Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things Media

The Google Nexus One Swings And Misses

I’ve been using a Nexus One for about 2 weeks now. By using it, I mean that my iPhone 3G has sat in a bag for 2 weeks and was not used at all. By using it, I mean that the Nexus One has been my everyday cellphone. I’ve used it for everything from phone calls (including 3 way calls) to youTube watching. I really wanted the Nexus One to blow my mind. I wanted it to succeed on such an amazing level. I wanted it to kill the iPhone and knock Steve Jobs off of his pedestal. But, I didn’t get that. Nope.

In short, the Nexus One is nice, but not yet ready for prime time. Let me break it down.

The Good

Form and Feel
The Nexus One is lighter, slimmer, and feels a hell of a lot better than the iPhone. Were as the Nexus One feels sleek and contoured, the iPhone feels cheap (the plastic back) and heavy. We’re talking BMW vs. Kia here.

The Screen
As already covered elsewhere, the screen is amazing. It’s bright, vivid, has amazingly sharp contrast, and it seems more scratch resistant than the iPhone.

The Battery
I’d say the battery life is roughly the same. I can’t get through a full 10 hour day on 1 charge. But, the Nexus One wins here because I can swap batteries throughout the day. Yes, you heard me. Imagine that? People wanting to have an extra battery. When will Apple learn?

Google Integration
This is where the phone. If you don’t need corporate email and everything you do in the cloud is tied to Google, this is the phone for you. It’s not even a question. Inside of 3 minutes you’ll have the phone setup and integrated with GMail, Google Calendar, Google Voice (this is such a nice feature), Google Maps, Google Contacts, etc. The one thing that leaves my saying WTF is the lack of a Google Docs app for editing and creating files offline. Strange omission Google…just strange.

GPS
It has real GPS. Nuff said. You want turn by turn navigation, you got it. You want better map accuracy, you got it. This kills the iPhone’s seemingly archaic approach to directions. In short, if your car is lacking GPS map integration and you don’t have a portable GPS device like a Tom Tom, the Nexus One makes your life so much simpler.

The Camera
It’s light years ahead of the iPhone. You can elect to choose different megapixel options, it has a flash, it has white balance options, and it even has auto-focus. Well done.

The OK

Sound Quality
The noise canceling microphone is a dream and makes calls sound a hell of a lot better than the iPhone. But, beware when using the speaker phone. The sound is tin like and overly compromised when the phone is sitting on a counter/floor/etc. with the screen facing up. For whatever reason, when using the speaker phone like this, the sound is muffled.

Customization
You can customize so many different features and behaviors, it’s almost daunting. From wallpaper to sounds, from notifications to fonts, just about everything can be customized to your liking. Please note, this can take a lot of time, but it’s worth it. While you can customize like never before, the actual act of customizing is perplexing. For example, if you have a screen full of app icons and you want to flip flop the placement of two apps, you’re going to be frustrated. Where as the iPhone recognizes you want to do this and slides all the other apps over to accommodate, the Nexus One makes this chore similar to giving birth. You’ll have to move the app to another screen, thus opening up a spot on the screen you want the app to live, then you’ll need to rearrange the apps so that you create a hole for where you want the app to live, then you’ll need to go to the other screen so you can grab the app and slide it into the spot you want. WTF? That’s horrendous.

Apps
Lots of apps. Not nearly as many as the iPhone platform. But, all the key apps are there. For example fourSquare, Facebook, twitter clients, USA Today, etc. However, the apps are not as polished as the iPhone options. For example the Facebook app isn’t even a real Facebook app. It was created by a 3rd party. Also, the fourSquare app lacks push notifications. If you want games, you’re out of luck. This really bummed me, even though I was well aware of it before I got the Nexus One. There’s apps though that you’ll never ever find in the iTunes App Store. For example email clients, calendar management tools, oh and Google Voice :)

The Bad

eMail
Honestly, what was Google thinking. Weather you’re using GMail, Exchange Mail, IMAP, POP3, etc. you will not be able to move email into folders. Huh? Really? This is classic Google. They simply think people want to to search for information and are incapable of organizing content. Also, if you work for a company that uses Exchange for mail, you’re out of luck a big time way because there is NO calendar management or integration. No, I’m serious. You will have no access to your calendar…zero…nadda. If the Nexus One was supposed to rival the iPhone, Blackberry, and other smartphone I don’t know what they were thinking with this decision. This is a huge fail and honestly almost made me send the phone back on day 1. However, thankfully you can rectify this problem by buying Touchdown, a 3rd party app that will cost you $20.00. The app is nearly flawless and takes care of all of the Nexus One exchange problems. But, seriously…I have to buy a 3rd party app for this. C’mon you’ve got to be kidding me.

Media Management
Again, as with eMail Google assumes you want to search for content and you want your content aggregated. So, for example if you go into your photos Google for some reason thought you might want to see every photo attachment in all of your emails. Huh? That’s right. Let’s say I emailed you a photo. Google thinks that photo should show up in the photo library. The concept of folder structures is non-existent. This makes no sense. Music is the same way. Total fail.

Soft Keys
I love and hate these 4 keys at the bottom of the phone. I love the concept, I hate the implementation. The number of times I’ve been typing an email only to hit a soft key and then lose my entire message is in the 100s by now. The irony of course is that when I actually want the keys to work, they don’t. Seriously. Often you’ll press the keys and nothing will happen. This is either a hardware failure (the touch screen portion of the screen for the keys is defective) or there’s a bug with the software. I lean toward hardware.

Power Connector
Why? Why? Why? Why, didn’t they just use a standard mini-USB? Instead they’ve opted for this connector that looks like a mini-USB, but isn’t. Why is this a problem you might ask? Well because the number of accessories for the Nexus One is few and far between. If it had used a traditional mini-USB, existing car power cables (amongst other accessories) would work. And let me tell you, if you take advantage of turn by turn navigation you will want the phone plugged in and drawing power from the car.

The Network
Oyve. T-Mobile or AT&T are your options. AT&T will work only on Edge. Thus you get no 3G. And while T-Mobile will give you 3G, there 3G coverage is worse than AT&Ts. Besides the exchange server mistake, the biggest mistake by Google was not releasing this phone on Verizon first. A Verizon version of this phone will be made available in Spring of 2010. If Google had really wanted to take a bite out of the iPhone market share they chose poorly, by launching with T-Mobile and AT&T first.

Summary

If your entire life is bundled in the suite of Google applications like GMail, this is the perfect phone for you. If you need a kick as smart phone for work, I can’t recommend the phone to you until they fix the Exchange Server Syncing problems. Google and HTC did a great job with this phone, but it’s not perfect and more importantly in a lot of ways it pales in comparison to the iPhone.

  • http://www.keithprivette.com/ @keithprivette

    Great evaluation…I am going to hold off til spring and lip along with Gen1 #G1. So I had touchdown but is zapped all my available memory on the phone and had to drop it….do you have any suggestions? I got to play with a Nexus One last weekend and was like should I just do it, but now I will hold off for v2.0 of Nexus. If they want to compete Google better get on that exchange thing, whether they like it or not MANY companies have Outlook. Start competing in this area and it can be a game changer!

  • Stevo

    “Why? Why? Why? Why, didn’t they just use a standard mini-USB?”

    Because mini-USB is not standard. They used a Micro USB connector which is absolutely industry standard (except for iPhones…)

    Mini USB has never been a standard for phones as far as I know.

    Otherwise, interesting article.

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  • Zen Shadow

    Would add that the damn power connector is always dropping the cord/connector from the SLIGHTEST movement. Really annoying!