Thursday, March 24, 2011

Google Nexus One long term thoughts

I've had the Google Nexus One for some time now. The phone is now well over a year old and I still believe it's one of the best phones on the market. I'm currently on the latest (phone) release of Android, 2.3.3. This is as much a post about the phone as it is about Gingerbread, the latest Android.

When this phone came out, one of Google's main reasons for it was to push the envelope for Android phone design and quality. I believe they succeeded.
  • High quality build and feel
  • Fast 1Ghz Processor with Graphics Acceleration
  • High Resolution Multi Touch Capacitive Touch Screen
  • Noise cancelling microphone
  • Dedicated charging dock with zero effort docking
These were some of the features that made this phone stand out from the rest of the "not quite good enough" Android phones being released. The dedicated charging dock, with the accompanying phone pouch is a small but important one. First of all, the $5 pouch that came with the phone, in my opinion is better then the most expensive "case" I've seen. It does a better job of protecting the phone that most expensive cases, and it cleans the screen every time you take it out and put it in. The pouch is also a requirement if you sue the dock, as you can't have the phone in the case. The dock doesn't use the standard USB jack like the cheap ones do. It has three metal contacts and communicated over Bluetooth. When you dock it, the phone goes into Dock mode, a very nice and unique feature.

Now with the release of the Nexus S, a phone manufactured by Samsung and not HTC, things have changed.
  • No expandable memory, 16GB built in.
  • Plasticy build, though very light
  • Only 3G while all other phones released during this time where at least 3G+ if not 4G
  • Added Gyroscope and NFC as the only two really new features
  • Front facing camera for video chat
The only real reason to upgrade is the screen. Though the Nexus One had a an AMOLED Multi Touch screen, the Multi Touch was barely that. The Nexus S has a proper multi touch screen and Samsung's proprietary Super AMOLED screen which I will argue is one of the best on the market for any smart phone out right now.

The lack of expandable memory is a really head scratcher. I can't really see any reason for this other their maybe to have more lock down on the phone. Now with fast, 32GB MicroSD cards hitting the market, this seems really silly.

You lose the nice dock and noise cancelling mic as well.

So as I have recommended the Nexus S to many family members and friends with great success, I sit here happy with my Nexus One with very little urge to upgrade.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread

Gingerbread brings some very much needed improvements to Android. None of these are "features" as such, but under the hood improvements which were much needed and some that are just cool.
  • Graphics accelerated UI
  • Better application management, especially for phones with expandable storage
  • More consistent UI in both applications and the main OS

  • Darker UI to save battery life on OLED based screens

  • The most awesome closing animation, ever :)

There is more, but those are the ones you notice. The graphically accelerated UI is the biggest. If you've ever used an IOS device or the new Windows 7 phones, you know how the user interface just flows very smoothly under your fingers. Android just never felt that smooth and responsive, until now. It's subtle, but makes for a much more pleasing user experience.

The bad

With 2.3, I was a bit disappointed with the amount of bugs that were introduced, and with how some of the above features didn't go far enough. The Nexus One has a dedicated car dock, which when inserted goes into car mode. I don't have the dock but I can manually put the phone into car mode. This has car dedicated features and removes distractions. When in the navigation app in car mode, the phone looses GPS at first launch. You have to back out and re-launch. Another minor annoyance is the mislabeled buttons in the USB mass storage mode.

The biggest disappointment with 2.3 was the lack of UI improvements. Yes, the hardware acceleration was very important and welcome, it should have been there from the start. That and though an effort was made for UI consistency, it's not nearly as polished as it's competitors. Things like the improved application management, though again, welcome, is now more cluttered and confusing than it should be. Most importantly, the Nexus One specifically, only came with 512MB of internal storage. This shouldn't be a problem as I have a 16GB microSD card in the phone. Sadly, due to the way Android Applications work, not all downloaded apps can be stored on the microSD card, leaving very little space. A lot of modern Android phones come with 2-4GB of internal storage, combined with the expandable storage, this is more than enough.

Sticking Around

Overall though, I've been very happy with the Nexus One. So happy that I have no desire to upgrade. Google really did come out with one of the best phones at the time, and it's aged very well compared to it's competitors.

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