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CES 2010: First Impressions - Google Nexus One

Gordon Kelly


CES 2010: First Impressions - Google Nexus One

Contrary to what we were led to believe, Google did actually make an appearance at CES late last week. It was only for a few hours, but who was on hand to get in some significant playtime with the Nexus One? Yes, yes, I know the headline rather gives it away.

So what do we think? In a word: excellent. The Nexus One is the Android smartphone we've all been waiting for: slim (11mm), relatively light (130g) featuring a beautiful 3.7in 800 x 480 OLED display with capacitive touchscreen technology and no tampering with the Android UI itself. In fact, you get the distinct impression this is the handset Google has been wanting (but failing to see) manufacturers build since day one.

In hand the Nexus One feels snug and its matt finish and rounded edges make it far more comfortable and less slippery to hold than the Apple iPhone. Build quality is also good with no squeaks or creaks coming from it when held tightly and overriding sense of durability. If I do have a complaint, however, it is that the handset simply looks rather dull. It lacks the love/hate it quality of the Hero or the swagger of the iPhone, or even the sheer gratuity of the HD2. It's surgical, made by a computer or committee, in need of just a little bit of passion.

Still, this commonsense approach does extend itself to the Nexus One's internals with Google using the powerful and increasingly ubiquitous Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon chipset, combining it with wireless n and strapping in a decent (if in truth fairly unremarkable) five megapixel camera. Performance is consequently very good and the Nexus One is definitely the fastest and most responsive Android smartphone to date. That said, it isn't quite as snappy as the iPhone 3GS - something which doesn't make sense given the horsepower on tap. This is most noticeable with the fractional lag in screen response and a slight stutter when scrolling. Could the problem perhaps be in the code of Android itself? Also baffling is the continued lack of multi-touch (though Google did confirm to me it may feature on the European edition).

Then again, the upgrades I witnessed in Android 2.1 do much to make up for this. The redesigned menus and improved UI are a joy to use while the improved voice recognition is top notch. Furthermore, since the Nexus One doesn't use any form of flashy custom overlay this means it can be updated to the latest Android firmware the moment it is released, rather than having to wait for manufacturers to update their own proprietary software. This is a major plus point to my way of thinking.

One bone of contention is the lack of internal memory. Google may well want to give users a choice of the memory onboard, but until it manages to allow Marketplace apps to install on microSD cards then restricting internal memory to just 512MB seems a bit daft. It also doesn't help developers evolve Android applications when they are so frequently restricted in the size of apps they can make (for gaming in particular).

That said, do I still want a Nexus One? Very much so. Would I swap it for my iPhone 3GS? That's a really tough question. Enlarge the native memory and improve the response/accuracy of the touchscreen and yes, in a heartbeat. Until then, I'm calling it a tie.


January 11, 2010, 2:03 pm


What's been the general feedback in terms of ease of syncing of Android phones on OSX - is it another third-party-solution job ala Missing Sync or is there software being provided by the manufacturers that works well in general?

Big Rich

January 11, 2010, 2:08 pm

Does anyone know if this has push e-mail capabilities? I really want to upgrade to this from my Blackberry when it comes out but have gotten used to my e-mails coming through on my Outlook account


January 11, 2010, 2:37 pm

After a couple of months playing with Android myself and reading reviews of all the new phones that have come out since I got mine, I feel that it just isn't living up to the hype. Building a phone OS is a lot harder than people expected. Apple pulled of miracles, Google just doesn't seem to have the polish or speed required. The idea is sound, some of the implementation is wonderful and the potential is still amazing - but like so many Google products over the years there's a lack of visual pinazz and too much of it still feels like it's in beta (camera, music player, etc) and worst of all it just isn't fast enough.

For all the name calling Microsoft gets with WM6.5 it seems Google hasn't been able to come up with something much better with a fresh start. Sure WM isn't as finger friendly (though supposedly 6.5.3 mostly fixes that) and lacks some coherence but i'm tempted to dump Android for a year or two until it matures more and try out a WM phone, which is all the more tempting with 7 around the corner.


January 11, 2010, 3:52 pm

A nice little snippet there - it certainly does look like a fab phone, I am definitely considering getting it sim free to replace my hero (if I can get out of my contract.

Would you guys suggest waiting for the Euro edition (any idea what timescales we're talking about here?) rather than getting the US version?


January 11, 2010, 3:55 pm

we dont judge a book by its cover but mob phones are not books. sadly it doesnt l@@k appealing to me. God bless, next!


January 11, 2010, 4:27 pm

@xbrumster I can't help but agree with the sentiment. It just looks so generic.


January 11, 2010, 4:53 pm

If you check back on the technical specifications now the 'n' seems to have disappeared off the wireless specifications. Hope that is readded for the Euro version too...


January 11, 2010, 5:05 pm


What exactly do you need to sync? All the PIM stuff sync beautifully over the air. The only time I plug my Hero in is to transfer music or videos over USB. The phone shows up as a mass storage device so should work fine with OSX. If you want to sync with iTunes then doubletwist works quite nicely.


Push Gmail works great. I'm not sure if the Nexus has Exchange but that works flawlessly on my Hero.


Android will likely never be as fast as an OS that doesn't multi task. As processors get faster this should hopefully be less of an issue. As a long time WM user I think Android is way ahead. There are definitely flaws but it at least feels like Google are constantly at work with improvements and fixes. I've stopped waiting for WM7 but have my fingers crossed for something special. They've had long enough to get it right.

Ala Miah

January 11, 2010, 5:13 pm

By the looks of the preview it certainly isn't on par with the iphone. The touchscreen, market place and the quite frankly boring looks put it quite far behind the iPhone 3GS. I don't think Apple has anything to worry about at the moment.

gareth edwards

January 11, 2010, 5:15 pm

By the sounds of it, this phone (improved voice recognition etc) misses the boat completely and joins the ranks of the also rans in the great iPhone catchup race. Ok, so it's got Google behind it and it is a Google SuperPhone (that won't pee off the other manufacturers using Android at all) but it looks like every other non-fruity smartphone.

I've read loads of reviews on this phone from the POV of an iPhone owner and I have to admit many of them get close but Ef-up at the last hurdle. It's not like these failures are monumental either but rather they miss out on things that would capture the consumers aspirational attention.

Design, design, design. This is the thing that really irks me. It appears that for some reason only Apple takes any interest in coming up with a look and feel for product design that deviates from the norm. You can bet your bottom dollar that when apple designs something there is always a slew of me2 products already waiting in the wings which never really capture the essence of the original and merely fade into obscurity. How (in this case) Google manage to produce an extremely unmemorable phone with the dollars they have on tap is staggering. Have Apple kidnapped all the worlds greatest product designers? No! What are Google they playing at!

It may well be a good phone but it lacks lusty looks. Maybe they will create a better looking grey box next time with rev.2 but I fear it will be more of the same. Come on Google, pull your socks up and pay attention to the art of design - the first taste of any meal is from your eyes and this offering is far from the gourmet experience I expected.

next please...


January 11, 2010, 5:42 pm

@ ravmania - i like to be able to have a full local backup of my phone's 'particulars' in case i mess it up or upgrade phones etc. Nokia's software can restore e.g. a 6300i backup onto an N97 with no loss of cross-platform data (numbers, notes, calendars etc) and maybe minor loss of some platform-specific data e.g. personal user settings

How does this sort of thing work with Android?


January 11, 2010, 6:20 pm

Some interesting and very valid comments here above ( below?)

I think the phone will probably sell in shed loads. Why?

-because people recognise Google as a dominant brand and for some this means safety of product quality etc.

-Are trying to skip the tie-ins that providers want. ie SIM free at the off

-Have a reasonable phone for a first iteration.

- Its not trying to be a gawdy look at me phone ( or to put it another way look at me and steal me)I don't want a chavvy gawdy piece of plastic!

- Why does everyone compare phones to iphones? Well, Apple do try and give people what the want ( even though they don't know what that is till they get it) They do produce innovation and leave others in their wake. Love 'em or hate 'em Apple always seem to come up trumps. And add very desirable value (profit)to a market sector. And this is from someone who hates Apple for some reason LOL

Shame Google has not leap frogged then.. After all, they have the financial resources to do this if they wanted as gareth edwards points out. They have just not quite hit above the top mark. But maybe the next generation just might. After all Apple have been in consumer hardware for a long time and been able to assess the market dynamics very perceptively. Guessing the next step is where Apple lead.....

Would I buy this yes.


January 11, 2010, 6:23 pm

@TheDon: Once you've provided it with credentials, the phone will automatically sync with your Google account. This includes your email account, your contacts list and your calendars. You never need to create backups of these as they're kept in sync automatically. Your Google mail is also pushed to the phone. This seamless integration with 'The Cloud' (I hate that term) is one of the things that's great about Android. You can even send mail or update your calendar from you desktop PC and the changes will be automatically reflected on your phone.

There are also a couple of backup apps on the market which can apparently save things like phone settings, but I'm not sure how they'd react if you tried to port settings between different handsets.

All media should be kept on the SD card, which you can occasionally back up manually if you're so inclined.


January 11, 2010, 6:39 pm


Logging in to your Google account would retreive all your contacts and calendar entries automatically over the air, there's no need to back up anything. The same goes for email. It even remembers your favorite contacts.

For notes I'd recommend Evernote which keeps all your notes synced in the cloud and has clients for PC and mobile.

There are loads of apps on the market too for backing up other things like SMS, MMS, photos, apps....

Does that help?


January 11, 2010, 7:01 pm

Was trying so hard to resist rising to those who bait me with the iphone comments, but I just can't do it. Damn!

Gareth Edwards, sure Apple pulled off a design coup with the original iphone. But what about the 3G and 3GS? Design-wise they're virtually identical. I agree - design is important, and I agree that Google could have made more of an effort to create something distinctive and unique, but please stop holding up the Apple as the example of all that is right and just in the universe! Apple haven't done anything noteable with phone design since 2007.

As an aside, maybe if most of your device is screen, and you want it to be as thin as possible, then it's inevitable that all phones will end looking quite similar. Isn't this the lowest common denominator way of design, which makes modern cars all so similar too?

gareth edwards

January 11, 2010, 7:27 pm

so what would we add to the phone at the mo?

For me there's only a few things that need adding to make it a great smartphone (still wouldn't make me change my iPhone but competition is the key to great tech).

1. Standout casing design. Something that is different (not crazy like moto stuff but something that sets it apart from the current crop).

2. Multi point gestures like wot apple's got.

3. Google media. An iTunes-a-like if you like.

4. SD expansion.



January 11, 2010, 8:50 pm

@ravmania: Good point, I forgot about the over-head of multi-tasking. I admit it's nice to be able to play a game, have a chat program (meebo in my case), facebook, email, sms, etc all running at the same time. It would help if there was a better way of switching between open apps though. Still, you'd think it'd be possible to do this without needing the power of a full desktop of 3 years ago... Anyway yes it's one of the main reasons I'd not get an iPhone.

As many point out the design of this phone is a bit lacklustre, it shouldn't matter but it does. I think even just a black/red or black/white version (say) instead of dull grey / a darker dull grey would be a big improvement. I'd be tempted to hit this with some paint if I got one. Apple do design so much better, look at the amount of tablets that came out of CES but no doubt in 2 weeks all anyone will be talking about is the Apple Slate. I bet it'll be locked down, unhackable, less featured and way more expensive than all the Windows/Linux tablets, but will probably sell more than all of them put together.

Well it's one thing for the Nexus I guess. It means manufacturers will be less angry at Google for marketing their own phone. Much easier for them making their own Android phones to bring a bit of style and pizazz to the phone with a better case design and some UI over the vanilla Android. Google are showing what can be done, geeks and business types can buy this dull phone and over the course of the year it can be bettered in every way by it's cousins and brothers who will give Apple a real fight.

gareth edwards

January 11, 2010, 9:08 pm

Not all screens are equal.

Have had a further look into the Google phone and found this interesting review of smartphone screens. As consumers (in general) we don't really look closely at how our devices stack up, we just assume they are all the same 'it's got a touch screen'...

Perhaps another area where other manufacturers (and Google with it's preferred partner) should spend a bit of R&D money on improvements. It may not be sexy but is makes a big difference to how a device feels - once again apple seem to be setting the bar and others (newer phones!!) are not really making any headway. Embarrassing or what!


To top this there's more people complaining in the US about fritzy 3G issues on T-Mobile. It's not quite looking like Google's first phone is anything more than a 'good effort' rather than a great start. I expected so much more than this.


January 11, 2010, 9:33 pm

@ gareth edwards:

1. it doesn't look that bad and I really hate the massive black bars top and bottom on the iPhone, funny how people have complaind endlessly about nokia only fitting a 2.6 inch screen when they could've fitted a 2.8 yet you could fit a gigantic screen on the iPhone and no one bats an eyelid

2. euro version will likely have multitouch it's only a US problem

3. worst idea ever no one wants more crapware, sync is with the cloud which can easily sync back to your PC if you want but I'd suggest just use the online apps. and media is simply drag and drop. (and you can drag music from inside itunes out to a folder on the device almost as easy as sync)


4. it has a SD expansion :P

as for android itself it will continue to grow adding more and more core functions (propper bluetooth, better camera app) and with a google controled device at least it ensures the upgradeability when the updates come out

gareth edwards

January 11, 2010, 9:46 pm

@ Bluepork

that's the whole point though. They have created a design that doesn't need to be fiddled with at the mo and it has become semi-iconic. The Google phone just isn't at the mo and won't be if they don't do something 'special'. How something looks is extremely important.

As for holding up Apple 'as the example of all that is right and just in the universe', I would never go so far, merely they put the rest in the shade by actually putting strong emphasis on industrial design as part of the overall product design. Once again others don't and more fool them.

As for the lowest common denominator? No, wrong. You could apply this rule to all products and we would live in a very dull world indeed. You may have design truths, like 'big screen defines the general shape', but simply following that route of thought doesn't doesn't create product identity, doesn't help differentiate in the market. You can't tell me that all modern cars look the same, compare a Rover City with a Toyota IQ, compare a Smart for 4 with a VW Golf. All worlds apart and they are like this because a visual difference is the key to communicating part of any products 'self'. Apple have a very strong visual 'self' which adds to making their products compelling and aspirational, most of the other manufacturers don't. Pre nearly got there but was let down by the fact that it actually feels like it was made by 3 blind mice who had some time on their hands and some half eaten tic-tacs they could turn into a keyboard.

Simply put, if Google spent more time on getting this phone to look superb they would sell more. period. The analogy - Nobody wants to go out with the ugly girl no matter how clever she is.


January 11, 2010, 10:10 pm


Sure, but no-one wants to go out with a girl who hasn't changed her clothes for the last three dates either. The iPhone is looking a bit 2009 these days and whilst the Nexus is no beauty queen it is a least a fresh take on things.

Mind you, since both are a bit big for me and I've gone off touchscreens - moved from a 5800 to an N86 which is, frankly, awesome - it's a moot point.


January 11, 2010, 10:38 pm

@Sleeper - "The iPhone is looking a bit 2009 these days"

Try 2007 ;-)

I will try one just like I tried the iPhone and the Pre and all the others. Hopefully it will just do what I want it to, I don't really care what it looks like as long as its not pink and it doesn't have a chin like Bruce Forsythe..


January 11, 2010, 11:26 pm

if this is going to be compared to the iphone you'd want to compare price as well.

iphone 3gs 16GB cost 30euros a month on a 2 year contract and 100 euros for the handset = 820 euros

i expect this google phone will do 90% of what the iphone does but for 50%(?) of the cost

the iphone is (probably) better, but you pay for that as well


January 11, 2010, 11:39 pm

Few points

- Yes Android supports ActiveSync so will work fine with an Exchange server where this is enabled.

- I would like to bet whilst the phone bought at full price is not locked (same for any full price phone bought from any manufacturer) if purchased at a reduced rate on a contract it will be locked to that operator.

- Making a Touchscreen phone look like anything else but a slab of glass is a challenge for every manufacturer.

- Given HTC is the manufacturer of this phone and many other phones for other people how will it upset manufacturers?

- Google are using this to raise the profile of Android and drive users to that platform. They are only interested in the search revenue not making money out of phones or software.


January 11, 2010, 11:44 pm

@all - been flying all day, just touched down. Will reorientate (we took off Sunday afternoon - good old time zones) and get back to everyone on points raised.

Right now, a nap - or breakfast, I'm not sure which!

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