HTC Google Nexus One Review

Posted Feb 25, 2010
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Google has always been on the forefront of innovation and R&D. From a mere search engine to a multi-billion dollar empire, Google has always found ways to provide the users the most effective way to stay connected online and use services for free which are normally termed as expensive.

Last year Google announced getting it feet into hardware side of technology and later announced the first Google based phone, by Google. Android OS is not new to the market, with G1 for At&T, Goolge gave a shot at running Mobile OS and it was successful. After a year long research and development work, on January 5th 2009, Google launched Nexus One. The first Google designed and OS based cellular phone in the market. Backed by HTC’s winning technology, Google Nexus One won rave reviews and critical acclaims across the industry and users alike.

Today, we are reviewing HTC Google Nexus One.

The Looks

When you get your hands on the Nexus One box, you will realize how much Google thought about attractive yet simplistic design of the box itself. It is unique, sleek and simple, all at the same time. You will notice that there are not cluttered images, No big letters, No signs or details all around the box. It is just a plain white box with Google written on it.

Once you open the box, the Nexus One is revealed, packed carefully in protective layers. Underneath the initial layer, there are documents about the phone, how to start and warranty. Taking it out, very elegantly placed are phone charger, battery, stereo headset, data cable and phone pouch.

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For the over all appearance, Google Nexus one gets full marks.

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The overall build quality is very good and sturdy as compared to Nokia or for that matter even iPhone to some extent. The shell casing of phone is good enough to provide a firm grip and the thin waist line gives a sleek yet compelling weight-age to the holder.

The phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack on top alongside the power button. There are only two more button’s on the left side of the phone for speaker and ringer volume control. The buttons are placed at a very good location in order to change the volume settings on the go.

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On the front of the phone there is a trackball, which is multipurpose. It provides you with notification light when there is a new email / msg / missed call. Also it gives the user a good control scrolling over any app or setting.

On the bottom of the screen you will see the speaker slot but there are three connectors as well, which gives an idea that a dock is either in the making or will be out very soon, otherwise I could not understand why would they be there.

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The screen is 3.7 inch AMOLED display which is crisp and colorful, some what better than iPhone. There are four engraved shortcut keys for going back to previous page or app, Menu key, Home key and search key. By default, Nexus One some with search feature enabled via Google search.

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  • Under the Hood
  • CPU 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250
  • RAM / ROM 512MB / 512MB (Supports Compact Flash up to 32 GB)
  • Screen 3.7 inch AMOLED Capacitive Screen
  • OS Android 2.1
  • Connectivity 3G, Edge, GPRS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Features SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
  • Camera 5MP Auto focus, LED Flash
  • GPS A-GPS with Google Maps

As you can see that the Nexus One has huge power under the hood but it does have the disadvantage of packing such power as well. The battery drains out pretty quickly when using multiple apps and CPU is being used. I will cover it in detail in the battery life section.

The Interface / GUI

Google came up with Android OS two years ago with the launch of G1 with AT&T. At that time, the phone got pretty decent reviews but there was a lot of criticism as well due to lack of features. This time, Google ensured that it would take all that feedback from G1 and improve upon it to deliver the ultimate device. Nexus One is not the ultimate device but it is pretty close to it.

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On the main screen, there are only a couple of icons when you boot up the phone for the first time but then again, what would be a phone like if the screens cannot be changed and rearranged. The good part about the main screen is that unlike iPhone, the home and adjoining screens hold on the icons / shortcuts or widgets which you want them there. Otherwise, the entire programs and features list is stacked alphabetically in the programs menu, which can be accessed easily through programs menu shortcut.

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Moving the applications from program menu to main screen works like a charm as you will only have to press on the icon once for 2 seconds and then drag it to main screen. You can also drag the icon into any of the main five screens. This particularly helps in organizing content according to the genre or usage.

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The programs in the menu can be views through scroll feature, which is kind of cool and very smooth.

There are many valuable features built in the OS for user’s convenience like:

Battery Timewhich tells you how much battery is left and which process is using what percentage of battery. It is accessible through About the Phone menu in phone settings.

Multi-tasking outlookThis is a very neat feature, all you need to do is to press the home icon on the phone for 3 seconds and a small pop-up will appear telling you which tasks or programs are currently running.

Single page Applications shortcutThis is by default the placeholder for all the programs and settings. All the programs are stacked in alphabetical order and your favorite program is only a scroll away.

TrackballNow this is the best feature added to Nexus One. Those who love to text and at times have to correct a word but could not select, this trackball enables you to easily go back a few paces for correction. It is also used for scrolling through any thing and pressing it would select that particular program or setting.

These were few of many small additions done to Nexus One, after learning from the market about what user wants.

The top bar on the screen hold a special place as well. It not only shows your battery, time and date but it also shows new notifications. It can be selected and dragged down to see what applications are running or what new notifications have arrived.

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The Touch:

One word… Amazing! The screen is so responsive that at time when I even took my finger close to an icon, it would open the app. Well that is not really a very good sign as there is no sensitivity adjuster for the touch. There should have been one.

On the bright side, the phone over all is very responsive to touch and the Android on-screen keyboard is one example of it. Since I have not used iPhone very much so I was skeptical about using an on screen keyboard. Being old school for using physical on-phone keyboard, this was my first experience and I must tell you that it was all worth it. Now I just cannot get without it.

I use email and text a lot and Nexus One did not disappoint me by providing an over all excellent touch system.

I got my Nexus One’s multitouch through Google OTA update. The additional functionality is the pinch zoom, which made iPhone famous. It currently works with browser, maps and image gallery.

The downside to the touch is that there is no sensitivity controller. If Google can add one to Nexus then things would be really more in control.

Voice – Speaker and Mic

Having used Nokia most my life, quality of voice is one thing I can pretty much judge at the first call. When I saw the small sleek speaker on the front, I thought, maybe the voice is like iPhone or other low end devices where the max volume is at par with Nokia’s 3/4 volume. Nexus One proves it wrong with audible voice quality even while standing in traffic and with active noise canceling mic, the person on the other side did not have any problem hearing me either.

However, having said that, I was disappointed with the ringer speaker of the phone. It is low and the highest sound could not be heard while there was a discussion amongst five people. I had to rely on vibration alert along with ring tone for answering the calls but 6/10 times, I missed the call. On the next HTC Nexus One models, they must do something about making the incoming call ringer more audible. I have added a third party application through Android Market, which takes care of all the voice issues. Check out my article posted earlier here.

One more thing I discovered that listening to music on the device through speakers was not really enjoyable. It was more like an OK experience. However, the stereo headsets provide very decent sound quality with ample bass to make you enjoy your music collection.

Another excellent feature is the voice activated services like search, maps, contacts search, application activation. Although in its infancy right now but it sure packs a lot of umph! in it. I did give it a try but since there are issues with accent recognition, most of the times my command was not understood or best estimated to be something else.

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We did cover some time ago that Nexus One censors cuss words. Guess what, it is true and the cuss words turn out to be #### at the end in results. Good fun for pass time.

Multimedia

Nexus One comes pre-installed with media & music player. There is noting new about the media player but this that it does not have any DivX support. It can be over come by using a third party DivX app which can be found through Android Market Place. The video playback is very decent but apologies for being biased, if you want to watch a movie, then you better get yourself a home theater system as these phones do playback movies but movies are not made to be watched on phones.

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As for the music player, it is decent, using the headphones. If you want to listen to your play-list through in-built speakers then it won’t exactly work out well. On the other hand, with 3.5mm jack you can plug in your phone in your car’s auxiliary input for better listening pleasure.

Camera

Now this is the part where I get to tell you how good Nexus One camera is. It is 5.0 Mega Pixel with dual LED flash and auto-focus. Of course we already know that now the standard is elevated to 5MP in most of the smartphone coming in these days but Nexus One’s camera slightly disappoints when taking pictures at night. The daylight pictures are brilliant and video quality is also very decent but the performance is somewhat under par when taking indoor or night photos.

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Another disappointing factor is the absence of optical zoom. The camera priced close to $600 should have at least 2x optical zoom to compensate for the other features. The sharing and Geo tagging features are pretty neat as you know where and when the picture was taken and organize them accordingly.

Other than that, you can pretty much do a little manual and a lot automatic settings. I would give this phone’s camera a 7/10.

Battery

Surprisingly, the battery performance is not that bad. Of course it is not even close to what we can have in HTC HD2 or even Nokia E-Series phones but Nexus One’s battery lasts for over a day with moderate usage. With heavy usage it drains within a day but still better than what iPhone is offering. The best part is that unlike iPhone, Nexus One’s batter is replaceable (and that is a relief). It is a 1400 mAh battery but keeping in view the screen size and resolution along with multiple fun features of the phone, one gets carried away and eventually drain the battery.

I will be running a small piece soon on how to keep Nexus One’s battery afloat without draining it much.

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We have talked about everything what anyone wants to know prior to buying a cell phone but this part is as interesting to know as the previous ones, may be more.

Nexus One come pre-installed with Google Apps (Gmail, Maps, Youtube, Docs, Voice) and also Outlook Exchange, Facebook gadget. There are other applications like music player, video player as well but unless you don’t use Android Market Place (icon placed on main home screen by default), you are then missing out on a lot. The Android market place is like iTunes store for those who don’t understand but unlike iTunes store, mostly the apps are free or free with ads in them.

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I did a writeup on 7 Best Apps for Nexus One, do go through it as well to know which applications should you install immediately after buying Nexus one.

The latest mod to Nexus One is the ROM mod by xda-developers, which enables HTC Sense on Nexus One. HTC Sense is a feature which N1 should have had from day one but I guess Google was too busy launching the phone and in excitement, forgot to get it for Android 2.1. No worries, you can find the guide here.

Browser

The Nexus One browser is based on Google’s very own Chrome. It is way faster than Windows Mobile IE browser but it is somewhat at par with Safari. I would really like to have Opera Mini on it as I feel that Opera has the best mobile browser available in the market. There are features which I think should have been part of the browser, such as, the forward feature. If you go back to a page then you cannot move forward to previous page you were visiting. There is no Flash in Nexus One and that is one major flaw in the phone and the browser. Some might argue that at least the phone has Youtube application but then again, it is not just Youtube I am looking for, there are thousands of other websites which use flash and are rendered useless just because Google decided not to include it in it phone. Overall, Nexus One’s browser is decent but there is a lot more room for improvement for further enhancements.

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Conclusion

HTC Nexus One is one of the top phones I have used so far in ages. After using Nokia’s E71 for over a year, it was hard for me to port to any other similar feature rich and open device but I am glad that I got Nexus One for myself. With its open OS and feature right functionality, I think I will be keeping this one for a long time. Of course I would need to maybe buy another spare battery for it and also a bigger SD card but it is all worth it.

There are however shortcomings in the phone which I would put in the missing features category and would like Google to work on it in their next Android Release for Nexus One.

  1. The phone book is messed up. If I search a contact and find it, then after coming back to the main contacts screen, the list goes back to the first name. It means that the list should stick to my last searched contact which makes it easier to search and maintain the contacts.
  2. The battery warms up while charging and at times it gets scary. There has been reports of Nexus one being over heated on Google’s support pages and I think Google with HTC should look into it for resolving the matter.
  3. No Flash. Give me a break! Please release a patch for fixing the Flash issue. Don’t be like Apple, be like Google.
  4. Give me Sense. I was talking about HTC Sense, Nexus One should also have it as default so we don’t have modify ROMS for it.
  5. Put some screen protector on. I don’t know what was going on in the minds of HTC when they did not put screen protector on it. I had to order a separate screen protector for it. At least do some anti-scratch coating on it like the Tefelon coating on the body.
  6. Increase internal memory. 512MB is what my kid has in his MP3 player and he’s only 4 years old.
  7. I’m sensitive but my phone takes the cake. There should be a sensitivity control app in settings. It gets annoying at times.
  8. Address book in SIM card. What if I want to change my phone tomorrow, how would I copy my contacts in the phone to my SIM card. Do something about it.

I feel, it is an excellent piece of hardware with a lot of stickiness to it but Google has to improve on the OS and native features, as above. Otherwise, it might be like; “Now you see me and now you don’t”

Reviewer’s Choice Award for this beauty (for now, until HTC Desire comes in for review)!

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