Google Nexus One in-depth review -

 

Look and feel

Sleek and chic, the Nexus One is plenty stylish for fashion victims but demure enough to please business users.

Ease of use

Android is simplicity itself and Google’s additions help further.

Features

The phone has a lot of capable features and extras, from GPS to a digital compass and a reasonable camera with flash.

Performance

The Nexus One is lightning-fast, so much so that it needs to be seen to be believed.

Battery life

Like many smartphones, it’ll need a bit of a lie-down at the end of a busy day, but daily recharges will keep it happy.

 Google Nexus One Review -
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,1/13/2011 10:00:08 AM

10

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

6

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Luxurious screen, super-fast processor, cool extra features

Cons:

Virtual buttons that take pixel-perfect presses to work

Google came up with the great and swiftly evolving mobile operating system that is Android. When the company decided to create its debut own-brand handset, it wisely brought HTC on board to build it. The result is a glorious piece of hardware with the most accomplished Android software inside.

Big is best

This is a big phone – if you want a super-pocketable handset, please look elsewhere. But if you think big can be beautiful, the Nexus One proves it. Pick it up and it feels great. It’s well-balanced and, for its size, surprisingly light. The slightly rubberised back rests on your fingers while your thumb roves over the 3.7-inch screen. Switch on and the joys of the high-resolution AMOLED display are evident: it’s bright, sharp and vivid with high contrast levels and deep blacks where LCD screens can only manage dark greys. It doesn’t quite knock a traditional LCD screen out of the park but only because it’s not great in bright sunshine. Place the iPhone and Nexus One together on a sunny day and Apple’s screen is noticeably easier to read. Even so, the AMOLED screen is definitely preferable overall.

Beneath the screen is a touch-sensitive black border, which incorporates four virtual keys – Back, Menu, Home and Search. Like the iPhone, there’s no physical phone call button. And underneath this border is a central clickable trackball that navigates between the home screens. It also glows to announce that you’ve received an email, for instance. We’re almost done with buttons – save for the power switch on the top edge and one for volume on the left side, the Nexus One is button-free, which adds to the cute simplicity of the design.

Google’s own-brand phone, unsurprisingly, has the latest Android software available, and then some. The HTC Legend and Desire both use version 2.1, the version found here, but Google has saved some extras just for its own handset. Chief among these is the voice-to-text function. If you’ve used Google’s app to search on an Android handset or the iPhone, you may have tried the voice search feature. It’s neat – hold the phone as you do when making a call, speak into the mic and seconds later your words are transformed into text, plonked into a search box and the results returned.

It’s not quite perfect, but the reason the transcription is so impressive is the way Google does it. It records your voice and then sends it to its bank of remote servers to analyse what you’ve said by comparing it to other recordings. Google CEO Eric Schmidt says it’s as if the computers vote on what it’s most likely you said. However it works, it’s pretty ingenious. That technology has now been incorporated into other functions such as text entry in emails and text messages. Dictate a sentence at a time and the words appear with decent, if not flawless, accuracy. Other Android phones will get this, but for now, it’s just on the Nexus One.

Then there’s Google Goggles, which analyses photographs. You can take a picture of a landmark building, a logo, books, barcodes and works of art. Snapping the logo on my Pret salad led instantly to the Pret á Manger website. Goggles warns it probably won’t work on animals, furniture or clothing. Certainly a test shot of my dog Bruno, a weimaraner, confused it. It did at least suggest other images, which included two dogs and, er, an elephant. Even so, it’s a cool extra.

Home screens

This version of Android includes five home screens to flip between. HTC’s Sense overlay on its phones has seven, but five is enough real estate to play with. And there are also the eye-catching animated wallpapers to enjoy, though other handsets like the T-Mobile Pulse Mini have these, too. But, if you’ve read that review, you’ll see that to make these wallpapers really work, you need a speedy processor. Fortunately, the Nexus One is brimming over with power, thanks to its truly excellent Qualcomm Snapdragon 1GHz processor. Not only can it manage these animated backdrops with panache, it does everything at great speed. Programs launch instantly, the screen is immediately responsive, and webpages load fast. The browser is especially striking, with even complicated pages loading quickly. Then, you can enlarge the screen by using the pinch-and-zoom process that’s always so attractive, or a quick double tap magnifies and reflows the text so it’s all in view.

The camera is good on regular non-Goggles shots, too. The five-megapixel snapper is not immune to the shutter lag that bedevils camera phones but it’s not too annoying, and there’s a flash to help in lower light though – as ever – bright light improves the quality hugely.

There’s another thing that this phone does well: it makes calls. Some smartphones have a guilty secret – they take a long time to connect a call and audio quality is poor when you do get through. Here, the results are good, in part thanks to noise-cancelling features to improve the sound.


Are there no faults, you may be wondering? Well, the touch-sensitive icons at the base of the screen take getting used to. If you don’t press them in just the right place, you can expect to have to jab at them a few times before they work.

Some people will find the handset too big for comfort, or feel they would rather have something less complex. And as with most Android handsets, built-in memory is not a match for the iPhone or the Nokia X6. Still, you can insert a microSD card to bump this up if you need to.

The verdict

Battery life is not outstanding – that big screen with its chichi moving wallpapers can take part of the blame here – but should get you through the day without too much trouble. So if you want a clever, good-looking phone with neat features and a superb operating system, the Nexus One is hard to beat.