to buy a cool netbook since I already have a MyTouch Android phone which works perfectly for my needs… but a netbook would be great for working on my website while sitting at Starbucks or wherever I can get Wi-Fi….. I could probably do that on my phone but a cellphone’s screen isn’t exactly a good size to be looking at while trying to do website maintanance.

  10. I have to say that motorola has hit the ground running with the CLIQ. It has a 5 megapixal camera, acess to over 16000 apps, and most of all it is a heat sensitive touchscreen with a full physical qwerty keyboard. The device works so well that were I work 5 out of 6 employees own one.

  11. You guys don’t see whats coming next? A device like this running Linux at 1GHz is already a small computer and can replace them. In few years dual cores phones will run at 2GHz! People will arrive home, will connect their keyboards and monitors to the bloody phone and there they will have a computer capable to process HD video and navigate the web. There is where we are heading. Nexus one is the first step to that path.

  12. coolfx35

    So I am thinking about picking a Droid and I am leaning toward the Nexus.
    I dont need a pull out keyboard, and i dont even want to spend the $30 / month for Data, I just like the Wifi deal.
    I am almost always in a location that has Wifi…..

    so, am i nuts for looking at this phone for just phone and wifi?
    Is it overkill without purchasing the data ?

    I really do not want the additional cost
    Thoughts/comments? Share them on Thanks.

  13. Quote: “But compared to the iPhone, it’s not as smooth or effortless to use. Perhaps in time it will be.”

    Nice review :). Theres something troubling me with it though.

    The iPhone can not multi task, has a far less system heavy OS and can not be customised in any sort of way unless jailbroken.

    It has a slower processor, sure, and still manages to be smoother – but with that comes loss of actual function.

    I had an iPhone 3GS and it bored the hell out of me, the only redeeming feature of the phone was the App store of which most Apps are utterly pointless anyway.

    I enjoy my Droid a whole lot more, and on that note, the Droid trumps the Nexus One in a few ways for me, the main being it has a physical keyboard.

    Your review is a little bit biased, as there is so much going on with the Android OS and so little going on with Apples OS – put Apples OS on the Nexus One and the Nexus will be even faster than the 3GS.

    You have a choice – a fun, customisable mobile phone powered by Android, or a boring and to be honest tired looking OS that is the iPhone.

    People refer to Apples OS as smooth – but I refer it as boring, I mean come on, side swipes? I want to be able to do more with a touch screen than that, I want to get down and dirty with it.

    Further to your points about the typing on this device I completely agree, having used the Nexus One the keyboard is pretty useless!


    Jakk – Your fellow technoholic :)

  14. Sanjay Singh


    I am trying to figure out the logic behind the pricing of $ 530 for unlocked version.

    Why would someone who wants an “Iphone like phone” on any of the Carriers will buy $530 upfront phone and not choose from from various options (Droid/iphone/g1 etc.) which are available with a Data Plan. How will the economics work-out for a regular guy (not counting geeks who need to have Nexus at any cost) and will Nexus unlocked version be really a hit in US.

    Should Google not have priced it at around $300 and wrote off part of the cost in an attempt to provide a larger userbase which eventually helps in users doing more searches, just like carriers subsidize handsets for promoting data usage.

    • This is not much different than the iphone really. You can buy one for $600 without contract, only you can’t use it anywhere but with at&t. people use this opportunity more often than you would think, e.g., when they break their phone – warranty does not cover accidental damage.

      Whether google or apple should subsidize devices for greater usage, i suppose that depends on their balance sheets and how much extra usage is worth to them.
      I think google is equally happy if you buy an iphone instead.

      When carriers subsidize the phone to you, they actually increase the subscription rates. So you pay for your subsidy and then some. For example t-mobile offers plans when you bring your own device that are $20/month cheaper than when you get the subsidy. In this example subsidy is $350 and you would save $480 over 2 year contract if you paid the full price for the phone up front. It is a very expensive credit that, come to think of it, you keep on paying even after 2 years have passed if you stay on the same plan. So it is beneficial for you to finance the device elsewhere. The ability to buy unlocked phones by itself is likely to increase the transparency here and you are likely to see carriers competing on the rates when you bring your own device. We know there is at least one carrier that does.

  15. Casablanca

    A 7.5 score is way too generous. I’ve been used to seeing Google being the best at everything it does, so my expectations were very high for this phone. I thought it would blow the Iphone but instead it is merely catching up to it! If this was any startup, I’d give them an A for effort, but this is Google with all its global resources. So they get a C. They should have definitely aimed higher than just looking to catch up with the Iphone.

  16. Be Pre-pared

    Palm Pre no longer has an app limit, has a multi-touch screen, multi-tasking (I can have many apps open at once and being doing many things at once), app catalog (both app store & homebrew) is growing rapidly and has most of the useful apps anyone would need (i.e., do you really need 20 fart apps’s), has a good network with Sprint, is the cheapest (or about tide to cheapest with T-mobile) to have, will have Flash soon (not coming soon to iPhone), it can now play classic games like Doom & Quake (and much more soon with flash), is more open to developers than Apple but Palm is still selective on what gets in the App store, updates to the phone are coming on a regular basis and Palm/Sprint are fighting for their lives so they are LISTENING to their customers. Palm’s chairman and CEO, Jon Rubinstein, was at Apple in the 90’s just BEFORE Jobs got back (Rubinstein was at Apple from 1997-2006) and was the force behind the iPod. He was a big reason why Apple is where it is today. Rubinstein will bring Palm back and that is why you better not count out Palm!