Google Nexus One Review

Introduction and Design
*The review has been updated on March 25.

This is a global GSM phone, it can be used with
T-Mobile's 1700MHz 3G band, and with AT&T without 3G.

HTC Nexus One Release Date - January 05, 2010


When we first caught wind that Google had something in the works for the mobile space everyone assumed it was a phone, but as we all know the big announcement revealed it was much more, an open-source mobile operating system.  The commercial launch of Android was important, but on the nation's fourth largest carrier it was also relatively quiet despite selling well.  Last summer a second device- the HTC Magic/My Touch 3G- was added to T-Mobile's lineup with a major marketing push behind it, and Motorola made its Android debut with the CLIQ.  In the fall Sprint became the second carrier to support Android with the launch of the HTC Hero followed quickly by the Samsung Moment.  Android was gaining momentum, but what really pushed it over the brink was the launch of the heavily-hyped Motorola DROID by the nation's largest carrier, and alongside it the Hero-esque DROID ERIS. But amid the avalanche of new device launches and public awareness there again were whispers that we would see a Google Phone after all.

Say hello to the HTC Nexus One, sold exclusively through Google.  This phone shouldn’t be new to you however; we first spied it way back in October as the HTC Passion.  The Nexus One is indeed manufactured by HTC, and while the packaging makes no mention of this fact HTC has managed to get its logo directly on the phone.  Specs are impressive: a 3.7” AMOLED display, 5 megapixel autofocus camera with flash, 3G and Wi-Fi and- most importantly- a 1GHz Snapdragon processor.  Oh, and it’s the first device to run Android 2.1 as well.  In the box you’ll find a neoprene carrying pouch, cool-looking stereo headphones, microUSB data cable and AC adapter and an included 4GB microSD card installed.


We’re going to be upfront about this: the instant we unboxed the Nexus One and picked it up the first words out of our mouths were “We want this.”  After about five minutes with the device we had changed our minds, and here is why: at least in our normal-sized hands it’s just not comfortable to hold.  This is most apparently when navigating the menu in portrait mode, because the device is top heavy and the natural position is to hold onto the bottom half of the phone when using it.  While on a call, where one is more prone to extend the index finger along the length of the back the thing feels great, two-handed use in landscape mode is as comfortable as can be and even holding the device upside-down is pleasing.  But, the truth is that we use our phones most often with one hand and the Nexus One has a tendency to almost jump out of our hands.  We got laughed at for literally dropping it while sitting stationary navigating the interface, but when we handed the phone over the same thing happened and the laughter quickly turned into confusion.

So, that is our main gripe with the Nexus One, let us move on.  The screen.  Oh my God the screen.  Not since Rachel Bilson’s big brown eyes lit up the OC have we gotten lost staring at something so easily.  It is massive, and it is beautiful.  The colors jump out at you, and while no official spec is listed we have to believe it is capable of 16 million colors.  It has a 480x800 pixels resolution with a 100,000:1 contrast ratio, and a superfast 1ms response rate.  Everything is so vivid and bright it’s almost like looking at a picture frame.  It is without a doubt the best display we’ve ever seen, though like the Samsung Moment the whites have a noticeable blue tint to them.  The display is gorgeous enough when viewed straight-on, but its brilliance really shines when viewed from awkward angles.  Everything is still super sharp, whereas the great displays on the DROID and iPhone lose their mojo.

You can compare the HTC Nexus One with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Visually the HTC Nexus One looks very similar to Sprint’s Hero, but uses the touch-sensitive navigation keys like the DROID ERIS.  The layout of these keys are identical to the DROID, but the Nexus One adds a trackball (again, the smaller one like the ERIS) for added navigational options.  In terms of feel we prefer the larger ball of the Hero but aesthetically we understand why HTC chose the smaller ball.  The touch sensitive keys worked mostly ok when held in the typical position, though we did find ourselves having to hit the back key multiple times on several occasions.  When sitting on a table in front of us we had issues with all of the keys, leading us to believe that the sensor is closer to the top of the keys than centered or on the bottom.  This was mildly annoying.

The business-friendly gray comes in two different shades and the pattern strangely reminds us of Motorola’s ic502 hybrid CDMA/iDEN device.  Physical buttons are limited to the volume rocker on the left side and power button up top.  These both have minimal travel but enough to know that the button has been pressed.  The trackball can also be pressed to select items.  The microUSB (finally) charging/data port along with some dock connectors are on the bottom.  We’ve yet to see a dock accessory, but it is no doubt coming as it has passed the FCC (with Bluetooth, no less.)

The back of the HTC Nexus One has a large 5 megapixel camera with a single LED flash to its right.  There is a small cutout for the ample speaker, and almost hidden along the left side is a second microphone used for active noise cancellation.  The housing is Teflon-coated to resist dirt and grime, a trick we first saw on the white GSM Hero.  No “with Google” branding here, the Nexus One is simply branded “Google.”

The Nexus One is a beautifully boring phone.  There is no emphasis on style, yet it still remains an object of desire.  If HTC had evenly distributed the weight, or even made it bottom-heavy, the Nexus One would likely be our favorite phone out there.  The iPhone isn’t the most comfortable thing to hold either, but at least it doesn’t jump out of our hands.  We have a feeling that with a few weeks under our belt this will become less of an issue, but it still holds the Nexus One back from being truly great design-wise.  Still, we do kind of want one.

HTC Nexus One 360 Degrees View:

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