Google Nexus One – Better Late than Never

Around Christmas 2009, the Nexus One was the mobile phone of the moment. A new device marketed by a company who planned to change the way American citizens purchased mobile phones by selling it SIM-free via their own website. As the company in question was Google, the world took a huge interest.

Launched in the USA at the beginning of 2010, the Nexus One could be paid for and delivered to anyone in the UK too; if you were happy to cough up for the delivery, insurance and VAT as well. The thing was, if you weren’t – and let’s face it, only a few were – it didn’t really matter, because there was plenty of talk about a non-Google branded version coming out from HTC.

That phone arrived during Mobile World Congress in February. The HTC Desire is essentially a Google Nexus One with only a few differences, but that didn’t matter, as it would be available before the Nexus One hit the UK and come complete with a contract. This didn’t stop Google from forging ahead with a full UK launch though and sure enough, a Nexus One on a UK contract from Vodafone is now available.

So what’s it to be? A Nexus One, a Desire, or dare we say it; an Apple iPhone?

Style.

Let’s take a look at the phone first. The Nexus One is easily one of the most stylish and understated phones to come along since the iPhone itself. The beautiful curves, minimal hardware keys and grippy rear panel make it a pleasure to handle, and the 130 gram weight – a by-product of the metal chassis – means it feels solidly constructed. But while it’s good-looking, it’s not exactly revolutionary, with makers HTC failing to inject much individualism in its design.

The front panel is dominated by the 3.7″ AMOLED screen with an 800×480 pixel resolution, four small touch sensitive keys beneath it and a trackball for navigation. Around the back is the lens for the 5 megapixel autofocus camera and alongside it, the LED flash unit. The camera also shoots 720×480 video, but at only 20fps.

Power.

Naturally, the Nexus One uses Google Android v2.1 with all its live wallpaper, performance and graphics tweaks and voice-guided navigation goodness. Android 2.1 also has voice search onboard and has added Exchange support, quick contacts, SMS search and a combined inbox too. In the US, one of the big selling points of the Nexus One is Google Voice, however this won’t be enabled on the UK version as the service has yet to be made available here.

If we stripped the Nexus One down, we would find it’s powered by Qualcomm’s 1GHz Snapdragon chipset with 512MB RAM and 512MB of ROM. The phone is 3G with both HSDPA and HSUPA, plus GPRS and EDGE for when network coverage proves problematic.

What Else Can it Do?

Continuing our rundown of the specification, you get a microSD card slot with support for 32GB cards, a 3.5mm headphone socket, Assisted GPS and a digital compass, Wi-Fi, A2DP Bluetooth v2.1 (new for Android v2.1) and all the expected Google tools built-in to the OS.

One of the main advantages of the Nexus One over the Desire is the use of noise cancelling microphones, where a second mic listens to ambient noise and filters it out, providing excellent call clarity. Another key difference is the trackball over the Desire’s optical trackpad. Against the iPhone, on paper at least, the N1 beats it in all main specification categories from processor speed to camera megapixels. However, it would be foolish not to take into account the iPhone’s ease of use and extensive app library through the iTunes App Store; but we suspect that ultimately the buying decision between these two will be made due to personal brand allegiance, and will leave it at that.

It’s also worth mentioning while on the subject of the N1 vs. the iPhone, that the Nexus One doesn’t suffer from a lack of multi-tasking; a very desirable feature for some!

Any Downsides?

How quickly the mobile phone world moves these days. Five months ago, a 1GHz processor was almost a rarity but today, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, HTC and soon, Dell, all have phones using a similarly speedy chip. The same can be said of the screen, as 3.7″ is far from unusual on high end ‘superphones’ and has been superceded by phones such as the X10 and the HTC EVO 4G. Even Android v2.1 is old news, with 2.2 Froyo round the corner and 2.1 already available in the UK on several other devices.

But are these downsides? Not really, as the Nexus One is still a supremely powerful phone with a rapidly growing application store and guaranteed future OS support. Plus, it really is the first of its kind – a Google phone sold by Google themselves. It’s just not as unique as it was in December 2009.

Summary.

To answer the question of the Nexus One over the Desire…we’re going to avoid it! The trouble is, both phones are brilliant and nigh-on identical, but in the same way as there were people who couldn’t wait for the Nexus One, and therefore took the Desire, there will be others who want the cache of owning the famous – and more than a little cool – Nexus One. And you know what? We can’t choose between them and recommend them both!

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