Last week, I was fortunate enough to be part of the large group of attendees at TED who received a free Nexus One Worldphone from Google. Being a loyal longtime iPhone user, I was excited, but skeptical. I'd spent some time with the Blackberry, Palm Pre and various cool Nokia products, only to run back to my iPhone's open arms. All of these phones are great in their own way, but nothing could compare to my iPhone experience and the overall usability. But the Nexus One is different. And it is different mainly because of my heavy Google property usage. That is to say, if I wasn't addicted to using every Google app out there (calendar, mail, docs, maps, etc.), the phone may not have wowed me so much, but I AM a Google girl, so it fits beautifully into my lifestyle.
One of the things that frustrated me about the iPhone was the complications with the calendar. I schedule everything through my gCal, not my iCal, and the two have never worked beautifully together. On the N1, though, the calendar is right there for me and immediately synched to all of my gCals that are available. It loads quickly and gives me more options than the web version of gCal.
The calendar made me jump for joy.
There are several huge advantages to the camera on the N1 as compared to the iPhone:
- There is a flash - I take many of my photos in low light situations, so this makes me happy.
- It auto-focuses - I know this is on the 3GS iPhone, but I didn't have it on 3G
- It has options like: flash level, white balance, color effects (sepia, b&w, solarized, etc), size (1-5Mpixels), and geo-location (turn on and off).
- Video is a quick switch and has all of the same cool options
- Sharing is quick and simple - depending on whether photo or video, you can instantly upload to any service you have connected to your N1 (Seesmic, YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, mail, etc).
It also takes much better photos in general.
Synching with the web rather than having to update through my desktop? Revolutionary! Whatever is in my Google account is automagically on my N1. One simple sign-in to Google and everything is there. No more needing to plug my phone into my laptop to synch. It's always plugged into the web. This really is the future.
Voice Recognition/Type Correction
This is pretty cool. A feature on the iPhone and the Blackberry that always irritated me was the word suggestion as I was typing...especially when typing something non-standard (acronyms, avatar names or swear words for instance). The N1 has a similar feature when typing, but a whole list of words are suggested for you as you are typing and this makes it a super quick tap to type really long, complex words or you can completely ignore. It's also pretty simple to add words the engine doesn't recognize (hold your finger on the 'misspelled' word and add it to the dictionary). Like the iPhone, it also learns from words you type enough...the advantage here is that it takes what it has learnt from your gMail activity and already understands, so you aren't starting from scratch.
The voice recognition is really awesome and, even though it is in beta, it's not so bad. And when it IS bad, it's funny. I'll be using this quite a bit when my fingers are cold! Voice recognition is built in wherever you use the keyboard, so it's pretty universal (even search).
Multiple Apps Running
One of the things that slowed down my activity on the iPhone was that I'd have to exit one application to go to another one all of the time. This was highly frustrating when needing to copy and paste or remember an address or the like. Moving out of applications, opening another (often with slow load-up time), getting the info, closing that application, then re-loading the original (once again slow loading up) was a pain. Not so much on the N1.
As you can see on the screenshot to the left, the applications all run in the background and notify you of updates even as you are working in different applications. You can do a quick check of what's coming in by sliding down the top bar. This will reveal new text messages, voice mail, missed calls, tweets, calendar notifications and anything else that you are set up to receive. You can clear them or move in and out of these applications smoothly without having to go to the home screen once. This was one of the features that really won it for me.
This bit freaked me out a little at first, but because it is so darned useful, I relaxed. I turned my phone to vibrate and went to bed the other night, when I woke up, I saw that my good friend Erica O'Grady had called. Now, this isn't revolutionary. Erica and I talk all of the time. What was revolutionary is that, being that this is a new phone, I hadn't programmed Erica's information into it. On any other phone, it would have shown up as just a number and I would have had to wrack my brain for who that was (I rely heavily on digital address books). But because Erica has her information entered into her Google account, it showed her photo, her number, her email, her location and everything else she has given the g00g. This means I don't have to start over again with my address book. Anyone I know who I have interacted with on Google who have more information entered will be automagically updated for me. And even better, when my business partner, Cassandra, called, it didn't recognize the number (she hasn't put it into her contact information in Google), but as I typed her name into my contacts, it pulled all of her gmail information automagically into the contact form.
Maps works similarly. I noticed that if I have searched and saved a search on my laptop before, that search will come up on my mobile phone. The implication here is that I can search an address at home, save it, then while en route, just pull it up easily from my history.
When I announced that I got the N1, multiple people tweeted me that I would be disappointed because any SIM card I inserted would be downgraded to the EDGE network instead of 3G. This is true. Both with my AT&T SIM and with my ROGERS SIM, I'm on the EDGE network. However, whether it is the speed of the phone itself or the fact that the EDGE network is no longer overloaded (while 3G, especially in the US is terribly overtaxed), the N1 seems much faster than my iPhone. It loads up apps quickly, switches between screens faster, sends texts, emails, searches and loads up maps faster and hasn't frozen in the week and a half I've been using it (a frequent iPhone issue). All in all, the speed is way superior to the iPhone, which matters even more on a mobile phone than on my computer at home.
Equivalents to the iPhone
There are some things I thought I'd lose by switching from the iPhone, but found out pretty quickly it wasn't an issue:
- Rich App Store - taking into account that the iPhone has been around for a few years and Droid only for a few months, the app store is super impressive. In fact, there was only one application I couldn't find in the app store (Wells Fargo), but quickly found out that they had a web version anyway that I could bookmark. Otherwise, all of my favorite apps exist in the Android App Store that I had on my iPhone.
- Maps with compass - Has it. This is, by far, my most frequently used feature on the iPhone and it seems faster and even more accurate on the N1.
- Battery - I'd say the battery life is comparable and even maybe a little better, depending on what you are doing. For instance, I can run the wifi in the background on the N1 without compromising much battery.
A Few More Pluses
- Screen - wowsers. It's bright and gorgeous.
- The cute robot - okay, this WAS a gleeful moment. That adorable robot mascot is just too much. It kind of made me love the N1 instantly.
- Animated wallpaper - this is kind of way fun.
- Amazon music store - I generally separate my music device from my phone, but it's nice to have DRM free music on my N1. I really like this direction as I've run out of devices I can actually have my iTunes music on. The store needs work, but for a v1, it's pretty awesome.
- Speakers - better sound in general coming from the phone on a comparison.
- Worldphone - it's unlocked!!! Sure, I'd find a way (like I did with the iPhone), but what an amazing thing it is to have a phone that can work on any SIM card automatically!
Of course, the N1 isn't all perfect and there are definitely several ways in which it could improve. Some of the features I'm not crazy about on the N1 that I'd love to see Google improve in future updates:
- Simple Screenshots - currently it is way too complicated. How do you expect us to show off our new shiny phones and apps if you make it so hard?
- Not 'getting' the glowy rollerball - Okay, so I *think* that rollerball is to help Blackberry users transition? Or maybe it's for those of us in cold climates who don't want to remove gloves? Either way, it takes up too much real estate for what it could be used for.
- The finicky bottom menu bar - (see inlaid photo) when I want to go back, get menu, go home or search, I have to finesse these menu items to do this, but when I'm in the middle of typing something important, I always seem to accidentally hit the buttons and get taken out of the program. I'm improving, but it's frustrating in the beginning.
- Buttons in general - turning on/off the N1 and adjusting volume is finicky. Too sensitive when I accidentally hit them and too tough when I need them fast.
- Gallery is a little clunky - although it looks cool, it's definitely not optimized for usability. Having slideshow as one of the shown item features rather than share isn't logical. The amount of times I'd run a slideshow off of my mobile phone versus using it to share a photo is minimal.
So...there you go. Ironically, about 1.5 days into trying out the N1, my iPhone decided to lay down and play dead (with very little warning), so it's a pretty good thing that I got the Nexus when I did. The Nexus One isn't available many places yet, but the worldphone can be bought in the US and brought anywhere with you for $549USD. Not a small price, but this means you aren't stuck in any contracts, which in the long run will save you money.