Google knows I enjoy the Nexus One, still sends subliminal reminders
Jump around the web enough, and after a while, you start to actually notice all those banner ads and how they're trying to pry your hard-earned cash away. Lately, Sprint's marketing people have been sending a full-on blitz for the HTC EVO 4G, and it's hard to blame them, since it looks like a dynamite smartphone. But since the beginning of the year I've been seeing another ad pop up over and over, almost like how I see the same Republican politicians on television complaining all the time.
I'm talking about the ads from Google, the official search engine of Topeka, Kansas, whose Nexus One has proven to be a very strong first entry for them in the Android smartphone market. Apparently they're doing the equivalent of shouting its praises from the rooftops, because everywhere I go on the web, those ads are there to keep me company.
Luckily for Google, I'm enjoying my new AT&T-banded Nexus One so much that it's currently my main device as I fight the boredom while waiting for the next iPhone and my preordered iPad that I won't see for another three weeks or so. I'm not saying my SIM will stay in here for good, but for now I'm adjusting to the Android environment as I wait for Google to move beyond subliminal messages.
After seeing the reports a few weeks back about low sales for the Nexus One, I was amazed considering that Google has their stamp on just about every tech website around. Even non-tech websites have that familiar Nexus One ad in various margins, inviting me to "Explore in 3D," which I apparently took too literally by buying one that I could actually hold. Google 1, Chris -$530.
The Nexus One has all the latest technology crammed into what's arguably the sharpest looking smartphone out there, but too few people know about it. Sure, all of us tech geeks know about it, but we're severely outnumbered by the regular folks who just want their device to work and to be just like what their coworkers or friends carry. Because of this general craving of information and entertainment from the palm of the hand, it only makes sense that Google take the next step and get the Nexus One, and subsequent models, out into stores and onto mainstream media so they can be noticed by the masses. Apple gets this, and they always have, hence the reason everyone else is playing catch-up to the iPhone.
Take Verizon's Motorola Droid, for example, which was pumped up to be everything the iPhone isn't, even though the severe app imbalance between iPhone OS and Android is enough to cancel out any minute advantage the Droid may have. Regardless, the advertising onslaught planted the seed in the non-techie public, and the Droid has become the halo device for Android. No disrespect to Moto Droid owners, but the Nexus One is better equipped to compete with the iPhone, so it should be the halo device. With this title, there needs to be a better support network when problems arise, not just some forum or far away toll-free number to call.
Up until now, Google has stuck to their guns about selling the phone exclusively through their web store, and while that may have worked when only the T-Mobile version was available, the times have changed quickly in a few short months as the Nexus One will soon become a choice for anyone on any of the four major carriers here in the US. All bets are off as to when Verizon will get theirs, since it was originally planned for this Spring, and it's hard to tell how much effort Sprint will focus on it, considering the EVO 4G will be out before long. Here's to hoping that Google can find a way to get the Nexus One in all of the major carriers' retail stores, not to mention Best Buy and Radio Shack. The phone is just too good, and should continue to be in the race for quite some time with Google's undivided attention, but I'd hate to see them wait until it's time to blow them all out for crazy discount prices to make room for a new model.
Now let me quickly summarize what I like and dislike so far about the Nexus One. It's by no means perfect, just as the iPhone isn't, but I have already noticed some advantages and some quirks. Just like Jenn discovered as she went back to using her iPhone 3GS as her full-time phone, the main difference between the two platforms comes down to apps. If this was June 2007, and the original iterations of both the Nexus One and iPhone were put in front of me, I would choose the Nexus One. But jump nearly three years to the present day, and the huge catalog of useful apps make the iPhone what it is, and that's the best smartphone and/or MID on the planet. OK, now on to some more of the good and bad.
- LED charging light and trackball notification light. Apple should seriously consider indicator lights on the next iPhone, if done discreetly like the Nexus One.
- Soft-touch finish on exterior. The scratch-fest that takes place on the iPhone's glossy plastic casing is getting a bit old, but it keeps case makers and ZAGG happy.
- Multitasking with any app. Jailbreaking an iPhone gets this, but nothing beats having it natively.
- Active wallpaper. It might not add any functionality, but it's cool to show off, especially the default one that responds to touch.
- 800×480 resolution. With the higher res, the default zoom on a webpage makes text easier to read without the need to zoom like an iPhone.
- 5MP camera with flash. I don't own a regular digital camera at the moment, so my phones are all I have. Next iPhone should pull even here, but shame on Apple if it doesn't.
- Noise-cancelling microphone. People that I regularly call have noticed the lack of background noise that is easy to hear on my 3GS.
- Voice-to-text function system-wide. Can't believe I missed this until Jenn mentioned it. Who needs an instruction manual?
- Cool Android robot smiley emoticon. Do I need a reason to like this, other than it's green instead of yellow? Plus, Google must assume everyone is always happy, because there's a dedicated key.
- Pull-down notification shade. Much nicer than the iPhone's pop-up bubble, since it only gets in the way when I choose.
- Haptic feedback. It might drain the battery quicker, but it's handy and I have the option of disabling it.
- Widgets and shortcuts on homescreens. Convenient access to commonly-used information, another trick Apple should lift.
- Menu options in each program. Much quicker than having to close an app and return to Preferences panel on the iPhone to access additional settings.
- Trackball doesn't turn on the phone. Hitting the Home button on an iPhone has become second nature to get the phone on. Being right-handed, I tend to hold the phone in my left hand, while touching the screen with the right. Power switch on top is on the wrong side for this usage.
- Battery life fluctuates. Maybe I'm expecting too much from a 1GHz smartphone, but certain programs tend to start in the background even after being killed, causing extra drain. I understand why Apple has been hesitant to allow multitasking.
- No native screen capture. Apple's solution is genius, similar to what is built-in to every Mac. Having to root the Nexus One just to be able to load a specialized screencap program is a bummer.
- Lack of "select all" option to delete emails. SenseUI has this on the Hero, why doesn't Android 2.1?
- Auto-brightness suffers from ADHD. The light sensor must be programmed to do the opposite of what is needed, and then quickly change its mind and jump the other direction, over and over.
- Menu option inconsistencies. Some apps have an "exit" or "quit" button, many do not. Press the Home button on an iPhone, you've quit the app just like that. Of course, this works hand-in-hand with multitasking.
- No SlingPlayer and Sonos Controller. To be fair, these would be of little importance to most users, but they are my most-used apps on the iPhone, so I have to list them as a con. Android versions should be out before the end of the year.
- Keyboard and auto-correct is a notch below the iPhone. I make twice as many corrections when typing on the Nexus One, even in landscape mode.
- Lack of visual voicemail on AT&T. This could be because I'm using my iPhone SIM, but I've been spoiled by the feature regardless.
Those are just the very noticeable things I have noticed in my two-week ownership of the Nexus One, and most of the flaws can be corrected in future firmwares. Not counting my very brief time with a Sprint Hero last Fall, this is my first true experience with Android, and I'm very satisfied with my choice. If Google can just keep building on the huge wave of momentum they are currently riding, and get the Nexus One into more hands, I have no doubt that the Android Market will continue to gain more new apps, and in the process narrow the gap between pretender and contender.
If we have any other Nexus One owners out there, feel free to chime in with your thoughts on it so far, or if I missed something, let me know.