My thoughts on the Nexus One - Part 1

The intention of this post is to put across my thoughts on the Google Nexus One in general and on specific functionalities/applications of the phone. I have been using this smartphone for a week now and must say I am impressed. This opinion of mine might seem a bit obvious, since the phone I used before this, was a basic phone that did not have a touch screen nor a web browsing functionality. In my opinion the Nexus One is a great internet device. The array of internet-based and location-based applications that it offers are simply superb. Come to think of it, to use this phone without the internet or a data plan, would be like using any other phone with a good camera. In the following sections i will walk-through the different components of the phone.

The screen and the UI : The phone’s 480x800 screen is a visual treat. The images are very sharp, crisp and bright. There have been a lot of debates on the effective resolution of the AMOLED screen that the Nexus One uses, but to the perception of a normal human eye, this has a great resolution. I have not until now, faced any issues pertaining to the screen clarity and resolution, while watching movies or using the phone in general. The screen does appear darkened out in daylight, but setting the phone’s brightness to max when outside should give better results.

The touchscreen is very responsive. I have not come across any situations where i had to tap an icon twice cos the first attempt was unsuccessful. It is just amazing. The kinetic scrolling makes scrolling through long lists and contacts so hassle free. The multi-touch support added though the Over The Air (OTA) update works seamlessly within the gallery application as well as the browser. There are arguments that the multi-touch with the iPhone is more smooth compared to the one on Nexus One, but  i honestly feel that it has more to do with the fact that, people are used to the speed and smoothness of multi-touch on a iPhone. Any person who has not used the iPhone would feel that the multi-touch on Nexus One is just great. In some cases, i would say the screen is a bit extra responsive. This certainly results in some unintended actions being triggered. Just for a simple example, i was texting the other day and from no where the notification tray slided down. I realized a little later that the sleeve of my shirt was touching against the top of the screen. In my opinion most of the unintended actions are fired because of the 4 capacitive, haptic-feedback enabled soft keys at the bottom of the screen. The soft keys cause more inconvenience than their actual functionality. This is where i feel the one home/menu button approach of the iPhone is a better design. The phone boasts of a bigger display but there are short-comings of this big screen. And by short-comings of the screen i mean the dimension of the screen and not the quality of the display. If you don’t want any unintended actions being fired, then you have to make sure you are not touching any other part of the screen while operating on the screen with your finger, but how much ever careful you are, sometimes you will be unintentionally touching the top left or the top right part of the screen while grabbing the phone in your fist. This is not such a big issue that, you should get second thoughts about buying this phone. Upon using it a few times, you know how to hold your phone and you wont face those issues. The reason i mentioned it here, is that the design and placement of the soft keys and the display could have been much better. In my opinion, the design lacks attention to the details.

Core functionalities of the phone : The phone does a good job at the core functionality. The contacts’ integration with the Google contacts is a good functionality. Upon selecting a contact, it lists you all the available modes of communicating with that contact which involves e-mail, GTalk (if that person is online) apart from the obvious call and messaging mode of communication. But at the same time, it needs a properly organized contact list on your Gmail account. Or else, one would eventually end up with duplicate and missing contacts. The sync’ing of the phone contacts with your Gmail contacts might come off as annoying initially, but then it serves as an automatic back-up of all the contacts and hence seems more logical. Searching through the contacts is very easy although i would prefer the app Google Gesture Search for that. The call quality and clarity are good, although i did initially feel that the call volume is not loud enough even when set to the highest. But overall it handles calls well, no dropped calls or any other issues.

Texting on the phone actually is a subjective topic. Some feel, the sizes of the keys on the default android keyboard, are small and hence causes a lot of difficulty. Initially i was hitting the wrong letters most of the times but that was also because of the fact that i was using the touch screen keyboard for the first time. It took some time for me to get adjusted to the touch screen keyboard but after that i have faced absolutely no issues. I do agree that people with thicker thumbs might feel texting difficult but then they always have the option of using the landscape mode. The phone also has voice input enabled on any edit input field but one thing to note here is that you need to be connected to the internet to use this functionality. Apps like Swype is a great replacement to the Android keyboard. I did use an unpublished version of the app for a while. Works like a charm and i honestly think there must be a official release of this app for Nexus One. Other android phones like Moto Cliq already has this text input method. The app makes texting so much easier and faster. It is a must have app.

One aspect of the phone that did not impress me, is the way notifications in the phone are handled. The messaging app has a notification setting of its own (so is the case with all other 3rd party apps including Gmail, GTalk) and this doesn’t obey the notification settings of the entire phone. Suppose i put the phone in vibrate mode using the volume up down button on the left side of the phone, then whenever i receive a SMS message the phone won’t vibrate unless you have set the vibrate option checked under the notification settings of the Messaging app. There is another bad implication of this. When i have set vibrate option checked under the notification settings of the Messaging app, the phone vibrates for a received SMS message even when you are on call with someone. That would totally take anyone by surprise.

Camera and the Music : The Nexus One sports a 5 megapixel, auto-focus camera with LED flash. I am not very much into details of photography so i was quite pleased with the quality of pictures taken from the camera. The video camera or the camcorder takes videos at 720X480 resolution and is very clear when viewed on the computer. The gallery application, that comes with the Nexus One is developed by the same team that developed the CoolIris plugin for the firefox browser. The gallery application is a eye candy, with pictures appearing as 3D wall. One good feature of the albums is that the pictures are sorted according to the place where picture was taken. All in all, the camera’s performance is definitely good.

The Music on the Nexus One is, i would say average. The lack of equalizer support makes it worse. The equalizer support is on the official requirements for the phone, so i would expect it to be fixed in the future updates. The speaker output is also average. I personally prefer using my iPod ear phones or my Sony headphones with the phone while listening to music. The music quality seems better that way. Will write about the other aspects of the phone in the next post.