So what is it exactly that makes the Nexus One so special as an Android phone, well the obvious reason it it was made by HTC but totally how Google wanted it to be, no customisation, no branding, just a good solid well built phone for developers and phone users to put their SIM card in, switch on and be ready to use.
You might look at the photos in this review and spot that actually the Nexus One looks a lot like the HTC Desire and that is….well…because it pretty much is apart from a few changes here and there. So as I had some time today with a Desire and Nexus I thought it best to compare the hardware differences.
Android is an everchanging OS with new updates coming out all the time, the latest and most talked about is Froyo aka Android 2.2 and although it has been made available for Nexus One owners, unfortunatly I was unable to test out the new features due to Vodafone having a different build version than normal Google supplied devices. The fact I found no actual Vodafone branding anywhere on the hardware or software even in settings yet was unable to get the latest version of the OS all because Vodafone decided to customise the build number was very disappointed as 2.2 would have made for an awesome review
The Nexus One/HTC Desire is mainly compared to the iPhone (which phone with a large screen isnt these days?) and actually they do a great job at bringing new exciting features onto phones at an affordable price, for example a iPhone 4 16GB most places is free from £45 a month and upwards where as a Nexus One is free from £35 a month from Vodafone UK.
So now for a quick overview of the device and what it has:
This is the back of the Nexus One compared with the HTC Desire (told you they looked alike). The Nexus One is on the left hand side and has a 5.0 megapixel camera, LED flash for low light photography and a speakerphone for when you activate loudspeaker. Pretty basic and to the point although the small silver band on the back of the Nexus One does make a nice addition to the look of the phone.
The left hand side of the phone again is pretty much the same and has a simple volume up and down button which you can use to change the phone profile from a loud tone to either vibrate or silent mode.
The right hand side of the phone is free of any buttons or keys as you can see above
The top of the phone has the On/Off button and the standard 3.5m headset jack which means it will work with all standard headphones including iPhone/iPod and all top quality headsets you might have purchased seperately. The Desire has a small gap to remove the back cover where as the Nexus One has a slide off back cover.
The top of the Nexus One is a rather large speaker port which is used when in calls of course, standard as on any phone really. There is a very bright and clear 3.7″ screen which is what the Nexus One is all about, a large glass capacitive screen makes browsing and navigating the phone a breeze and a joy to use over some of the resistive screens on phones on sale like a Nokia 5800 or Sony Ericsson Vivaz. The Nexus One has 4 touch buttons just below the screen and these are for ‘Back’, ‘Menu’, ‘Home’ and ‘Search’ and there is a small rollerball below which you can use to browse around the menu quickly and easily if you do not want to always touch the screen. This ball also acts as a status light where it glows white with any missed calls, messages, emails you have.
Now onto the 2.1 version of the Android OS which is found on the Nexus One.
The great thing about Android is how flexible it is, by that I mean you can customise the device exactly how you want it to be by use of widgets and downloads from the Android Market. As this is a ‘Google’ official phone there is no supplied 3rd party skin like MotoBlur on Motorola or HTC Sense as you see on the Desire. However you can add that effect by using a great affordable application called ‘Beautiful Widgets’ which is what I have installed on the handset.
You can see above how the application for the clock looks like you get from HTC but there is also much more you can customise on this version over what HTC decide you have to use on their version. This application is available for most Android phones and is highly reccomended.
There are 5 homescreens available which you can see by the small dots on the screen in the bottom corners. You can simply swipe left to right or press these dots to browse around the homescreens and customise them as you want. You can also see above the National Rail widget which costs £4.99 but gives you a great full application with a widget too, perfect if you travel and catch the train as you can keep up with delays, platform changes and if the worst situation happens and you miss your train you can find the next one.
Google Search is a very handy tool built into the phone, you can search by typing text into the box and not only will it search the internet but also all content on your phone so addresses, names, numbers, email addresses… the whole lot!. This is a very powerful search bar and if you tap on the microphone you can even speak to the phone and it will find what you want!
There is also a nice lock screen which displays your network, time, any alarms and if your phone is charging. There is also a 2 way swipe function which if you swipe from left to right unlocks the phone or if you swipe right to left you put the phone on silent mode.
This is the status menu which shows the geeky side of the phone with its remaining battery, network, signal strength and details on the software version. As stated earlier in the review if I can find fault with this phone, this is where I found it, or at least only with the Vodafone version.
Vodafone have their own ‘Build Number’ as you can see it is EPF30 but this is different to the normal Google version of the build which means even though 2.2 is now available for users to download, Vodafone owners will have to wait until they sign off their own version of the build before they can appreciate the new features such as Flash or WiFi Tethering. This is a real shame as apart from the different build number it looks like Vodafone have done nothing else to this device so are simply making people wait until they want you too. This will only effect customers who purchased their Nexus One from Vodafone, other Google sourced versions of the phone will already have 2.2 available and ready to download if not already then within a week or so, this means if you have one of these keep an eye out for a rather tasty 2.2 update!.
A massive plus point for Android is the free of charge voice turn by turn navigation which is actually so impressive I would happily pay fo such a service but thanks to Google this is not needed, it is totally free of charge!. Searching is very detailed, you can search for an address in your phonebook, type in an address, type in a company name or even just something you are looking for like maybe a hotel room if you are staying away for a night. I used to use OVI Maps from Nokia and this is also free but in a head to head I prefer the Google Navigation version every time due to it’s speed, always being updated OTA and ease of use. There is a car cradle on sale if you would like to use the Nexus One in the car. The only thing you will need to watch is your data use when using this service as it downloads from the internet so I suggest a healthy fair use limit on your network. Search results for businesses now include reviews and contact information so you wont eed to search for a phone number, just find the location and let Google do the rest for you.
Thankfully there is Multi-Touch on the Nexus One which means when you load up full sized websites on the large screen to zoom in and out just make a pinch in or out for the zoom like you see on the iPhone. Zooming on the browser is actually very smooth and usable which is a big plus point as on a phone like this you do not want to get smaller mobile version of the internet, you want the FULL internet and find the bits which you want to see just like you would at home.
Version 2.1 does not support Flash but once you install 2.2 you get Flash built into the browser for a true mobile internet experience and I highly recommend checking this feature out if you are lucky enough to get hands on a Nexus One running 2.2.
This is just a sample photo taken from the 5 Megapixel camera, there are more to come on this review and will be updated later on once they get uploaded but considering this picture was taken indoors in poor lighting you can really see how the LED flash makes a difference over phones with no flash at all.
As with any Google Android phone you get a great suite of built in applications like Google Mail which acts as a push email service like you would get on a BlackBerry, you also get YouTube for video content on the move but one of the best features of Android is the 2 way syncing with your account. This means you will always have your contact list backed up online just incase your phone breaks or if you are like me, you use more than 1 phone and do not want to keep putting information on the SIM card.
This works for Contacts, Mail and Calendar so you are always in sync on the go.
As I started off saying at the start of this review, the Nexus One is the ultimate in developer experience or for those diehard geeks who want the latest technology right now and only now will do. Being the official ‘Google Phone’ you get all the software updates first as mentioned with 2.1 and 2.2 and with talk of 3.0 by the end of the year I would put money on it the Nexus One will see that first too.
When it comes down to the Nexus One the hardest choice you will have is do you decide to buy it or get a HTC Desire instead which although the same phone has the Sense UI with some handy HTC extras but this is down to which you prefer personally. Whilst the Desire is nice, the Nexus One being made for Google has that certain added bonus as you know software updates will only be a short time away compared to other devices you you can get all the new features before anyone else.
When you consider the only downfall I could really pick up on was the fact Vodafone changed the build number thus delaying the software updates the Nexus One is an incredible device which will give you months and months of enjoyment and still have one of he best specced Android phones out there.
The 1ghz Snapdragon processor is super fast and makes navigating through the menu and applications a breeze and very enjoyable as there is little to no lag when in use and that is some achievement when you start filling up the memory with those apps.