I finally decided to dump my trusty BlackBerry Curve, which I have had for two years, and upgrade to a Nexus One Android phone from Google. I received the phone on 2/16/10 and have been using it for 10 days at the time of this post. I stuck with my carrier T-mobile, which is actually the number two carrier in the Bay Area according to Consumer Reports. In spite of the poor perception that many people have of T-mobile, I generally find good voice coverage. I thought about getting an iPhone, but the AT&T network is just too spotty. Calls to colleagues who use AT&T are often dropped or poor quality. Anyway, here are my initial impressions:
- The Screen – Active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, 800 x 480 resolution, 100,000:1 typical contrast ratio! This screen is simply amazing. Crisp and beautiful.
- Web Browsing – The pinch to zoom feature is excellent. This is my first experience with a 3g phone and it is vastly superior.
- GPS – The GPS navigation features are so good that Tom Tom’s stock took a tumble. Navigation mode has turn by turn voice instructions, large buttons, great voice search, etc.
- Voice input – I am really impressed by how good the voice recognition is (for short phrases). You can say things like “Call Gretchen” or “Navigate to Whole Foods” and it will pull up that contact’s number or show the directions to that place. I understand that the audio is uploaded to Google for processing, but that doesn’t explain why the same feature on my BlackBerry worked so much worse. Voice recognition even works well to input one sentence at a time when composing messages.
- Media – The wired headset that comes with the phone has a three-button-controller to play/pause music, answer and hang up calls, and move forward and back in the track list. My only gripe is that I often leave the headset attached and the play button is always active, so I accidentally start playing songs quite often. However, once a playlist has been selected, it is nice to be able to start listening to music without having to unlock the phone and open the media player. My friend John told me about a great tool to sync media with many types of smartphones called DoubleTwist. It is like a good stripped down iTunes, they even have Amazon MP3 store integration like the Nexus one itself.
- Google Apps Integration – Our company uses Google Apps and the Nexus One has as good an integration with that Google service as one would expect. You can even start a draft e-mail on the phone and finish it on your computer. It was trivial to sync my contacts and calendar. The only problem I had was with the Android Apps store. I needed to set up a separate gmail account to use Google checkout.
- NO PHYSICAL KEYBOARD – I always looked with envy upon those iPhone users with their slick multi-touch interface and giant screen (by smartphone standards). But I would console myself by saying that I liked my physical keyboard and mature, stable BB platform. Well I was really right about the keyboard. In portrait mode, with my fat fingers, the Nexus keyboard is nearly unusable. The landscape mode is better and I am actually getting better at using it, but there is definitely a learning curve to get used to. I can’t compose mail nearly as easily as I used to on my BB. The dictation feature is good and I want to explore it more, but it’s not always convenient to be speaking a message aloud. That said, the voice search is a saving grace, so I won’t toss the phone out yet.
- Flakiness – Andoid 2.1 on the Nexus One is simply not a mature platform. The buttons don’t always respond properly. They are often either over-sensitive and launch commands you didn’t want, or under-sensitive and require several taps. I feel that I have to type slightly above the keys when using the keyboard. The 3G cuts in and out at random even when I am not moving around. Overall, it’s a slightly clunky experience to use the phone. These are all things I expect to get smoothed out as updates come along and are typical of immature platforms.
- Visual Voicemail – This is really a T-mobile app, but it is pretty weak. It doesn’t work on WiFi and it doesn’t offer transcriptions like Google Voice does. Until I can port my number to Google Voice I guess I am stuck with this.
- Can’t edit Google Docs Documents – This seems silly to me because you can edit Google Docs Spreadsheets on the phone (via a web app) but not documents. Maybe this shouldn’t matter to me given my problems with the keyboard, but it does. We use Google Docs quite a bit and it just doesn’t make sense that Google hasn’t delivered this yet. There are forum posts going back over a year with people screaming for this feature.
Overall, I really love the phone. Just having such a rich web experience in the palm of your hand is outstanding. Over the next few weeks I will talk about the Apps that I am exploring.
Tell me what you think. Is anyone else interested in the Android platform?.