Nexus One Review

I’ve had my nexus one (or N1) for around a year, and I think that it’s time that I give you, my reader, an overview of it.

First off, I want to talk about the hardware. I really like its shape which is very easy to hold, put in a pocket, etc. I have had no real problems with the shape of the phone, and the surface on the back has a rubbery grippy feel which is useful, especially as I wouldn’t like to drop it. Speaking of dropping it, I quickly gained a few small chips on the paint on the corners, so I now have a clear plastic “skin” designed for this phone, which I would advise. I have no problems with its weight, which is reasonably light for everything that is in it. The trackball is a significant feature of the phone’s body, and although many might prefer the use of an optical trackball, as in recent HTC smartphones, it is very useful as a notifications indicator light, as it can light in multiple colours and looks very nice when slowly “pulsating”. Sometimes I find using the trackball a little difficult, for example when moving the cursor when editing text, but I don’t know if this is the fault of the trackball itself or simply a problem of android, the operating system. The phone has also 4 touch buttons, conjoined to the bottom of the touchscreen. Although I am aware that many people dislike touch buttons, I have generally found them quite easy to use. The 3.7 inch touch screen is suitably big and quite bright- it is an AMOLED (organic light emitting diode) based screen which is meant to offer lower battery wastage while increasing contrast, as a backlight is not needed like in an LCD screen. I do see this benefit, however, the contrast suffers badly in a bright environment, e.g. a sunny day. Another problem I think that it is important to mention is the touchscreen responsiveness. Normally, it is fine, but now and again it goes crazy, where it either doesn’t register any touch or it is completely unaligned with where my finger actually is. I originally was very worried when this first happened but after a little research, found that {jcomments on}may N1s experience the same problem. It can normally be resolved by switching the screen on/off or by rebooting the phone. The screen’s resolution could be improved upon, especially with competition from the new iPhone and its HD display. The remaining buttons on the phone, volume rocker and on/off, are very much fit for purpose, being operable without too much force, and very tactile.

Next on to the camera, a 5mp camera with bright LED flash. I has taken many good pictures with this camera, and although I’m not much of a expert in cameras, I would say that the colours are generally accurate, pictures look sharp, and have satisfactory contrast. The biggest problem really would be the lack of a real xenon flash, and pictures mostly suffer indoors, when trying to light a whole room for example. Video is also satisfactory, but it is not fantastic; the frame rate is not great and videos often look somewhat whitewashed, and it doesn’t cope well at all with an environment which isn’t well lit. However, I am very happy with the quality of the camera, as I am very aware that the nexus one is a smartphone with many features, and many phones specialising in a camera are available, for example the Nokia N8, or Motorola Milestone. Connectivity is fine, with one microUSB connector (which is used for charging and computer connectivity etc.) and a 3.5mm headphone jack, very useful for listening to music, videos etc.

OK, I think I’ve covered the hardware. I would now like to talk about the phone’s operating system and user interface. Anyone familiar with the N1 will know that this is Android. This is my second android phone (my first being the G1) and it has clearly improved considerably since inception. It can do pretty much anything a smartphone would be expected of, as android is probably the most capable operating system for phones. It is based around a homescreen, to which app shortcuts and widgets can be added, which I find very effective. It’s also very customisable, from replacing the SMS app with one of the many alternatives available on the Android Market, to a browser such as Opera Mobile or Firefox. In fact, the android market has a huge number of apps, and will soon rival the iOS App Store.

However, even the default browser is very capable, loading pages very fast (provided the mobile internet is 3G). Also, flash works quite well to watch embedded videos in many sites. For example. Multitasking works, in that while playing a game, for example, you can go to your SMS app, send a message and return to the game without having to reopen it. Apps such as the music player can run in the background constantly, and can quickly be accessed through the useful status bar at the top of the screen. This status bar can also be used to immediately read the start of incoming texts or emails without even leaving the current app. The Gmail integration works very well, with new emails quickly being pushed to the phone, but other email accounts are also natively supported.

The phone runs very well in terms of speed- I rarely have issues with lag or unresponsiveness, and this is largely due to the 1Ghz processor and a large 512Mb of memory. Sometimes when running memory intensive apps such as games or the internet browser, and switching between 3 or more, you can find that one the the apps you are using has been killed by the system because it has run out of memory, but the fact that this can even be done shows how powerful the phone is. I also find it useful to have a task manager app, many of which have a “kill all” widget to stop all apps running in the background which are no longer needed.

In conclusion, the Nexus One is a truly super phone, and I personally have no substantial qualm with it whatsoever. I urge anyone who is looking for a low-cost, powerful phone which is feature-rich and enjoyable to use, to look at the nexus one as a possibility. On a side note, if you do decide to go for a nexus one (or any android phone for that matter), I would encourage you to look into custom ROMs for the phone, such as Cyanogenmod (official site), which add to the customisability and features of the phone.