What happened was, the teenager smashed his phone, so we did the usual shuffle-and-hand-me-down. My only real constraint was “No Nexus”; been doing that long enough. I was pretty interested in the waterproof Sony Z3, or maybe a small phone since I usually carry an N7 too, or maybe one of those lovely silken-metal HTC thingies. But neither the carrier nor Google had any very good deals, and the O+1 is a very good deal. So now I’m carrying one.
Size matters · I think I can claim a leading-edge voice on this subject, as an early adopter and fan of the original Samsung Galaxy Tab. And now I find I’ve become one of those Big-Ass-Phone people.
The One is just barely not too big. I can stretch a finger all the way across, but then I have big fingers. It would be perfectly OK with me if it were 25% smaller. Especially since I think all the icons and letters on the screen are bigger than they need to be; it’s not even making particularly great use of all that real-estate. I can’t find a setting saying “squeeze more in.”
Physicality · It’s not beautiful like an HTC or iPhone, but it’s not Samsung-plastic hideous. The packaging is slick; a first-rate unboxing experience.
The charcoal-textured back feels good but encourages a feather-touch grip, which means I’m gonna drop it sure as anything. So I’ve ordered a blue “Diztronic” case. I’ve been urged to get a glass protector too, but I’m unconvinced.
Performance · I dunno, all modern mobiles are fast enough, near as I can tell. My own benchmark is Ingress, which I still play regularly because it made me walk 700km+ over the last year and at my age that’s something you don’t want to let go of.
Ingress probably isn’t a bad benchmark because it pounds the hell out of the Java runtime, the OpenGL code, the GPS, and the data connection, all at once and without stopping. Having said that, it’s not noticeably faster on the One than the Nexus 7 I normally use. And having said that, the N7 remains an exceptionally great device.
I should mention that the One has the best GPS I’ve ever carried, snapping on fast and getting a usable lock even in the heart of Vancouver’s downtown, super-GPS-unfriendly territory.
Interfaces · The One came dressed in CyanogenMod clothes, and they’re OK, but after a day I put back the Google themes and font and Now launcher, they’re just nicer. I can’t honestly put my finger on any noticeable effect of the OS not being stock Android. Oh wait, when you’re typing in your PIN, you don’t have to hit Enter, it just wakes when you get the numbers right. Which is a little less secure but I think a good trade-off.
It’s got three illuminated-from-behind buttons on the bottom bezel: Menu, Home, and Back, left to right. You can turn those off and go with the real native Android on-screen buttons. But I haven’t so far, even though they have the usual problem where the backlight sometimes isn’t on when you’re looking for a button. I like having Back over on the near side right under my thumb. To get recent apps you long-press the Menu button. Hmm… when I’ve decided what I think I’ll let you know.
Data · Note to Canadians: If you’re on Rogers, you need to go into the Mobile Networks preferences and switch over from the old-school APN to the LTE version.
Note to everyone else: LTE is fast enough for any sane need. I think the radio isn’t as good as in the Nexus 5 I handed down, where by “not as good” I mean “switches to H+ or even 3G a little more often” and in fact those speeds are good enough for most things most people want to do.
Invites · Thanks to Alpha for mine. No, I don’t have any to give.
Camera · People say it’s great. I haven’t really had a chance to try it much, aside from the packaging shot above. I’ll be back with news when I have any.