DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC FEATS?
Google’s first smartphone tries to give the iPhone a run for its money.
Hot on the heels of the Motorola Droid release, Google entered the mobile-phone market full-bore with its HTC-built Nexus One. Sporting the Android 2. 1 OS, the first official Google phone has
been deemed magical enough to be sold exclusively by the search
giant and can only be purchased directly from the big G’s online
store—with or without a calling plan.
The Nexus One has a pleasing heft ( 4. 6 ounces with removable
battery) and fits nicely in our hands. The phone is constructed with
a volume rocker button on the side and a Sleep/Wake button at the
top of the device, but no hard Mute button. Beneath the capacitive
touchscreen, there’s a Blackberry-style trackball. We had high hopes
for the trackball, but in fact its only redeeming quality was its ability to
emit a warm glow announcing the occasional notification—navigating
via the trackball felt cumbersome and imprecise. Nexus One also
has the four buttons we’ve become accustomed to on the Android
phones—Back, Menu, Home, and Search. Unfortunately they aren’t
terribly touch-sensitive, and we frequently found ourselves mashing
them more than once to get the phone to execute commands. They’re
also quite close to the bottom of the touchscreen, and we often hit
them instead of the spacebar while typing.
Still, the Nexus One’s OLED screen is 800x480 pixels of gorgeous
blazing color. If you’ve become accustomed to the multitouch pinch of
the iPhone in photos, Mobile Safari, and the Maps app, you’ll be happy
to hear that Android on the Nexus One supports the feature. Zooming
in and out is as smooth as it is on the iPhone, but the Nexus One
actually seems to zoom more quickly. Better yet, the new hardware
solves one of the biggest issues we had with Motorola’s Droid—there’s
no noticeable lag while navigating the OS. That’s ensured in part by the
1GHz Snapdragon processor (and 512MB of onboard RAM). The Nexus
One’s home screen also beats the Droid’s, filling the entire screen
and allowing you to jump to any of the five home screens by tapping
representative dots at the bottom of the display.
The Nexus One also shows off Google’s updated voice-recognition
software. You can use this technology throughout the phone’s
interface for text entry, although results can be hit or miss. While
web searches were often close enough that we could find what we
were looking for, tweeting or updating Facebook generally resulted in
posts that were hilariously nonsensical. It’s a good start, but for now,
it’s still a gimmick. But that letdown pales in comparison to a huge
disappointment with notifications. If you miss notifications when you
initially wake the phone, they’re still hidden in the notifications bar
until you pull it down. For compulsive texters, this extra step may be a
deal-breaker. And as usual, there’s still no direct syncing with Address
Book or iCal on Macs—Google, of course, wants you to use Google
Calendar and Gmail contacts.
Price: $179.00 with two-year
T-Mobile contract, $529.00 unlocked
Requirements: Free Google
Android software update makes
it easier to navigate UI. Hardware
feels light and solid in our hands.
Voice recognition still gives
somewhat wonky results.
Navigation buttons too close to
touchscreen. Android Market is
still a mess. Notification reading
is still a multiple-swipe process.
Trackball is imprecise.