Initial Nexus One Impressions

January 06, 2010 at 06:39 PM | categories: android | View Comments

Just got my Nexus One delivered :)

Although I had a company issued Blackberry (7100t) several years ago, I've never owned a smart phone of my own. I've certainly watched the technology progress over the years, but for the last several of those years I've been content to own a generic 3g slider phone (Samsung A737) and just tethering it to my Nokia N800.

Recently, smartphones have seemingly gotten a lot more powerful and I decided it was time for me to get one. Having loved my N800, I certainly had my eyes on the N900, not only because it adds a phone feature, but maemo 5 looks fscking awesome. However, I did my due dilligence and researched the other options available, and here are my thoughts on what's out there right now:

  • iPhone 3Gs: I've played with it several times at the Apple store, and held several owned by friends. It runs on fantastic hardware and even better core software. The iPhone is seriously stable and runs smoothly as far as I can tell. It only has one problem: Apple designed the software to be completely locked down. As a software developer (who wants to program for whatever phone he gets) I can't bring myself to become a slave to Apple, not being able to develop on anything but a mac, using a language that seemingly is only used to build Apple software, having to pay a large license fee to put applications on the only available method of distributing applications (THE app store), and to top all that off, I have absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that Apple will even accept my application, let alone in a timely fashion. No thanks.

  • Nokia N900: Oh, this phone has everything I want. Everything the N800 had and more. Completely open-source, completely unlocked device, surrounded by a (small by comparison) community that wants me to hack this device. Yea, this is my kind of phone. The idealist in me knows that this is the best phone on the market right now, and if adopted en masse, would shake the telecom industry to its core. A powerful phone like this, giving me as much freedom as it does, has the potential to force the telecom providers to compete solely on terms of network quality as opposed to competing over who has the coolest (locked down) phone. However, like with Betamax, there's more to winning than just superior technology. Nokia just doesn't have that something. This phone will serve geeks and enthusiasts well, but it just doesn't have the character to be adopted widely, and as a developer, I'd like to see the programs I write, as well as the skills that I will develop, still have relevance several years from now.

  • Android: Android is this happy medium between the two. The Android platform is open source. The phones... well, not so much. While they all run more or less the same open source android OS, they are still chained to the whims and pleasure of the manufacturer and telecom carrier, not the consumer. The recent Motorola Cliq is a perfect example of this. This is a new phone, having only been released since last November. But already the OS is quite outdated, running android 1.5, it's now three versions behind the latest that the Nexus One is running (2.1). I certainly understand that there are complications in upgrading the device, but it's the fact that Motorola/Tmobile has delivered a device that although is running an open source OS, is completely locked down disallowing the user to upgrade the phone himself. Ingenious hackers have rooted the device (without motorola's help mind you) but there is still trouble in installing new OS images. The Motorola Cliq is NOT an open source friendly phone and is defeinitly not the phone for me.

So a few weeks ago I was reading Android developer docs and was becoming really impressed with the platform. Even though it's all Java based, and not my beloved Python, at least it wasn't Objective C. And even though there are some closed source google APIs included, the great majority of android is open source. I was starting to the get feeling that this was a platform I could roll with. But the most modern phone available on a carrier I can afford (have you seen the prices for family plans on Verizon, sheesh) was the Motorola Cliq, and that phone deeply depresses me. So, did I want one of the older Android phones, the MyTouch or the G1? Hell no, I wanted something at least as powerful as the droid, if not as powerful as the N900 itself. Ah, but then all the rumors of the Nexus One starting cropping up all over the web.

  • Nexus One: A brand new, modern android phone, more powerful than the droid, hell more powerful than the N900 (at least on paper), not running any proprietary Motorola firmware, made by google who has an interest in making this the flagship android offering and playing nicely with developers, they made it easy to unlock the bootlader (literally just reboot holding down the trackball and entering a special command).. the list goes on. This phone is still no N900, but this just might be the first mainstream, truley open-source phone, that has the gumption to compete directly with the iPhone.

So I bought one :)

Here's my initial impressions:

  • Fedex is soo good at what they do. I set firefox to continuously reload during the Nexus One press launch, and as soon as the page went live I purchased the phone. Google paid the shipping and HTC sent it Fedex overnight. Less than 24 hours later, it was in my mailbox. Nice!

  • It's going to take me a while to get used to the keyboard. I have zero experience with touchscreen keyboards without the aid of a stylus.

  • Dictation works pretty well, kinda alleviates the problem above, although I probably would feel awkward using it in public.

  • The software keys at the bottom of the phone are very finicky. Although having used the phone for a few hours now, I think I got the handle of them now.

  • Navigation is fantastic. The GPS lockon was instantaneous, using dicatation to give the desired address worked flawlessly, the turn by turn speech is understandable, and the map displayed is updated quickly (even over EDGE) and looks great.

  • Just got Sipdroid setup and I can make VoIP calls for practically nothing :) (I have only tested it on WiFi so far, don't have 3G yet)

  • I can't connect to my home router that's only 8 feet away, even though it sees it, no idea why. I'm using WPA2 PSK AES, maybe it doesn't like AES? Can connect to the neighbors unprotected wifi ("linksys") no problem though ;)

  • The web browser works great and is speedy even on EDGE. I think something was terribly wrong in the Edgadget browser test because when I tried the same test (on WiFi), I got the page to load up at the exact same time the iphone did in the video, and seriously, why wouldn't it? Both the iphone and the Nexus One use webkit.

I'll update this list if anything else hits me.

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