Review: Google Nexus One phone

(one of my New Years resolutions is to write more — here’s a start! Happy New Year!)

I was lucky enough to get a pre-release Google Nexus One phone just a few weeks ago. Engadget has an extended review of the phone, so I’ll leave it to them to give you all of the raw specs and details. This is just my own experience with the phone. Note that I didn’t really spend significant time reading about how to use the phone and judged it largely on how intuitive it would be on its own. If I’m missing any simple tricks, definitely let me know.

First of all, I was excited to get the phone in the mail, but mainly looked at it as a curiosity and a toy to play with before I went back to my beloved iPhone. I decided to take the SIM card out of my iPhone for an afternoon on the day I got the phone, and that afternoon turned into a few weeks. Just now as I’m writing this, I had to turn on my iPhone to remember what apps I was missing (more on that later. . . but I guess I wasn’t missing them that much).

Here’s the breakdown:

Pros

The phone is unlocked. This is huge, and if it hadn’t been unlocked, I would have never been able to try it so easily with my AT&T SIM. Openness FTW. I didn’t really notice that I was only at EDGE speeds.

The apps are solid. I didn’t do exhaustive app research, but I very quickly installed and used these apps: AndChat (IRC), Bank of America, ConnectBot (ssh client), eBuddy (IM), Evernote, Facebook, FlightTrack, Foursquare, GPS Status, gStrings (guitar tuner), Google Maps, Flixster, NYC Bus & Subway, Pandora, Scoreboard, ShopSavvy (barcode comparison shopping), Twidroid (Twitter client), WeatherBug, and Yelp.

Google Voice. If you use Google Voice on this phone, it absolutely KILLS Visual Voicemail on the iPhone. I thought Visual Voicemail was one of the greatest features of the iPhone, so this is significant. Imagine Visual Voicemail with automated (though not 100% accurate) transcripts of the voice mails. The Google Voice experience with my iPhone was frustrating since it isn’t well-integrated into the iPhone. This is the Google phone, so as you would expect, the integration is tight.

Background apps. Anyone with an iPhone knows what it’s like to switch between apps, especially mail using IMAP. I hated waiting for my mail to come down when I switched to the mail app on the iPhone. With the Nexus One and Android, it all happens in the background while other apps are running. In this way, it feels more like a Blackberry experience. This also makes installing and updating other apps much more seamless and behind-the-scenes.

Removable battery. Not since I had my old Treo (my last pre-iPhone phone) have I had the ability to carry an extra battery. That is huge given the poor battery life of today’s power-draining phones. I don’t have the extra battery yet, but I’m sure I will get one.

Cons

Some apps are missing versus the iPhone, as you might expect. I’ve become a Dropbox devotee, and there’s no Dropbox client for Android. I didn’t miss it too much, though, and Dropbox is advertising for a developer to build the client. While I have this as a “con,” the fact that the company behind the app I’m missing most is looking for a developer bodes well for the Android ecosystem. Amazon’s Kindle app isn’t available, and I used to switch between reading books on my Kindle and iPhone readily (especially nice when stuck on the subway with limited space to read). In any case, I think I can live without these.

Something about the way the “home screen” works just doesn’t seem intuitive to me. I don’t have trouble navigating, I just have to think about it every time. Not sure how to describe this in writing!

I miss the hardware sound on/off switch on the side of the iPhone — much easier than the software menus on the Android.

Overall

Overall, I love the phone and am planning to stick with it. If you’re largely using Google applications (Gmail, Voice, Maps), the integration is seamless. Philosophically, the openness of the Android platform is appealing. In the end, the Nexus One turned me into a new Android fan.