The Nexus One. In the modern climate of hyped (and over-hyped) smartphone launches, Google's official entry into the phone-sales game has excelled in a department where many find difficulty: generating legitimate excitement. Of course, long before the name Nexus One or the recent bounty of pictures and details existed, the very concept of a "Google Phone" had been ingrained in the public conscience, predating even the Open Handset Alliance and Android itself; the company dabbled in the concept of direct sales through its offering of the Android Dev Phones 1 and 2 (alias Ion), but this time, it's a public retail ordeal, not a couple of one-off developer specials. The genuine-article Google Phone is finally here -- for better or worse.
The device, a Snapdragon-powered, HTC-built phone looks -- on paper, at least -- like the ultimate Android handset, combining a newly tweaked and tightened user interface with killer industrial design. A sleek, streamlined phone that can easily go toe-to-toe with the iPhone 3GSs, Pres, and Droids of the world, powered by the latest version of Android (2.1 "Flan," if you're counting), and hand-retooled by Google. But is it all it's cracked up to be? Can the Nexus One possibly live up to the hype ascribed to it? And more importantly, is the appearance of the phone the death knell for the OHA and a sign of the coming Android autocracy? In our exclusive review of the Nexus One, we'll answer all those pressing questions and more... so read on for the full scoop!
As we said in the intro -- and our previous hands-on write up -- the Nexus One is nothing if not handsome. From its ultra-thin body to sleek, curved edges, the phone is absolutely lustworthy. While it's unmistakably HTC, there are plenty of design cues that feel authentically Google as well -- and it's that balance which makes the phone such an intriguing piece of hardware.
When you first lay eyes on the Nexus One, you can almost hear someone at Google say something like, "Make us something as sexy as the iPhone, but let's not forget what got us here" -- "what got us here" being the G1, which Google worked tightly with HTC to create. Whether you love or hate the iPhone, it's hard to deny its obvious physical attractiveness, and it's clear that Google and HTC made strides to bring an Android handset into the same realm of base desirability that Apple's halo device occupies. For the most part, they've succeeded. The phone shape finds itself somewhere between the iPhone and Palm Pre -- taking the Pre's curved, stone-like shape and stretching it into something resembling a more standard touchscreen device (a la the Hero or Instinct). The body of the handset is comprised of what appears to the eye as two interlocking pieces, a main, dark gray housing (coated in a soft-touch treatment) which is intersected and wrapped by a lighter gray, smooth, almost metallic band. The overall effect is fluid, though we're not crazy about the choice of coloring -- we would have liked to see something a little more consistent as opposed to the two-tone, particularly when the choice of hues is this drab and familiar. Still, the shape and size of the phone is absolutely fantastic; even though the surface of the device houses a 3.7-inch display, the handset generally feels trimmer and more svelte than an iPhone, Hero, and certainly the Droid.
HTC has managed to get the thickness of the phone down to just 11.5mm, and it measures just 59.8mm and 119mm across and up and down -- kind of a feat when you consider the guts of this thing. In the hand it's a bit lighter than you expect -- though it's not straight-up light -- and the curved edges and slightly tapered top and bottom make for a truly comfortable phone to hold. On the glass-covered front of the device there are four "hardware" buttons (just touch-sensitive spots on the display) laid out exactly as the Droid's four hard keys: back, menu, home, and search. Clearly this is going to be something of a trend with Google-approved devices.
Unlike the Droid, the Nexus One has a trackball just below those buttons that should feel very familiar to Hero users -- the placement feels a bit awkward here, and there's literally nothing in the OS that requires it.
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