Nexus One

Posted by djepok on Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Google's Nexus One not only looks the part but comes with enough firepower to make it a serious contender for the iPhone 3GS crown.

ONE thing's for sure, having Google's Nexus One around will surely make you stand out from the crowd for the simple reason that the device is not yet available here... officially at least.

What's really special about this particular smartphone model is that it runs on the latest Android 2.1 operating system, and has many tricks under its sleeve to compete head on with the iPhone 3GS.

Currently, the Nexus One is only available through the Google website for US$529 (RM1,690) and although the company ships the smartphone internationally, Malaysia is not on the list.

Yes, we have it

We managed to get a review unit courtesy of the good people at vsHub Sdn Bhd (short for Virtual Shopping Hub), a local parcel forwarding service aimed at reducing the hassle of online shopping in the United States.

The smartphone feels soft in the hand thanks to its soft-touch treatment coating. It's also easy on the eyes, with a housing that consists of what appears to be two interlocking pieces - the main in dark grey wrapped around by a lighter grey and smooth, almost metallic, band.

Plus at only 11.5mm thick, the Nexus One generally feels slimmer and sleeker than the iPhone. (It is however about 4.5mm taller than the iPhone.)

The glass-covered front is monopolised by the 3.7in capacitive touchscreen, which has a 480 x 800-pixel resolution.

The display looks awesome with colours that appear to jump right at you. But, like similar screens, it fares poorly under direct sunlight and is also a fingerprint and smudge magnet.
There are four touch-sensitive buttons placed slightly at the bottom of the screen for Back, Menu, Home, and Search functions.

Useful as they are, we still found the layout to be somewhat annoying as we kept accidentally tapping them while texting, composing an e-mail message or when playing games.

Further down there is a glowing trackball to navigate and access the phone's features.

Most users complain that apart from doubling as the camera button and notification light, there's literally not much use in having it around.

After all, to navigate anywhere on the screen you can simply use your finger. And it's faster that way too, we might add.

To be fair, however, we did find the trackball handy when playing games. It can be used to navigate in a game, enabling you to take one thumb off the screen, thus providing a bigger viewing area.

In comparison, on the iPhone you need to place both thumbs on the screen especially when playing racing games. This essentially blocks a large portion of the display from the eyes.

Moving on, along the left side you will see the volume rocker while up on top are the power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Naturally, the back is where you will find the 5-megapixel camera with LED flash.

Other features include light and proximity sensors, accelerometer, HSDPA, WiFi, A-GPS and a microSD slot with a 4GB card included.

A snappy dragon

Thanks to its 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the Nexus One is quick to access and open applications. Coupled with the latest Android 2.1 OS that has new tweaks and a tightened user interface, the overall experience feels snappy.

The Nexus One only offers 512MB Flash memory and 512MB RAM to run and store data as well as applications. There is a microSD card slot but unfortunately it is only to store data files.
Once switched on, the first thing that will surely grab your attention has to be its animated and interactive wallpaper.

There are plenty to choose from, including a swirling galaxy; blades of waving grass; and an analogue sound meter with a needle that moves to the music you're playing.

Also available are those that respond directly to touch, such as the Nexus neural network to create more colour lines as well as water that ripples.

Some like it, others don't but one thing's for sure - despite being a novelty feature that you would get tired of after a while, the animated wallpaper is still one of the cool functions that would attract people when they first look at the smartphone.

The Nexus One offers up to five homescreens, which you can add and delete shortcut icons, folders and widgets at will. The upper left hand corner of the screen is reserved for notifications.

Just like the iPhone, you only have a virtual keyboard and the spacing of the keys are narrower than the former. This poses a problem in the form of lots of mistyping.

There is no option to increase its width so you are stuck with the default layout.

However, its touch sensitivity feels smooth.

Shop for more

Excellent touch-sensitivity is not the only feature that closely rivals the iPhone. The Android Market is another - an online marketplace that is what the App Store is to Apple's iPhone.

Despite having a much smaller number of apps than the App Store, the good news is that almost all the most useful iPhone versions are also available on the Android Market.

You can pick from games like Robo Defense and Gem Miner to must-have tools such as metal detectors and digital levels; as well as all social networking and instant messaging mobile editions.
And they all work just as well as the iPhone versions, we might add.

Also, Google doesn't restrict users to apps that are only available on its Android Market. Being an advocate of an open platform, the company also allows users to install software directly from developer sites outside of the marketplace.

On the iPhone you can only do so if you "jailbreak" the device first - a move which is clearly not supported by Apple.

Also unlike the iPhone platform, Android apps are able to run in the background. So, if you accidentally pressed the back button, the app that you've already opened will still be where you left it when you come back.

Of course, the Nexus One works tightly with Google apps such as Sky Map. If you want to find out which constellation you are currently looking at, just point the smartphone to the night sky. It that cool or what?

Note however that only free apps are accessible for now as Google needs to work out the billing deal with local carriers first before the paid versions will be made available.

In other words, the smartphone itself needs to be officially available here before that can happen.

A sleek shooter

The camera department is another section in which the smartphone shines. Its 5-megapixel shooter is able to produce above average pictures compared to other camera phones we have used to date.

And thanks to the LED flash users can also light up subjects in a dim environment.

There are also autofocus, white balance, colour effect controls, digital zoom and three quality settings to help users take better pictures.

Overall images captured were clear and offered vivid colours. Images were also very detailed and low light performance was generally good. There was an element of graininess but this is to be expected from a camera phone.

With the built-in A-GPS you can also geotag your shots for your reference.

The Nexus One's imaging capabilities don't end there though, as it also features very capable video recording at up to 720 x 480-pixel resolution at 20 frames per second.

Colour reproduction is good and footage is pretty clear.

Beyond voice dialling

Like most smartphones in the market, Nexus One also supports voice dialling but the technology goes beyond that, offering users an enhanced voice recognition capability to enable them to simply speak to input text.

So when you don't feel like typing, just press the microphone icon in supported applications to dictate your texts, e-mail, searches, notes and others.

Google Speech Recognition is tightly integrated into Android 2.1 on the Nexus One so to use this feature the phone must connect to the Internet as that's where the transcribing is done.

It recognises several languages. However, most Malaysians can probably only choose either UK or US English as the option unless you can speak French, German, Italian or Spanish as well.

The accuracy is patchy, at about 60% to 70% success rate. Plus, you would also need to speak slowly and enunciate everything properly. Surprisingly, we got better results in the US English option.

As a phone, the Nexus One isn't dramatically different from most GSM devices you have probably used. Suffice to say that the call quality is at par with others.

The dynamic noise suppression option is a surprising addition though. The feature makes use of the second microphone located at the phone's back to isolate background noise from your voice when making calls.

In this department, the only thing that really bothered us was the device's soft ringing volume. Even at the highest setting, the sound wasn't loud enough to notify us of an incoming call when we were slightly away from the phone.

Not a pretender

Compared to other "iPhone-killers" that have been positioned to dethrone the king, the Nexus One is probably the closest one to be able to do so at the moment.

It offers many of the iPhone 3GS advantages and more including fast operation, gorgeous display, elegant design, decent camera, plenty of apps to download and customise. Plus we also welcome its voice recognition capability.

However, it is not without its problems. For starters, application storage remains limited to the internal memory.

Of course, being a trendsetter also means you usually need to pay a higher price to be among the first to secure the phone.

In the case of the Nexus One, you need to go through a third-party and this costs slightly more - RM2,588 if you want to take the VS Hub route. However, at least the price includes door-to-door delivery.

The Android and iPhone platforms can be similar and yet vastly different. There are also things beyond the technology platform such as brand loyalty - so at the end of the day it all boils down to what you consider the more important value when choosing one over the other.

Pros: Looks trendy; fast; nice display; great camera; lots of free apps available.

Cons: Soft ringing volume; narrow virtual keyboard layout; pricey and not yet available here.
Nexus One

(Google and HTC)
Android smartphone
CAMERA: 5-megapixels
DISPLAY: 3.7in 16.7mil colours AMOLED, 800 x 480-pixel resolution
EXPANSION SLOT: microSD, 8GB card included
BATTERY TYPE: 1,400mAh lithium-ion
STANDBY/TALK TIME: 250/7 hours (on 3G)
OTHER FEATURES: A2DP stereo Bluetooth, haptic feedback, second microphone for dynamic noise suppression, proximity sensor, light sensor
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 59.8 x 11.5 x 119mm
WEIGHT: 130g
PRICE: RM2,588
WEBSITE: (to purchase) and (for information)
Review unit courtesy of vsHub, call (65) 6886-4230

QUICK SPECSEditor's Rating   
Manufacturer    Google and HTC
Class    Android smartphone
Other Features    A2DP stereo Bluetooth, haptic feedback, second microphone for dynamic noise suppression, proximity sensor, light sensor
Dimensions    (W x D x H): 59.8 x 11.5 x 119mm
Weight    130g
Price    RM2,588
Extra Details    Review unit courtesy of vsHub, call (65) 6886-4230
Connectivity    Bluetooth, 3G, HSDPA
Operating System    Android 2.1
Display    3.7in 16.7mil colours AMOLED, 800 x 480-pixel resolution
Camera    5-megapixels
Messaging    MMS, SMS, e-mail
Memory    512MB Flash, 512MB RAM
Expansion Slot    microSD, 8GB card included
Standby/Talk Time    250/7 hours (on 3G)

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