That’s what I’ve been carrying around for a month and a bit. It’s awfully good; which doesn’t mean I don’t want more.

[Editorial note: Just because I work for Google doesn’t mean all-Android blogging. It’s just that I have a bunch of material saved up that I didn’t feel I should publish while I couldn’t disclose that I was negotiating, then about to join, the remorseless Android army. Don’t worry; pictures of flowers and overwrought screeds about programming languages will return.]

[More editorial: This was mostly written before I actually showed up at the ’plex and had any inside info. I’ve learned a couple of things since then but I decided to go ahead and publish the unimproved version.]

This review is a bit muddled because I switched both phone and OS at the same time. In some cases I’m not 100% sure whether the things I like or dislike are due to the hardware or software.

Speed and the Browswer · These are the two big things that dominate all my other impressions and deserve to be taken up first.

I don’t know whether it’s 2.1 or the faster CPU in the N1, but speed is a feature and now I have a whole lot more. The canonical example my iPhone-loving friends used to bash me over the head with was the Calendar: How long does it take to bring up today, then to swipe sideways for tomorrow? Used to be there was a noticeable delay on both. Not now; if you’ve just been doing a bunch of map-reading or otherwise torturing the system you may wait as long as a half-second to get “Today” up but mostly it’s just right there; and sliding sideways to tomorrow happens as fast as you can drag your finger. It’s not only the calendar; everything all over the phone is just super-snappy.

The browser improvements are a bigger deal. Yeah, it’s a lot faster, but it’s also a whole lot smarter. Here’s the deal: You hit some link, and (assuming you’re not on 2G) pretty soon there’s a miniaturized version of the whole page filling the screen. You double-tap on the part that you want to read and then some extremely clever code figures out which <div> or whatever you meant and arranges for that to fill the screen, starting at the top. There’s also the pinch/grow thing and that’s nice too, but I don’t use it much because the double-tap seems to reliably Do What I Mean.

Other Good Things · Tastes vary: any of these might be a game-changer for someone else:

  • The screen, just like everyone says, is amazing. The only Web site whose appearance I obsess over is the one you are now reading, and its boring Georgia and Verdana lettering looks much nicer on the N1 than on my MacBook.

    There’s this widget you can put on a home screen that has a thing to toggle the brightness between dim, medium, and bright, and you’ll need it for when you go out in the sun.

  • The row of four buttons across the bottom have been a source of grief for some other reviewers, who have trouble hitting them right and find that they do so accidentally when reaching for the spacebar. Maybe big fat farmer’s fingers like mine are what you need; I have no trouble hitting them and appreciate the little haptic buzz that tells when you haven’t missed. I’m sure that the other people aren’t imagining their problems, but I don’t have ’em.

  • The Maps navigation, which I’ve already blogged about, is pretty wonderful. (Well, except when it led me down a blind alley not 15 minutes from bloody Google headquarters trying to get me to my hotel. I mean, I could see the hotel from where it took me to, it’s just that there was a large stone wall at the end of a dead-end street between me and there.) Really, mostly it’s excellent.

    I haven’t used the voice-command mode that much (failed-B-movie-actress intonation), but it’s been precise and helpful every time I have.

  • The camera is not terrible at all. Now, I’m a multi-lens-totin’ SLR-wranglin’ photo-nerd first class, so I’m not going to go as far as excellent, but really, like I said, it’s not terrible.

  • There are a ton of fit-&-finish improvements to the home screens and the pick-an-app screen and the widgets and the shortcuts and the scrolling animations and the whole interaction experience. Subtle but important.

  • The on-screen keyboard has gotten to be tremendously clever with its guesswork at what you meant to type. Once you get into the rhythm of watching its suggestions as opposed to what keys you’re actually hitting, you can start to go seriously fast. I’m occasionally nonplused when people’s names from my phonebook show up as guesses, but also occasionally delighted.

  • This has nothing to do with Google or Android or the hardware, but let it be noted that the Twidroid Twitter client has been climbing the quality ladder with a release every couple of weeks during the year or more I’ve been using it, and is becoming really very satisfying.

Gripes · Even though I work here I can still whine about things they did before I arrived.

  • You know, I think I’d like a keyboard. The Droid’s hasn’t been that well reviewed; I’ve never tried one but I look back fondly on my original G1 phone, whose keyboard was first-rate.

  • The analogue clock widget is butt-ugly to my eyes. I recognize that tastes vary, but still. If there’s anyone graphically-gifted out there who will produce a really beautiful and functional anaclock widget, I hereby promise to become a partisan for it both inside and outside Google.

  • The new unlock thingie, drag-the-green-strip-across-the-screen, feels awkward to me. So what I did was turn on the nine-dots security pattern and actually found that easier on my fingers, not to mention safer. Anything that encourages safe behavior is a good thing so maybe this is a plug not a gripe. Hmm.

    The phone-answering gesture is identical: Drag the green stripe across the screen. Maybe the joints in my thumb are unusual, but I often have to try a couple of times to pick up a phone call.

  • Maybe I’m imagining this, or maybe I’ve just been having bad luck with the telephone companies lately, but it seems to me that the N1 isn’t the best-sounding Android ever. The reception and signal strength and reliability are fine, it’s just that I seem to think my loved ones’ voices sounded sweeter in my ears on the previous phone.

Wrap-Up · I’m pretty sure that the Nexus One would make almost anyone, geek or civilian, happy. It’s not the “ultimate phone”, because there are multiple vendors in this space and they’re mostly all really smart, and next year’s hot phone, whatever it is, will be better.

But right now, the N1/Android 2.1 combo is in a really sweet spot.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: CarlB (Mar 19 2010, at 03:07)

Thanks for the fun read.

Just a few thoughts...

I agree something down the road in the near future with a Keyboard would be great.

A good way to programm Android for those of us who are not Java fans would be fantastic. There appear to be a number of folks who would like to use GO-language on Android, but even though there is a compiler for ARM, nobody is recommending it yet. Ruby might be nice, if it performs decently.

I wonder if anyone is going to do an A-phone with the Dual core Snapdragon, I bet there would be some buyers...

Oh and the storage restriction for installing applications needs to be fixed really fast...

There are a lot of people in Europe waiting to be able to buy a Nexus One or comparable phone, if you want to UP your sales figures then there is a lot of potential there...

What about an MP3 Music-Store? A cooperation with one... whatever

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From: Niklas J (Mar 19 2010, at 05:11)

Sounds delightful. Can't wait to get one when Google decides to open for the broad European market (outside UK that is).

You don't happen to have some "secret" release date? (spring 2010 isn't good enough) :-)

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From: Bruce (Mar 19 2010, at 06:31)

I quite like my N1, but one obvious big picture user-oriented gripe is the fact there's a different "Nexus One" phone for every damned carrier. I'd MUCH prefer to be able to buy a single product and have it "just work" on any carrier I want. In the mid-to-long term, this is clearly something Google and its partners (HTC in this case) need to figure out.

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From: Mark Mascolino (Mar 19 2010, at 08:20)

I have the same problem with the answer screen swipe. As for Twitter clients, you should check out Seesmic. I've grown to like that better than Twidroid and Tweetcaster.

If you really want to add something simple that will improve your phone use: Gesture Search. Dead simple and works great.

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From: Tom (Mar 19 2010, at 10:12)

I love my Nexus One (only in part because Google gave it to me for nothing!), but it's not perfect. I'd probably go as far as saying that it's the most perfect phone I know of. The iPhone's great for my non-technical immediate family, and I have my doubts that they'd be quite so comfortable getting around the Android OS.

But for me, and the countless number of people who took the time jailbreak their iPhones, I think this phone is top-drawer. For people who aren't yet quite prepared to put up with the odd technical hiccup (Launcher occasionally crashes, Gallery doesn't always show photo's you've only just taken and so on http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/list), Android won't be their cup of tea just yet. This is coming from the guy who didn't think the iPhone would catch on.

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From: AlfredC (Mar 19 2010, at 12:54)

Which phone carrier are you using? Just wondering how the Nexus performs on AT&T 3G network.

Thanks!

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From: Matt (Mar 19 2010, at 15:51)

Hi Tim, any thoughts on battery?

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From: Matt (Mar 19 2010, at 16:17)

Tim - By the way, your point about wanting a physical keyboard and the DROID not hitting the mark is spot-on. As of now there's no Android 2.x phone with a reasonable keyboard.

My feeling is that phone designers (primarily HTC I suppose) need to change their thinking around form factor. Part of Blackberry's secret sauce is in the overall layout of the keys, including the width of the keyboard. Most of the new phones today (that have physical keyboards) implement them as landscape. I think they should follow RIM's lead by making the slider go alone with length dimension rather than along width and implement a portrait style keyboard. 4"+ wide keyboards are more difficult to type on than portrait mode (in general).

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From: Alex (Mar 19 2010, at 17:37)

What are the default settings in your browser? Double-tap does indeed zoom in, but it never really fits the screen. I love this feature on iPhone and I'm wondering if the current misbehavior on N1 is not caused by some settings.

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From: Ed Davies (Mar 20 2010, at 02:33)

CarlB: "A good way to programm Android for those of us who are not Java fans would be fantastic."

http://code.google.com/p/android-scripting/

...or is there something wrong with this I need to know about? I'd be really interested to hear what Tim has to say about it.

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From: otnateos (Mar 20 2010, at 03:09)

Yep, agree a keyboard gonna be nice. I had a Hero and e71. in terms of using it day to day such as ssh, twitter, sms it feels nicer using a touchable keyboard. I wish i choose Droid instead Hero :) and unfortunately I bought my hero 2 weeks before Nexus was launch. I completely forgot about the announcement :)

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From: vamsee lakamsani (Mar 20 2010, at 08:24)

I hope Google docs editing is coming soon. I got my AT&T 3G N1 last week and was really surprised to find that I can't edit Google docs. It is such an important part of the Google experience for me and the top of the line Google phone should offer it.

I can't get the built-in VPN client to work with my employer's Cisco VPN concentrator (the built-in iPhone client worked right off the bat). I found something on the Market but it requires rooting.

I agree with you about voice quality. Just not as good as the iPhone.

Overall I think I like the N1. So I 'm keeping it.

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From: Ronald Pottol (Mar 20 2010, at 19:58)

As far as keyboards go, have you tried the Sidekicks? I've used a couple, and they generally beat the G1 overall.

And you can submit corrections, and they will show up in a bit (and they will email you with progress). You may need to do that from the regular google maps web page.

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From: Vamsee Lakamsani (Mar 21 2010, at 11:13)

Can't edit Google Calendar events either from Nexus One. I can add new events but I can't edit an existing one. This is another important part of the 'Google Experience' for me. So With Docs and Calendar Nexus One is no different than the iPhone.

Remote data wipeout is another important feature that N1 needs.

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From: Bill Seitz (Mar 22 2010, at 17:57)

Vamsee, you can definitely edit a Calendar entry. Double-tap to get one-event view, then hit Menu button to see "Edit Event" as an option.

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From: Bill Seitz (Mar 22 2010, at 18:16)

My major peeve with the Nexus (software) is the lame searching of Contacts. Not only does it not search Notes, but the fields it *does* search seem to use only startsWith searches, so if you put "AltPho Thai Restaurant" in a Company field, you can find it by searching on "Thai" or "Restaurant"!

I installed LaunchIt to get slightly-better searching.

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From: vamsee lakamsani (Mar 24 2010, at 01:22)

Bill, thanks for the tip. You are correct about calendar editing. iPhone can edit Google calendar events too. So its all good on the calendar front.

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From: ted (Apr 04 2010, at 16:48)

"You know, I think I’d like a keyboard. The Droid’s hasn’t been that well reviewed; I’ve never tried one but I look back fondly on my original G1 phone, whose keyboard was first-rate."

Having now have 2.1 I have to disagree. The internal design gives you basically two cores for major multitasking. Besides long emails, Most people i know ditch the keyboard after a week. Still, it's what bringing Android to the Masses right now.

Sales also haven't been all that bad. Beats all smart phone records so far I might add, at least in the U.S.

Great writing on your blog regardless, look forward to more.

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March 17, 2010
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I am an employee of Amazon.com, but the opinions expressed here are my own, and no other party necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my professional interests is on the author page.