Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nexus One - or the next new phone to disappoint us in Montana

I recently replaced my jailbroken unlocked iPhone with a brand new Google Nexus One. I got tired of fighting with Apple over updates. My iPhone is running OS 3.0.1 and several of the new apps I've wanted to download recently require 3.1 or newer. If I had unlimited time and patience, I could probably go through the jailbreaking process every time I needed to update, but it seemed time for a phone without all the hassles. At this point, I'm angry with Apple for putting me through this because they continue to go with AT&T as their sole service provider in the U.S.

Along came Google's unlocked Nexus One. So, I bought one, transferred my Cellular One SIM card from my iPhone, put in the data settings and it worked. Of course, we don't have 3G coverage over a GSM network in Montana so it has to run on the painfully slow Cellular One EDGE network, but that's good enough to check Facebook updates, email, do web searches, etc. And much of the time, I can find a wifi network to jump on.

As for features, this is the phone that Google put all of it's cool new toys into:
  • Google Goggles - you can take a photo with the phone and Google does a search on the object. If it's a well known piece of art, you can find out the name artist. If it's a building, it uses GIS and Google maps information to identify the business. If it's a book jacket, it will give you prices at nearby stores and/or the internet. I suggested to WorldCat that they should get library info in this.
  • Google voice recognition - I hate typing on touch pads. I love the fact that Google has voice recognition down well enough that I can usually just dictate into the phone.
  • Google translator - Not that I really have a need for this at present, but you can speak an English phrase into the phone and it will translate into another language. Right now you get a written translation. I tried the Polish version and it seemed pretty accurate. I understand that soon the phone will be able to speak the translated phrase. It's the babble fish.
  • It works great with just about all of the Google's products. So, if you use Gmail, Google calendar, etc., it seamlessly updates.
  • The recent update was wonderfully easy. It was just sent to the phone. I didn't have to do anything. You have to update iPhones through iTunes. So, Big Brother Apple can check on you and make your life difficult if you're not playing by their rules.
  • OverDrive has a media console for Android and Windows Mobile devices. You still have to use the clunky search interface in a separate browser. But if you can find an MP3 title you want to listen to, you can download it directly to your phone. Now that is the promise of mobile technology! Once again, this is something you'll want to take advantage of via wifi instead of EDGE, unless you're VERY patient. EDGE is like a dialup connection.
Now for the disappointments:
  • Many of the cool new features don't work over the EDGE network. You need a faster connection. So, I find myself looking for wifi connections. I have yet to try out the turn by turn navigation on Google Maps. But if it requires a fast connection, it's not going to do me much good in Montana. Rarely do I find myself in need of direction inside a wifi enabled building.
  • A lot of iPhone apps are not yet available on the Android platform. Amazon and B&N ebook readers, various news apps, Gale's Access My Library app... And some of them that do exist don't work as well on the Android, e.g., Facebook.
  • Like many open source software products, Android is not entirely user friendly, particularly when compared to Apple products. I think you have to be a person who likes to fiddle with things to figure them out. If you're someone who just wants it to work without fiddling, you'll prefer the iPhone. For example, it took some hunting in Google's help to figure out how to get photos off the phone. I never did figure out how to remove some of the bizarre things that showed up in my photo gallery on the phone. I finally realized it's pulling them off Picasa web so graphics from Blogger show up on my phone. Apparently my customization options are limited.
  • The battery life is pretty limited. All the updating from the Google cloud takes a toll. I'm not yet in the habit of recharging every night. So, it often happens that I pull my Nexus One out of my purse only to discover the battery's dead.
  • I haven't been able to figure out how to do a screen shot of my Nexus One without rooting the device. Apple forced me into jailbreaking my iPhone by bricking it when I did an update. I'm not yet willing to risk my new $500 phone.
I'm sure there are a lot more pros and cons. I just thought I'd share a few of my initial impressions. And for anyone who reads this before Offline, you'll have some background for the Mobile Computing session.

I'd love to hear comments from people using the Android on Verizon's network that actually does offer 3G. The Android 2.1 OS is supposed to be rolled out this week. What do you think?

Update 11Feb10 - Bad news for Montanans waiting for an iPhone on Verizon. Apple just extended their exclusive contract with AT&T into 2011. That and news about 4G network developments has led to speculation that iPhone won't unlock in the U.S. until 2012. At that point, AT&T and Verizon will probably be using the same LTE standard. I know a lot of this is gibberish. But the gist is, if you're looking for a smartphone on Verizon I'd be looking at Blackberries and Androids.

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