Google certainly has created lofty expectations for its Nexus One smartphone. They're not even calling it a smartphone; they're calling it a superphone.
And there are plenty of things about the Nexus One that are super. Its display, for one. The 3.7-inch screen is downright stunning. And the phone offers excellent voice control features, an updated Android operating system, and a thin, attractive design. But is it super enough to be called the first superphone? I'm not sold on that; much of what the Nexus One offers can be found on the Motorola Droid and the Apple iPhone 3GS.
Price and Availability
The Nexus One is available from Google's Web store in two versions. An unlocked Nexus One sells for $529, while a version of the phone that runs on T-Mobile is $179. That phone requires a two-year service contract with T-Mobile, which costs $79.99 to start.
This spring, Google will begin offering a Nexus One phone with service from Verizon Wireless in the U.S., and a version with service from Vodafone in Europe.
The HTC-made Nexus One is thin, very thin; it measures just a hair more than .4 inches thick. It's 4.7 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide, and weighs 4.6 ounces. For comparison, the iPhone 3GS is slightly shorter and thicker than the Nexus One, measuring 4.5 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by .48 inches thick. It's also a bit heavier, at 4.8 ounces.
The result of this design is a phone that's very comfortable to hold. I especially liked the silky feel of the gray case; it feels durable and luxurious at the same time.
The Nexus One is an all touch-screen phone, and its AMOLED display is its marquee features. The screen is big, bright, and absolutely gorgeous. Pictures and video look crisp and clear, and colors pop. The display measures 3.7 inches diagonally (the same size as the big screen I liked so much on the Droid), and it boasts a resolution of 480 by 800 pixels.
The touch screen worked well, right out of the box. But it got even better when Google added multi-touch support via an over-the-air upgrade that arrived near the end of my test period. I love being able to pinch and spread the screen to zoom in and out on photos and Web pages.
Below the display you get four touch-sensitive buttons, which you can use to go back, access menus, return home, or search. All responded nicely to my taps, and I found them all very useful when navigating the phone. The Nexus One also features a trackball below those buttons, but I found it less useful as a navigation aid; it didn't spin with quite the right ease for me. The trackball does glow different colors to notify you of incoming messages and such, which is useful -- and pretty darn cool to look at, too.
The Nexus One ships with the latest version of the Android operating system, version 2.1, which is the most polished version of Android yet. One of Android's greatest strengths is the amount of customization that it offers; to that end, the Nexus One will allow you five home screens that you can fill with the applications and widgets of your choosing. I would have liked to see seven screens, like you get on Sprint's HTC Hero, but the Nexus One does include a few refinements that make navigating through those screens easier. For one, you get a series of small dots at the bottom of your screen that show you which screen you're on, and where the others are located. You also can use these dots to quickly jump between screens.
The latest version of Android comes with access to the excellent Google Maps Navigation app for driving directions, as wells as the "Car Home" found on the Motorola Droid. This essentially turns your smartphone into a portable GPS device for use in the car. It's incredibly handy if you plan to use the Nexus One for navigation.
All of the text fields on the Nexus One support voice input, which is nifty -- but it does not allow you to use the phone hands-free. You can search the Web or compose a text message using your voice, but to activate the voice feature, you need to tap the microphone icon on the screen. And you'll need to hit "send" in order to send the message. Still, the voice recognition was very impressive. It captured my sentences with about 95 percent accuracy, even when I was talking fast and using the phone in a noisy room.
Like all Android phones, the Nexus One offers access to the Android Market. While its selection pales in comparison to that of Apple's App Store, the Android Market does offer a very good selection of apps for work and play.
The Nexus One features a 1-GHz Snapdragon chip from Qualcomm, which offers plenty of processing power, so you can have multiple applications open without any performance slowdowns. In my tests, the Nexus One was very quick. Applications opened and closed in the blink of an eye, and switching from one task to another was lightning fast.
The Nexus One is designed to offer "crystal clear" voice calls, according to Google, because it features built-in noise cancellation technology -- much like you find on many Bluetooth headsets. The phone features two microphones so it can eliminate background noise. And the noise reduction performed very well on my T-Mobile review unit: callers reported hearing little to no background noise when I used the phone in windy conditions.
I also had trouble accessing T-Mobile's 3G network in my travels around the Boston area. T-Mobile's HSDPA network is smaller than the 3G networks offered its competitors, but is available where I live. That's why I think that my connection woes might have been related to those experienced by other Nexus One users. The upgrade that added multi-touch support to the phone was also supposed to address these connectivity issues, and I have not had any troubles with my connection since I installed it.
You should note that if you buy an unlocked version of the Nexus One and plan to use it with an AT&T SIM card, you should note that the phone will not run on AT&T's high-speed network. You'll be restricted to the carrier's EDGE data network, which can feel painfully slow -- especially if you've become accustomed to high-speed 3G service.
The Nexus One also supports Wi-Fi wireless networks, as well as mono and stereo Bluetooth.
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