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Mar 28, 2010

MobileSpoon Reviews The Nexus One

Nexus-One-MobileSpoon

For an old guy like me, switching to a new mobile OS is not an easy task. You need to get used to new things, learn the right tweaks and find the best apps that will upgrade and polish your smartphone. In the last 2 years I switched from Windows Mobile to iPhone, all the way to BlackBerry and back to the iPhone. Now I found myself trying to get used to a Nexus One; Google's first phone running Google's first operating system. Exciting!

Before I start this review, I will say this: my previous encounters with the Android ended very badly with Android fans all over me, and I believe this review will not be different… 

The Good:

Before we get into the juicy part, let's summarize the good things, and there are many of them in the Nexus One:

1. Performance is so good it makes you forget you are using a smartphone. There is almost no lag time when opening applications and most of the features are working very fast.
2. Google apps integration is smooth, for people who use a lot of the Google tools it's a perfect fit. The Nexus also has a nice list of mobile apps such as Maps with navigation, Voice to Text, Google’s Listen, Shopper, Goggles and SkyMap. Great stuff.
3. The Android openness is so refreshing, especially when coming from the restricted iPhone and limited BlackBerry. Without really looking, I managed to find apps to download free music, free movies, youtube videos, porn (seriously, it's all over the market…), cracked apps – everything which is forbidden and dirty. Not sure I would give it to my kid, but still…
4. Nice Camera – a bit slow to take the pictures but a very decent one.
5. Elegant multi-tasking – probably the second best to the BlackBerry – mostly because you do not have a simple way to close an app from within the app itself.
6. Over the air updates - Do I need to explain?
7. Emerging community – it's enough to wander around the blogsphere to see that there are just so many great sites and resources for Android. The platform is very strong, and the popularity is increasing every day, which makes it fun, and definitely a big promise for more improvements and innovations (see next bullet as a good example)
8. Google's Gestures Search – I just love this app. It's one of the greatest ones, I just wish they had something like that for the iPhone.
9. Android's home screen: I'm not a huge fan of widgets, but if you use them wisely, you can end up with a great combination of pages holding both shortcuts and useful informational widgets, images, toggle buttons, something you cannot easily do with the iPhone or the BlackBerry.

Will all of those great things convince me to dump my iPhone and switch to the Nexus One?

Will the openness and robustness of the infrastructure pull me back from the darkness of Apple into the light of the WinMo successor?

Well…

I'm afraid the answer is a definite no.

 


The Bad:

Using the Nexus One for a few weeks convinced me that my future (at least for now) is with the iPhone. The main reasons were actually mostly related to the hardware but also to the OS.

Hardware:

When I saw the Nexus One for the first time I thought that this is probably the best looking device I've yet to see. Unfortunately there are many things in the design I just can't understand:
Opening the phone for a start, why can't I turn on the device without going all the way north with my finger to find the power button? Even the iPhone that has only 2 buttons allows that! It's annoying and requires changing the grasp just to open the phone. I know there is a tweak that turns the trackball into a power button, but I have no intention to wipe out my device for that ROM.
The hardware buttons below the screen are just a bad implementation to a good idea: they are completely out of focus. To use them you need to learn that the active area is actually above the center of the button, which seems like a bug that HTC should have fixed before releasing the product. Seriously annoying.
The volume buttons do not give a good sense of touch, which makes it hard to know if you clicked on the up or down buttons.

The Battery time is probably the worst one I've ever seen. The Battery actually dries out in less than a day, and the charging time is so long, longer than I'm used to with my other phones. It makes me think I have a problem with my phone.

The screen is impressive on one hand, but when taking the phone outside I can barely use it. Since it is actually designed to work better outside than a regular screen, I asked one of my friends to compare the Nexus to the iPhone with me, to see that I'm not crazy. We both agreed that the iPhone is much easier to use outside in a sunny day.
I found the automatic brightness to be somewhat annoying (changing too often, how about some stable light for a pair of tired eyes?) so I had to turn it off and keep a fixed brightness – something which probably consumes my battery even faster than planned.

Hmm…

As you can see, the above list have nothing to do with Google or the Android - it's all about the phone's hardware and my opinion is that HTC really did a bad job with it.

Yes, that's right. The company that develops hundred devices per year, keeps messing them up. First they invented that impossible D-Pad surface in their diamond/Pro devices everyone had to tweak in order to make it usable, then they invented this useless zoom bar in their second Diamond/Pro release, now they are trying to break a record with those impossible hardware buttons that work only when they feel like…). You would expect that after so many years, HTC will finally make a device without one of those flaws, wouldn't you?

In fact, if I could replace the Nexus One with a Motorola Droid (without even checking it), I would immediately do so just for the sake of making a point.

Droids_Attack_MobileSpoon

Repeating reception issues – I know that Google's patch should have fixed them, but at my gym (where I mostly play with mobile devices while others exercise), the Touch Pro 2, BlackBerry Bold and iPhone are all working nicely while the Nexus insists on having no reception at all. Bummer. 

Applications: I've noticed there are many interesting tools and productivity apps for Android. They are all nice, but I've yet to find an app that will amaze me. An app that will make me say: "how the h..<beep>..ll did they do that?!"

It's true that the iPhone also has a lot of crappy apps, but many of them are simply much better looking and seem to be fancier and more professional. The Android apps I've tried so far remind me of the Windows Mobile freewares I used to download years ago – they are good, but miss the "wow" effect that the iPhone apps have.

Android OS: Android is great, but it's not yet amazing. It's strong, robust, but not yet polished.
Some of the finger gestures don't feel as smooth as the iPhone (almost every iPhone owner I talked with said the same thing), the home menu is disorganized (but that can be solved using folders), the keyboard is very good but not yet as perfect (to me) as the iPhone keyboard – probably a matter of getting used to it.

And there are still too many bugs.
Say what you will, bottom line is that I had to restart the Nexus in 3-4 weeks more than I had to restart my iPhone in 2 years. And my iPhone is totally tweaked too. I found bugs when using multi-touch, answering calls, using the lock screen, and more.

Summary:

Reviewing phones is a subjective thing. You cannot argue with great specs, but you can argue about how well a smartphone fits your needs and desires.

The Android is a very good operating system that will continue to improve without a doubt. The Nexus One is a decent phone but has some issues I cannot live with. Despite of the many positive things I found – I'm still mostly disappointed by the phone. By checking the sales rate, I'm probably not the only one…

For the time being, I'm still looking for the smartphone that will convince me to retire my iPhone. I don't mind saying it is most likely to run the Android OS, but I'm certain it is not going to be the Nexus One.


Read other devices reviews by the Mobile Spoon:
Samsung Omnia 2 – The Magic Is Gone
Review: One Night Stand With HTC HD2
Review: HTC Touch Pro 2
The Truth About The BlackBerry Bold
 

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your review doesn't surprise me.  Even Android fans seem to not like the Nexus One very much.  I've never held one, so I can't comment personally, but considering that HTC's quality has really gotten better over the last year, I wonder if this device was just rushed before it was polished?

As for the software side, I guess that's a matter of taste.  I've read some people were actually "blown away" with Android.  And I've read other people grow tired of the GUI fluff of the iPhone, wanting more power that you get with Android/WinMo/Blackberry.  And others, like you, just find the end result unpolished, where iPhone doesn't have that problem.

I'm not sure where my future lies, as I am SERIOUSLY disappointed with Windows Phone 7 Series so far.  If I wanted an iPhone, I'll get an iPhone.  lol.  There's still a lot of time for them to 'right the wrong' of the massively locked down system and rejoin the ranks of WM6.5 and Android, but we'll see...  I got a contract for a while yet with my TP2 and I'm very happy with it since flashing MightyROM (Mighty Mike ROCKS).  Maybe WP8S will be Windows Mobile's "Windows 7," to WP7S's clearly "Vista" (aka slapped together nasty bastard) iteration.

If not, then Android, here I come!

I did do a lot of reading on Android app development and I really like it.  And I HATE Java with a fiery passion the likes of which the Earth does not know.  But Android basically chucked out what I hated about Java and whipped up their own very awesome libraries.  Nice work, Google.  I am impressed.

My only gripe is there is no analog to the registry in Android.  In WM, the registry is just this wonderful database of settings, status, and state.  With the introduction of SHNAPI it became trivial to write apps that had threads that just slept until the monitored registry value changed and you could take action.  It was so simple and so elegant.  Of course, WP7S no longer has this since you can't talk to the registry anymore.  And Android's 'intent' model serves a similar purpose, but seems more complicated than it needs to be.  But I suppose given time it will get more robust. 

I have also seen some people doing some interesting thing by listening to the various system MySQL databases.  Maybe given enough time the system MySQL DBs will turn into a pseudo-registry type of system for Android.

Anwyay, enough yapping from me.

Zarli Win said...

A Fair Review, but i think talking about the small sales figure of this phone is more due to marketing (or lack thereof) than anything else.  A few things in mind to consider for the N1's low sales:
1) there was NO marketing for the phone.  If you were not a gadet junkie, you probably did not know it existed or how to get one.
2) it was only available on t-mobile, rather than Verizon or AT&T
3) you could not buy it in the stores at all.
4) Google's customer service for it has been horrible

MobileSpoon said...

Good points. Thanks. 
I probably saw all the buzz which was part of the technology sites excited about it. 

Iwodamiorie said...

I have the nexus one for 3 days now and have called them for refund. I was not impressed at all.

Anonymous said...

I bought a 2nd hand N1 last month. I should have read this review before... and I would not have buy it! Your review is the exact picture of my experience. I would just underline the touch display is getting mad everytime the phone gets 5mins of data transmission (3G, wi-fi, gps, ...) and you need to shut it off and on again and again. In one word, this device is a sh.t

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