In Depth: 30 Days with the Nexus One | Cult of Mac

In Depth: 30 Days with the Nexus One


Google's Nexus One smartphone. CC-licensed picture by ekai.
Google's Nexus One smartphone. CC-licensed picture by ekai.

It’s been a month since my review of Google’s “SuperPhone”, the Nexus One. Since that time, we’ve surfed, updated facebook, navigated, called, played endless hands of cribbage and even tried to freeze it to death on a trip to Dayton Ohio. Follow me after the jump to find out does the “SuperPhone” stand the test of time, or is it a phonebooth’d Clark Kent.

In my initial reaction review I got called for gushing a bit. Again, as I said there, despite being a Mac-cultist, I’ve never used an iPhone for any length of time –I have to use T-Mobile, which meant best I could do, was Android 1 phones which even more now seem like a beta product to me. I was understandably crushing on the little N1 when I finally got my hands on it.

With gadgets, as in dating, you can’t really get to know someone over cocktails, ya gotta hang out for a while, get to know each other before you can decide if it’s beer goggles or true love.

In this hands on, we compare the Nexus One not to the iPhone but to it’s own hype, in short, does it walk the talk.

“Unlocked” Phone

I poney’d five bills plus for the unlocked version of the phone. Not to be able to use it on other networks as much as to not have to go through IT and get my service plan modified. Regardless, the Unlocked phone is a red herring, since in the US the only two GSM carriers use incompatible 3G networks. Just as an illicitly unlocked AT&T iPhone can’t be used on T-Mobile’s 3G network, so too, a legitimately unlocked N1 can’t be used in 3G mode on AT&T. You can however use each other’s 2G and EDGE networks —have fun with that.


Actually talking on the phone is a pleasure. The noise cancelling really works. That said, some users experienced a 3G error that caused the phone to drop its 3G connection mysteriously. I couldn’t tell because frankly T-Mobile’s network coverage in DFW is terrible.

Battery Life

Until there is some kind of standardized method for measuring smart-phone use and battery life, pretty much all manufacturers estimations are BS. The N1’s issues with 3G dropping, did significantly reduce battery life. The phone seemed to drain the battery double-quick trying to connect to the network. So much so that the phone’s built in battery usage meter would indicate that 80% of the battery drain was from “Wireless Standby”.

While in Ohio earlier this week, we experienced especially good 3G coverage and I actually got 2 days of regular use out of the phone. On Friday Google patched my phone, fixing the 3G-connectivity issue. This significantly helped battery life. Before I went to bed last night, I plugged the phone in and it still had 60% power.

Only time will tell if this fix really does increase battery longevity. Until my experience in Ohio, and the patch yesterday, I was charging the phone every night, with the phone having 10-20% juice left.


As much as I love this phone, the applications is where it shows it’s rust. Those designed by Google, or updated for Android 2.1 are pretty nice. The Android 1 apps, are low-rez and showing wear. More than all of this, though, is the lack of any kind of design standards. While I enjoy Google’s “openness”, someone needs to pass out copies of Apple’s Human Interface Design guide to prospective developers. Most of the non-Google apps on the phone seem completely random in their design.

The ‘Google’ Experience.

Contrary to the user experience of many Android applications, the Google experience is Awesome. There are layers of integration and intelligence in design in this thing that are pretty amazing.

My best example: a colleague was searching for directions to a restaurant named Cuba Libre on his (Windows mobile) phone. He had to open a browser, search for the restaurant on ‘Bling’, filter through the results to find the restaurant rather than the Elmore Leonard novel copy the address into his GPS, and so on. He was literally goofing around with this process for several minutes.

On Nexus One I typed “Cuba Libre” into the global search box on the home screen, the phone determined my context, and popped up the most reasonable result, the restaurant just down the street. It gave me both a phone number and a “navigate here” link I could click on. Total time: 10 seconds, before the phone started giving me walking directions.

It’s just like that everywhere. Very nicely integrated. Very nice anticipatory user experience.


Android phones have always had swipe left & right to move pages, finger scrolling, and such. As of last Friday’s update (2/5/2009) it includes the pinch to zoom gesture. Beyond that I don’t know what other multi-touches the iPhone does, that might be lacking in N1. I do know that you cannot, as of yet, do a “Circle-Circle-Dot-Dot” gesture and have the phone give you a cootie shot.**

Dictation to Text

Every text field on the phone can be spoken to; this feature works surprisingly well, and I use it more than I thought I would. The phone has worked out my Twang and it’s results are often as accurate (and similarly comical)  as the  recommendations from”no look” touch typing on the screen. Google asserts this gets better the more you use it, lets check back in on this feature in a year.


The phone does it. Apparently iPhone does not. Frankly I don’t see what the big deal is. The phone can only show one open application at a time. While on N1 you can hold the ‘home’ button to bring up tasks and switch between them, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference to me. Except that my Mail, contacts or whatever application I was using is in exactly the same state as I left it when I switch back.

Gripes & Conclusion

There is still stupid stuff with this phone, you try to power it off, and thirty seconds after you select “turn off” it popps up a dialog asking if you really mean it. I’ve left the phone on overnight, on airplanes, in movie theatres because of this “feature”. Of course I understand why they’re so cautious about letting you turn the phone off, because you could order and have delivered a new phone from Google faster than you could cold boot this device. My last gripe: While it far exceeds expectations that the phone will have been patched in it’s first 30 days, not including the ability to run apps from SD cards when google promised they would ASAP, is a serious oversight.

In short, though, I have to say, I remain very much in love with this phone, I think it’s got solid long-term relationship potential (you know, at least until the Nexus 2 comes out).

**UPDATE: for non-Americans, “The Cooties” and “cootie shot”, are defined in the comments.


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