HTC Google Nexus One Review




From the plethora of Android devices that have been lurking around the market lately, only a few seemed to appeal to fans of the operating system. Even though Google's name should pretty much make sure that a device is sold in large quantities, I believe that the main attraction of Nexus One is the latest Android 2.1 OS. Since Google launched its first G1 smartphone, back in 2008, there were lots of rumors about a second device, much better in terms or performance
and looks.
Working with mobile phone manufacturer HTC had its rewards, but also its downsides. The Taiwanese company also develops its own Android-based smartphones, which strongly rival those of Google. Especially the new Google Nexus One, which has lots of similarities with the latest HTC devices, launched this year in Barcelona.

Set to be available in Europe around April, through Vodafone,
PureMobile has been kind enough to send us a brand new Google Nexus One, so we can test it even before its actual launch on the European market.

HTC Google Nexus One
was announced in January 2010 and released at the same time, but depending on location, the device may reach you later. There are no additional colors available, so you will have to get used to the Brown color, at least until Google and HTC decide to bring out more vivid colors. The unlocked version of HTC Google Nexus One can be bought for around 650USD, but the price may vary depending on your location.
















Design


There's no doubt about it, if I were to choose between the G1 and the new Nexus One smartphone, I would surely get the latter when it comes to looks. There is simply no resemblance to the good old G1 in terms of design, so there's no point in trying to compare the two devices, which have two years between manufacturing dates. The new Google Nexus One looks very slim and stylish, even though it's not a small smartphone. There's nothing really interesting enough that could divert your glances from the huge 3.7-inch touch screen, which is one of the "pièce de résistance" of the device. The smartphone has rounded shapes, which make it easier to carry in the pocket, while the teflon that covers the front and a small part of the back gives it a stylish aura.




















The back cover is made from a rubber-like plastic, which enhances users’ grip of the phone. Google Nexus features a 4-set of touch-sensitive controls, which have been placed right under the touch screen. While this should've made control of menus much easier, I found that you need to push at least twice on any of these keys until they actually respond. The small white trackball seems to be pretty solid and can be used to scroll up/down in menus, but I found it most useful when using the browser. It also lights up every time you receive a call or SMS message, or you miss either of those. There aren't any additional external keys on any of the sides, except the volume key on the upper left side. The power on/off button has been placed on top left, while on the right there's a 3.5mm jack port. The power button can also be used to lock/unlock the device. As a matter fact, this is the only button that can wake your phone up from standby and has been placed in such a manner that it's easier to handle it if you're a left hander.

















Anyway, I still think that it's a little bit out of reach, even if it was placed on top right. The microUSB port for charging has been placed on bottom side, together with some dock pins, which is optional and cannot be found in the sales package. Also, above the display there are two hidden sensors: ambient light and proximity. On the back side of the smartphone, there's a 5-megapixel camera with flash, and a small loudspeaker to its right. There's also the Google logo in the middle of the battery cover and the HTC logo near the bottom. The device comes with a carrying pouch for protection, which proves handy. I noticed that the phone didn't catch fingerprints like most of the HTC smartphones usually do, so this is one big thumb up from me.


















Google Nexus One measures 119 x 59.8 x 11.5 mm and weighs 130g (including battery). I was afraid that being so big will make it hard to carry in a pocket, but thanks to its sleek thickness and well-balanced weight, the device feels excellent to the touch and is easy to carry around. Overall, Google Nexus One looks much better than any of its Android predecessors, but I have my doubts on whether or not it is solid enough to endure any casual drops when not in its pouch.














Display and Camera


HTC Google Nexus One features a huge 3.7-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen that supports 480x800-pixel resolution. I think Google chose an excellent display in terms of quality, but at the expense of functionality. The AMOLED touchscreen is nice, but it's unusable outside in sunlight. The multi-touch input method will be available as soon as you make the firmware update. The capacitive touchscreen is very responsive and snappy. Thanks to the technology embedded, it eliminates the need for a stylus and makes your own finger the only way you can control your device on the screen.

















The accelerometer works with most of the applications and menus. Your display won't turn to landscape mode when you're on Homescreen or in the main menu. The image quality is astonishing if you set the brightness almost to maximum, which will probably drain your battery much faster. The change between landscape and portrait mode is almost instant with no hiccups. Everything you do seems natural when using the touchscreen: touching, dragging, or moving. The scrolling process is even better than that of the iPhone, while the virtual on-screen keyboard is very easy to control. In fact, I think all these are superior to the iPhone, as it also benefits from the haptic feedback feature. Features like kinetic scrolling and pinch zooming are working smoothly and enhance the user’s browsing experience.


I have benchmarked the display and as you can see from the screenshots, Google Nexus has almost double the results of any other Android device with lower than 1Ghz CPU.








The 5-megapixel camera on the back of the phone features a few advanced functions, such as smile detection and geo-tagging, but also some basic ones like autofocus and flash. The maximum resolution that can be used to take pictures is 2592 x 1944 pixels. While night pictures are out of the question, users will still be able to take more than decent day snapshots.




















The user interface is pretty simple without any complex settings and can be browsed by touch. The shutter of the phone is the white trackball or you can use the touch shutter that appears in the right corner of the camera interface. Both are responsive enough and can be used with ease together with the autofocus feature.




















The camera of the smartphone can also record D1 clips (720x480 pixels) at 30fps. There's not much to discuss about quality, just that all clips are recorded in 3gp format, which might suggest some low quality results. Overall, I think the 5-megapixel camera takes decent pictures for an Android smartphone that is not focusing exclusively on its camera module.




















Menu and Software


HTC Google Nexus One runs Android 2.1, which is currently the latest version of the open source OS. The improvements since version 1.5 was launched are significant in terms of users’ features, but also for developers. Android's 2.1 version change log looks better for developers adding a chunk of new APIs. As Google stated, Android 2.1 is just a minor release that includes these APIs and some bug fixes. The biggest improvements for users came together with Android 2.0:




















Contacts improvements: Multiple accounts can be added to a device for email and contact synchronization, including Exchange accounts; Quick Contact for Android provides instant access to a contact's information and communication modes.

Email improvements: Exchange support; Combined inbox to browse email from multiple accounts in one page.
Messaging improvements: Search functionality for all saved SMS and MMS messages.
Camera improvements: Built-in flash support, Digital zoom, Scene mode, White balance, Color effect, Macro focus.
Browser improvements: Refreshed UI with actionable browser URL bar enables users to directly tap the address bar for instant searches and navigation; Bookmarks with web page thumbnails; Support for double-tap zoom; Support for HTML5.
Input method improvements: An improved keyboard layout makes it easier to hit the correct characters and improve typing speed; The framework's multi-touch support ensures that key presses aren't missed while typing rapidly with two fingers; A smarter dictionary learns from word usage and automatically includes contact names as suggestions.
Calendar improvements: Agenda view provides infinite scrolling; Events indicate the attending status for each invitee; Invite new guests to events.
Media Framework improvements: Revamped graphics architecture for improved performance that enables better hardware acceleration.
Bluetooth improvements: Bluetooth 2.1; New BT profiles: Object Push Profile (OPP) and Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP).



















The phone lacks HTC's Sense UI, which means your phone will be faster. I know most of the users won't switch to Google Nexus because of the simple fact that it misses HTC's Sense UI, even though it is renowned to make the phone lag for a little bit. I think most of the users are trading the speed of the device for the extra features that HTC's interface has to offer. Personally I didn't feel like I needed it, but perhaps Google will bring some improvements in future firmware updates.




















HTC Google Nexus has five available Homescreens, which can be populated with a wide range of widgets: Analog clock, Calendar, Facebook, Music, News and Weather, Picture frame, Power control, Search and YouTube client. The transition between them is fast and smooth, more responsive than any other Android smartphone. The standard Homescreen includes the Google search bar and a few shortcuts under: Messaging, Email, Browser, Market, Phone, Contacts and Maps. Swiping to the left will give you access to another Homescreen that includes a Power control bar where you can turn on/off some of the most important functions of the phone: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Synchronization and Brightness.




















There are also two shortcuts for Gmail and Gtalk. Swiping to the right from the main Homescreen will display a weather widget and shortcuts to Gallery and Camera. The other two Homescreens are completely blank and can be populated with any of the widgets, folders or shortcuts. Another feature specific to Android 2.1 is the Live wallpapers feature, which provide developers with the possibility to make interactive and animated wallpapers for the Homescreen. Even though it looks extremely cool, this is one of the most energy demanding feature of the phone and I personally recommend turning it off if you want your battery to last longer. Holding the Home button pressed for a few seconds will bring up a task manager, which will display the last six applications that you opened. These remain active in the smartphone's memory, so if you open the seventh, the first application you have previously accessed will automatically be closed.




















There's also a dedicated YouTube video player, which gives you a fast access to clips hosted by YouTube. Other applications pre-installed include Calculator, Calendar, Car Home, Clock, Facebook, Goggles, Market, Maps, MP3 Store, Music, News and Weather, Voice Dialer, Voice Search and YouTube client. As you can notice, there's no document viewer pre-installed, but the market can offer some free options. Of course, you will only be able to read documents, but if you want to be able to create new ones, you will have to pay. The same goes for the PDF reader, which is missing. Perhaps Google thought about making Nexus users take advantage of its Market more.

Overall, I have noticed that HTC Google Nexus One is the fastest device running the Android OS. The phone is so snappy that you won't even experience the slightest hiccup.



















Communication


HTC Google Nexus One boasts all possible connectivity tools that should be included in a high-end device: GPRS and EDGE class 10, HSDPA 7.2 Mbps and HSUPA 2 Mbps, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, microUSB 2.0. As you can see from the tests below, the device reached speeds of up to 5595 Kbit/s download and 4023 Kbit/s on Wi-Fi connection, 835 Kbit/s download and 56 Kbit/s upload on the Orange 3G+ network and 149 Kbit/s download and 89 Kbit/s upload on EDGE network. These performances are more than welcome for a device that depends mostly on the data transfer to update its widgets or for fast Internet browsing.














The integrated browser WebKit cannot be closed but has been upgraded in the 2.0 version. You can now take advantage of the multi-touch gestures to quickly zoom in/out. The browsing experience is one of the best embedded into a smartphone. I was disappointed to find that Google Nexus One is lacking support for Flash.

















Bluetooth has also been upgraded and it is now possible to transfer files over the Bluetooth connectivity, as the platform now includes the OBEX protocol.

















Google Nexus One is compatible with all email clients and protocols (POP3, IMAP) and can be synchronized with Microsoft Exchange. The device is also compatible with SMS, EMS, and MMS text features. Instant-messaging options include Google Talk, but other IMs can also be installed. The interface is pretty straightforward and user-friendly. The Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g connectivity is another option that will surely reduce costs for those that are heavily using Internet browsing or data transfers. The built-in GPS receiver and digital compass work together with the Google Maps, so that you won't get lost. Even though you won't be able to take advantage of the vocal navigation, unless you live in the States, Google Maps can offer you the rest of the features for free: routes, localization etc.

















HTC Google Nexus One is a quad-band GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900) handset that is also compatible with HSDPA 900/1700/2100 networks. The in-call sound quality is decent, but still not quite to other consecrated brands. The GSM signal is also good, but avoid keeping the gadget set on the 3G band, as it will drain your battery. There has been much talk about Google Nexus One 3G reception which was faulty for T-mobile network users. While this is not the first device having 3G signal reception troubles, HTC announced that the problem would be fixed in a future patch. Personally, I didn't experience any problems with my 3G signal reception, but I'm not using the T-mobile network.



Processor and Memory


HTC Google Nexus One is powered by a single Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 1 GHz processor, running at speeds of up to 1 GHz. This is the most powerful CPU available on the market and, of course, it also makes the device the fastest. Still, this comes at a price as the CPU will drain your battery faster according to how demanding the applications you use are on the CPU.

















In addition, I have noticed that the phone will become hot after 30 minutes of browsing, especially on the bottom side. This is also available when charging the phone and it's not only the battery, but the whole phone. I have measured the temperature after 1 hour of charging the phone had around 35 Celsius degrees and 38 degrees after 30 minutes of browsing the Internet and watching some YouTube movies.








The smartphone embeds 512 MB RAM and 512 MB ROM memory. The storage space can be expanded up to 32GB through the microSD slot card that has been placed under the back cover. The sales package also contains a 4GB microSD card.











Multimedia


Google Nexus One features an MP3 player that can also be used as a widget from the Homescreen. Even though the MP3 player looks nice, you are still unable to use any kind of equalizers or visualization effects. The only improvement that can be easily noticed is the added 3.5mm jack port on the top side of the phone. Thus, you will now be able to add your own headphone for a better music playback experience.




















The music player supports audio files in MP3, eAAC+ and WAV. The music sound is pretty decent even if you don't have any special effects. The video player that appeared for the first time into Magic's firmware is also present in this model, but do not look for it in the menu. The video player will open itself every time you click on a video file and it supports MP4, H.263 and H.264 files. HTC Google Nexus One does a decent job as an MP3 player, as it offers some decent features for those who want to casually listen to some music or watch a short movie.











Battery


The smartphone includes a small 1400 mAh Li-Ion, which has an officially stated life expectancy of 290 hours in standby (250 hours for 3G) and 10 hours in talk-time mode (7 hours for 3G). Our test unit made it for about 24 hours, but it was heavily used. During the tests, I noticed that you can prolong battery life if you disable the live connection for all widgets that need to be updated regularly, and the emails.














In fact, you can almost double the lifetime of the battery by doing these changes, which means that you will only need to charge it twice a week at most. Disabling the live wallpapers and decreasing the brightness, as well as keeping your phone on EDGE network all the time, greatly enhanced the battery's autonomy as well. Still, with all the above turned off and all the modifications made I still had lower than normal autonomy.











Impressions


HTC Google Nexus One is definitely one of the best looking Google phones, more appealing than G1 and G2. In terms of performance, it is also above any other Android device coming from HTC, for the moment at least. I think I won't be lying when saying that Google Nexus One is the best choice for Android users. Unfortunately, the low autonomy battery as well as the high price might limit success.



The Good


Even if it's mostly designed for developers, Android 2.1 is one of the strong points of the device, as it offers devs more freedom for their applications. The improvements that came since 2.0 version, such as the ability to transfer files through Bluetooth and the extra features for the included camera, neared the gap between Android devices and the rest of the high end phones that are using different operating systems. The phone is definitely the fastest in its class, offers a decent multimedia and browsing experience thanks to its large screen and excellent integrated browser. Other highlights of the smartphone include: HSDPA 7.2 Mbps, 1 GHz processor, Wi-Fi and GPS with A-GPS, 5 MP autofocus camera.



The Bad


One of the major drawbacks that I noticed is the lack of Flash support for the integrated browser. Other minor downsides of the smartphone include: non hot-swappable microSD memory card, lack of Radio FM, as well as the slow responsive touch sensitive controls below the touch screen. Also, the smartphone has one of the worst battery autonomy from all Android devices.



Sales Package


HTC Google Nexus One smartphone;

Stereo headset;
4GB microSD Card;
1400 mAh Li-Ion Battery;
Charger;
Carrying pouch;
USB Cable.
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