HUGE AUSTRALIAN REVIEW: Google Nexus One Android 2.1 with Multitouch

HUGE AUSTRALIAN REVIEW: Google Nexus One Android 2.1 with Multitouch



Getting access to a Google Nexus One isn’t that easy in Australia yet — Google won’t ‘officially’ ship them here. However we managed to get one on loan through Mobicity (cheers guys!) and tested it with a Three SIM card.

First off let us say that we think this phone is really the first Android handset that has what it takes for mass-market acceptance. It’s technologically advanced good looking and easy enough for people who aren’t geeks to use.

The Google Nexus One can only be purchased through Google’s new online phone store and at the time of writing official purchases are restricted to people who live in USA United Kingdom Singapore and Hong Kong.
 
We say “officially” because there are still ways to get your hands on a Nexus One in Australia which we will outline later in this article. The current model of Google Nexus One supports 7.2Mbps HSDPA data and UMTS Band 2100mhz/900mhz as well as GSM so it works best on Optus and Vodafone/Three in Australia. Telstra customers can use the Nexus One but lose the ability to access fast Next G speeds as it doesn’t support the 850MHz radio band Telstra uses.
 
This new Google direct sales model aims to sell Android phones direct to the public with a heavier Google influence on features bypassing mobile carriers who often delay phone releases or want to modify features for branding or other reasons.
 
In theory this is great for customers because there are fewer companies in the supply chain adding their margin to the phones eventual price but it also means that people who buy the Nexus One outright and have issues with the phone won’t get any help from their mobile carrier instead having to deal with Google or HTC for a fix.  Still going through mobile carriers is usually more painful than going direct to the handset manufacturer anyway so for many people this won’t be a problem anyway.

Initial Setup

After unboxing the Nexus One we manually entered our Australian mobile carrier’s access point name (APN) details. (All Android phones require a data connection to set up the phone with your Google Account on initial startup and the UK model we had for review didn’t have APNs for Australian mobile carriers built-in.)
 
Thanks to an Australian Android fan iMuse you can find all the necessary APN details to use an imported Android phone on Telstra Optus Vodafone etc at http://sholes.id.au/apns/

[#PAGE-BREAK#Amazing AMOLED screen technology#]

Google is an engineering-focused company not a consumer products one so it’s not surprising that the previous Google Android phones to date haven’t been that visually pleasing. The Nexus One may not look very exciting on first glance but the smooth teflon coating used on its case thinness (11.5mm) similar weight to the iPhone (130g) and rounded pebble-like shape will grow on you over time. 

 
One clear trend in the higher end Android phones like the Motorola Droid/Milestone and Google Nexus One is bigger screens by which we mean not just physically bigger (in this case 3.7†inches) but also higher resolution which means you can see more information clearly on screen. 
 
One practical benefit of a high resolution if you read a lot of websites on a Nexus One is holding the phone horizontally so it’s 480×800 WVGA display (more than twice the resolution of iPhone 3GS) allows you to read a site like ABC News Online without having to zoom in. 
  

The use of a Samsung Active Matrix OLED (AMOLED)  enables the Nexus One screen to be brighter and display colours more true to life than previous Android phones  like the Motorola Droid/Milestone as well as extending the phone’s battery life because AMOLED doesn’t require a backlight. 

[#PAGE-BREAK#Testing the Snapdragon 1GHz chipset & 5MP camera#]

Another clear area of superiority over previous Android phones and the iPhone or Blackberry is the Nexus One’s use of a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 3G QSD8250 chipset capable of up to 1GHz. This is quite evident before the phone’s apps even start because it boots up so quickly and then proceeds to multi-task running many applications with ease even if new graphics hungry features like Live Wallpaper are enabled.
 
The 5MP Camera is a surprisingly strong feature of the Nexus One. Yes it uses a tiny little imaging sensor like all camera phones but the addition of a strong LED flash quite good auto-focus and geotagging make it useful for taking photos to use on a blog Facebook or Twitter.
 
One of the features that hasn’t got as much attention as it should is the new Android 2.1 voice dictation feature which allows you to dictate into any text entry box such as writing an SMS composing an email or updating a Facebook status. 

 
This voice capture and translation into text is done in the cloud by leveraging Google’s huge database of words phrases and accent data gathered from users of Google Voice Search and the free GOOG 411 directory assistance number in the USA.
 
Don’t get too excited because voice dictation isn’t set to completely replace the Android software keyboard yet.
 
APC has noticed that Google voice accuracy levels have improved a lot during the last year to the stage where it can accurately know that we’re searching for “Australia Pakistan cricket score†or “Sydney weather†but it’s still not useful in really crowded or noisy environments like a pub. 

[#PAGE-BREAK#Battery life Apple can only aspire to#] 

Another feature which is very welcome is the Nexus One’s increased battery life regularly hitting 10-12 hours or more with normal day to day use — much better than the iPhone 3GS which frequently runs out within eight hours if you use it a lot throughout the day. The Nexus One’s good battery life could be attributable to efficiencies in the new Android 2.1 software and also to the the less power hungry AMOLED screen.
 
Some of the cool features include a trackball with inbuilt tri-color notification LED which alerts you when you receive new emails IM chat messages or SMS and a docking feature so you can use the Nexus One as a bedside alarm clock and music player outputting audio to your sound system.
 
If you want to save some money and not buy the hardware dock a free App called “Dock Simulator” can trick the Nexus One into thinking that it’s been plugged into a Car or Home Dock. 

 

[#PAGE-BREAK#Ta da! Android "2.1-Update1" adds Multi-Touch#]

On February 2nd nearly a month after the Nexus One was released Google announced a patch that sounded quite small in name (2.1-update1) but actually contained several useful new features and a bug fix to improve 3G connectivity.
 
This update should arrive automatically on all Nexus One phones within a few days as long as they’re connected to the internet via 3G data or Wifi data.   

The major new feature was multitouch pinch-to-zoom functionality  in the Nexus One’s Browser Gallery and Maps applications. This is a feature whose omission has long been a source of confusion because the underlying Android operating system and handset hardware were multitouch capable but Google had previously palmed questions about multitouch to the handset manufacturers.
 
Other upgrades to the intial Google Nexus One Android 2.1 software were an upgrade to Google Maps 3.4 which includes automatic night mode for easier viewing and the inclusion of Google Goggles  (a program to search the web by taking a photo of an object rather than typing its name in) 
  

[#PAGE-BREAK#Web Surfing Content Creation/Consumption ... Phone ?#]

Google is making it clear that Android smartphones are predominantly web and content creation/consumption devices by labelling the Nexus One as “Web meets phone”. This could also be why the 4 touchscreen buttons on the bottom the screen don’t include a Call or Hangup button instead choosing Back Menu Home and Search as the 4 buttons.
 
That’s not to say that the Nexus One is bad to use for phone calls; on the contrary it includes a dynamic noise suppression feature and HTC 2 microphone voice processing solution. It just means that phone functionality has been reduced in importance to equality with web surfing taking photos and watching videos.
 
Effective noise cancellation is achieved by the main microphone picking up your voice and surrounding noise on the front of the phone while the secondary mic on the back of the phone picks up surrounding noise which are combined and the background noise cancelled out.
 
Keeping in mind that the Nexus One is a camera phone not an SLR it takes quite decent 5MP photos with autofocus (6cm to infinity) an LED flash so you can take photos in really dark conditions and geo tagging of where the photo was taken. The Camera app can also be switched into Camcorder mode to capture video captured at 720×480 pixels (20 fps or higher depending on lighting conditions)
 
The Android operating system still lacks a simple app to synchronise music and podcasts from a users computer to the phone’s expandable microSD card slot (up to 32GB) but thank goodness HTC has finally standardised on a normal 3.5mm headphone jack. 

[#PAGE-BREAK#Buying the Google Nexus One in Australia#]

As always with an Android phone there’s deep integration with many of Google’s services like Gmail Calendar Voice Search Youtube and Picasa Photo Gallery so if you’re already using many of these you’ll slip into Nexus One ownership with ease.

If you’ve jail-broken your iPhone due to frustration with restrictions then the more customisable Android operating system may well prove irresistible. Linux fans may also be convinced into buying the Nexus One with the news that Linus Torvalds has purchased a Nexus One and described it as ”a winner”.
 
On the other hand if your music and video collection are all on iTunes all your other gadgets are Apple (eg: Macbook Pro) and you play lots of iPhone games we recommend holding off purchasing an Android phone for now as it won’t fit well into that ecosystem. It’d be nice if Google would release a Mac and Windows-compatible iTunes connector app to sync music easily like RIM has for Blackberries.
 
Since Google doesn’t yet officially sell direct to Australia customers you’ll be forced into chosing one of 3 workarounds if you want to get your hands on a Nexus One right now: 

  1. Relatives in USA United Kingdom Hong Kong or Singapore – can be asked to buy the phone for you in their name and then send it on to you by courier.
  2. Buying Through A Freight Forwarder  – who provides you with an address to say you live in USA UK HK or SG and then charges you a fee to post the phone to you. One service that APC staff have tested with fine results is Price USA which is based in Bendigo VIC and has a US-based buying agent that works for the company.
  3. Australian Importer – like Mobicity in Queensland. This option is the most reliable because you get an Australian 12 month warranty but a bit more expensive because Mobicity buys the phone from Google and adds a retail margin to pay for their profit and providing a local Australian warranty.

Mobicity lent APCmag.com the Google Nexus One phone used in this review and the mobile SIM with data access and airtime were supplied by 3 Mobile.