With the constant rumours leading up to the announcement of the Apple iPad, you could be forgiven for missing the release of that other mobile device in January. After years of speculation, Google announced the immediate availability of its very own smart-phone, the Nexus One.
Like many of our readers, I bought into the iPhone 3G craze in mid-2008 and as such my contract will be up for renewal later this year. The decision facing many of us is whether to move to the 3GS' successor later this year or jump ship to a competitor.
Running the latest 2.1 release of Android and manufactured by HTC, the Nexus One is Google's showcase of exactly what its operating system can do. There are many in-depth reviews of this phone available on the web, so I will not go into every nuance of the handset. Instead, I will focus on my impressions from the perspective of a long-term iPhone user on why you may (and may not) want to move to Android.
Before turning the device on, a side-by-side of the Nexus One and iPhone 3G show the devices to be very similar in size and weight; the N1 is perhaps marginally slimmer. Compared to the shiny black and silver of the iPhone, the Nexus One has a matte, two-tone grey finish. Overall, I do not think its appearance is as “sexy” as the iPhone, but its still a great looking phone.
While plugging the SIM in and inserting the 1400mAh battery you also notice the removable microSD 4GB card, which can be expanded up to 32GB. After using the iPhone for so long, its great to be back on a device with upgradeable storage. Like the iPhone (but unlike many HTC phones) the N1 has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
In terms of physical input in addition to the capacitive screen there is a physical power button, volume controls, and for some reason a trackball that also functions as both a button and a notification light. I do not really understand why the trackball was included – I have never used it for input and the notification light will quickly be turned off if you keep the phone on your bedside table.
Along the bottom of the screen are four “soft” buttons that respond to touch: “Back”, “Menu”, “Home”, and “Search”. I found the “Search” button to be kind of pointless; while “Back” and “Menu” all get used frequently, I remain unconvinced that they are actually better than just displaying the buttons on-screen. I also found that the touch-sensitive area of these soft buttons is about 5mm higher than you would expect – you really need to touch the area between the button icon and the screen, rather than the icon itself.
The first thing you notice after turning the phone on, is the high resolution boot animation. The screen is 480x800 pixels – much higher than the 320x480 of the iPhone. In practice, this increase in resolution made a bigger difference than I expected it to as it enables fonts to remain readable even at relatively small sizes. Unfortunately, the screen does not seem as resistant to fingerprints as the iPhone – I rarely if ever clean my iPhone, but have been wiping the N1's screen every few days.
Rounding out the hardware is a 1ghz processor and hardware h264 acceleration, 5MP camera with LED flash, bluetooth, and 802.11b/g WiFi. Somewhat unusually, the connector is micro USB instead of mini USB.
On to Page 2 - the Software