To mark the two year anniversary with my Blackberry Curve, and my contractual agreement with ATT, I took the guilt-free liberty of treating myself to a modern smartphone device. Since a few people asked for my thoughts on it, and I had a few interesting discussions on smartphones in the past, I’m posting my experience behind the Nexus One to serve as a launching point for discussion.
For the uninitiated, the Nexus One is Google’s new phone, manufactured by my favorite Taiwanese phone maker HTC. It runs on Google’s young mobile platform, the Android, the biggest draw for me towards this phone. Like many, I am uncomfortably locked into Google’s suite of products and services, namely Gmail, Google Voice, and Latitude. Uncomfortable for several reasons, like being so reliant on a single company for something as essential as communications, and the fact that should I spend any meaningful time in China, I’m effectively cut off (but that’s another story). I have been using Blackberry for years and run Google’s suite of mobile apps to access those services. Yet however often companies make their apps available for the Blackberry, these apps usually feel like afterthoughts. As a user, I can feel the lack of passion the developer put into churning out the app to check off the list. What cinched it for me on the Android was the ability to access multiple Google accounts. I run my company’s email backend on Google Apps. Normally I use Blackberry’s native email app to access work stuff, and the Gmail app to access personal communication. Now I can do both seamlessly through the same interface. Oh, and I forgot to mention built-in Google Voice integration, which on the Blackberry is simply a joke.
Before I bought the phone, I gave the Apple empire a chance. In full disclosure, I feel quite averse to its world of closed systems and arbitrary app approvals. But try I did. Using my iPod Touch, I thoroughly enjoyed a new world of apps. Also tried very hard to acclimate to a touchscreen only input. And while I love the apps and the sleek device, and coming from a “smartphone” perspective fogged by a 2-year old device sans 3G and Wifi, it still wasn’t convincing enough to make me a card-carrying member of the iPhone club.
Onto the Nexus One and T-Mobile: For you ardent RIM loyalists, the phone quality has been great – I’ve spent about 2 hours at home, including several 30+ min conversations, talking on the phone and the voice quality has been fantastic. The next thing is its gorgeous screen. When I got my iPod touch, the screen blew me away. N1’s screen is even better, crisper and more vibrant. Not huge on camera phones, I’m surprisingly digging the 5 megapixel camera with built-in flash. You can expect more twitter photos from now on. Oh, and the first and last pictures on this post were taken with the phone (click to see full sized originals). The other standout is the voice guided navigation system built into Android. Driving around LA this weekend, I spoke a few locations into it and let it system guide me. Its quality was definitely on par with other commercial GPS systems out there, except it’s free. As for data, my unscientific assessment of T-Mo 3G says it feels a lot faster than ATT Edge. All of this running on a zippy processor has made me quite happy. From a hardware perspective, this mini-computer impresses the hell out of me.
So what’s not to like? I’m still adjusting to no keyboard, typing nowhere as fast on its touchpad. Swype couldn’t arrive for Andoid soon enough. Still, the auto-complete is functional and I’m reducing the typing by using the voice recognition feature as much as possible. Dictating to the phone web searches and short messages has been satisfactory. My favorite aspect of the voice search is its access to everything, from web to contacts. The nifty little microphone button on the soft keyboard has saved me plenty of times. Battery life is so so, I have to recharge once daily. The good news is the battery is swappable. Oh, and I absolutely love the power allocation status, which indicates the percentage of power spent on each application or service (for me and most people, it’s the screen). I admit it’s only been a few days and I have a lot more to discover, especially in the wild realm of apps. While the verdict isn’t final, I must admit to feeling enamored. Help me with more testing: call me on my GV number if you’d like to try out a voice call. And for my Blackberry Messenger friends, you’ll have to find me via GTalk.
On a closing note, I’m ecstatic to see the smartphone market reach this point. Consumers are finally benefiting from having more choices. We’re starting to see the losers of this new market place exposed, from RIM to carriers, now suffering from their complacency afforded by the previous lack of competition. As much as carriers resist becoming utility companies providing bits over the air, their lack of innovation and indifference to customers make me root for their accelerated decline. One of my friends put it best, “Give me T-Mo’s pricing with Verizon’s network reliability.” When I asked if that was possible, he retorted “why not?” Why not indeed.
Sky’s the Limit