|I had been waiting for a while to get a newer, real smart phone, like the
cool kids. But i don't like the iPhone - it's just too closed (get a mac to
develop on it? can't officially sync from linux?) and i'm tired of having to
work around stubborn companies.
The Palm Pre doesn't excite me. Neither do the latest offerings from
That leaves Android devices. Here in Canada, Rogers has the HTC Dream (aka
the G1) and Magic, which are the older ones, with slowish processors. I was
just waiting for the Nexus One and when it became available, i jumped on it. Ordered an engraved N1 on tuesday at 19:00, and friday around noon, had it in my hands.
Here are my impressions after a week of using it, the gist of which is that
this phone is a WIN.
The N1 worked out of the box with my Rogers SIM, for which i had a
Blackberry bundle with a BB data plan. I called up Rogers, wanting to get one
of the iPhone bundles, but got better, and now for 67$/mo i get 300 minutes,
caller id, voicemail, 1GB data, and some other stuff (+ the scammish "access
fee" and taxes). Plus, i had called months before and sweet-talked a Rogers
lady into giving me a 5$/month rebate for no reason. When my current contract
expires (that contract is paying for the blackberry 8130 which i no longer
use), i'll try to get a better rebate, on account of them not subsidizing a
phone to me anymore.
I *love* the N1. Here are my bulleted impressions.
- Feel: it feels solid, and has a metal feel to it, even though the shell isn't entirely metal
- Connectors: it uses standard plugs - will Apple ever join the standard connectors bandwagon? Getting dinged for custom cables, which also multiples the number of cables i need to keep, is beyond annoying. The headset connector is a standard jack, the data/charging connector is a standard Micro USB connector (which is different than the Mini USB cables you probably have already for other phones and cameras, but you can get Mini->Micro adapters for a dollar each if you want to carry just one kind of cable)
- What's in the box: it comes with a nice fabric sleeve, USB cable, and charger. No manual - it's online
- GPS: getting a location is super-fast - it probably uses the nearest cell tower and/or wifi connections for a first fix while the GPS can get better coordinates, because within just a few seconds of starting the map application, it shows you where you are with very good precision (and no, the GPS receiver isn't always on - it's a battery suck. There's a status icon telling you when it's used)
- UI: the Android "desktop", which is a 5 screens wide thing you scroll or tap through with ease, with fully customizable layout of shortcuts, widgets and bookmarks, is really nice. It lets you have widgets for weather/news, turning on/off the different transceivers, put a bookmark to get to google reader within a few seconds, etc. Applications from the Market can define their own widgets, and the background can be dynamic. From there you can click to a scrolling list of all your installed apps, but the fact that the home screen isn't a full list of apps, but a custom layout of bookmarks, app shortcuts and widgets is really nice.
- there are a ton of apps in the Market; i have installed quite a few apps and games and live wallpapers, and i've yet to pay for one - there's a ton of really good free ones. The iPhone has many more apps for sure, but there's definitely a lot of inertia to Android apps.
- Multitasking: maybe apple fanboys will one day be able to do more than 1 thing at once on their iphone, but here you can have music playing while you're on a the phone (with someone who monotonically rambles on irrelevant chatter for hours, since you need to have music on at the same time, evidently), while you play a game, while an app gets downloaded and another is being updated.
- Notifications: there's a nice status area, which looks a little like the Ubuntu notifications area. What's quite neat is that if you have emails, you'll see an icon, but you can drag that bar down so it takes up the full screen and you'll see which accounts have emails, and you can click through to them of course. You'll also see if your app is done downloading, and you can click to it. And you can see the ongoing stuff, too, like if you have Slacker Radio going it'll show an icon in the notifications, and if you drag the notifications area down you'll see it and be able to click to it so you can very quickly pause the music without having to find the Slacker app icon on the desktop.
- Touch me: the touch and multitouch interface works great, haven't encountered any problems.
- Soft buttons: many have complained that the 4 soft buttons on the bottom (back, menu, home and search) are useless but i use them all the time and i like that those frequently sought-after functions aren't cluttering the UI.
- Trackball: it isn't *so* useful, and they didn't get it nearly as right as RIM did on the blackberry. It sticks a little bit and doesn't have a very nice feel to it. But it's useful: for very precisely positioning the cursor on small text, or playing some games for which a mouse is nicer than a touch interface, like Frozen Bubble. So while it doesn't add any functionality, it makes some things easier and overall i'd say it's a plus. Given the choice i'd prefer to have a slightly taller screen than a scrollball, but that's not necessarily a choice they have.
- Cloud: the integration with Google services is awesome. You just enter your Google creds and you get google mail, your google mail contacts, your custom maps, etc. Moving contacts is always a pain, but what i did is export my contacts from my Blackberry and import them into Gmail. But then you'll get lots of duplicates: people you already had an email and a gtalk handle for in the google apps, but for whom you had maybe their work email, phone numbers and address on your previous phone. Well, the Gmail contacts editor has a *great* "merge contacts" feature: you select the 3 John Smith contacts you have, click merge, and they'll be put into a single contact and you're presented with that contact in Edit mode, where you can fine-tune the merge and then just click save. I merged about 100 contacts in almost no time - the longest part was figuring out how to export the contacts DB from my Blackberry.
- Screen: others have complained about the screen: it uses a pixel layout where there's 2 half-width greens, 1 red and 1 blue - very much like a camera's sensor, actually. The problem is that they calculate each (red or blue)+green pair as a pixel. In the camera world, each pixel is a single color and is counted as a distinct pixel, but for displays you count RGB triads as single pixels. This leads to about 33% less pixels on the Nexus than they tell you, but it's not a straightforward calculation - go read the Ars article for a full explanation. In any case, *i* find the screen *gorgeous*. I am aware that this is not a calibrated perfect color reproduction screen, but it's vibrant, it's high resolution, and i just love reading stuff on it. I can't wait for large OLED monitors. Also, the automatic brightness works quite well on it - i'm never blinded by the display but can always see it, *except* in full sunlight where this screen *is* quite difficult to use - a downside of AMOLED from what i've read. This might trouble me in the summer but so far it hasn't.
- Locking: i love the pattern lock. So much better than having to click a code. If your fingers are the least bit smudgy, though, and you just unlock your phone then lock it, it's totally possible to see the pattern in the reflection - but i guess that's be true if you just clicked numbers as well.
- Don't steal me! In a similar, security-conscious vein: this phone has access to my gmail account, my google checkout account, my other chat account, my SkypeOut account (thanks to the Fring app which lets you make calls over 3G or wifi), my other email accounts, etc. Dangerous. I recommend you put in a pattern lock, and you install something like WaveSecure, which can do a full backup of your phone to their servers (including installed apps), and if your phone is lost or stolen, will lock it if the SIM is changed. It also lets you geolocate it, remotely lock it, and remotely wipe it clean - very handy. It's not free, but it's in Beta for Android right now, and if you install their app before March 31st, you'll get lifetime service on that phone. Don't wait until your phone is stolen! Also write down the IMEI number for the phone, so you can immediately call your provider and make them block the phone if it's stolen, in the full belts+suspenders philosophy.
- I'm OPEN. Last but not least: this phone is OPEN. Everything about it screams "hi! i like you". It doesn't require custom software with no linux version to synchronize (want to add music to it? plug it through USB and drag and drop any music or video files you have, it plays most formats including Ogg Vorbis, MP3 and AAC). There was no "we're not letting in any VOIP app on this phone" thing - there's several. You can develop for it with the free SDK on any platform. It uses standard formats and connectors everywhere. It just doesn't lock you in or try to be in your way so it's masters can be compensated - it just works for you, and that's perhaps the biggest thing it has going for it, and this is actually why i didn't want an iPhone. I'm tired of having to circumvent DRM crap or using half-assed apps because the vendor doesn't know that Linux exists.
- Copy-paste: you can't just copy text from any source. This bit me when my first reaction to connect to my home wifi was to email myself the WPA key so i could copy-paste it into the wifi settings dialog on the N1. Well, it turns out there doesn't seem to be any way that you can copy text from an email, except when Android deems a snippet to be worthwhile (an URL, an email address, a phone number for example - then you just long-press on it and you'll have some choices). In the browser, you can select arbitrary text, but it's a browser thing. Why this isn't a generic OS-level thing is totally beyond me.
- Email filing: although the email app lets you go into remote IMAP folders (whereas the Blackberry mail app has no knowledge of folders whatsoever), you can't *file* an email to a folder. You can delete it or leave it there. But i'm not one of those people who just keep their life in their INBOX, i like to file any email i've read and which doesn't require an action. On my N1, i can read it, but i need to then file a bunch of emails when i get back to my desktop. Lame!
- Battery: the battery doesn't last very long. In fact, i regret not getting the docking station when i ordered it - i would just get rid of my current bedside alarm clock, and dock the nexus. It has a nice "clock" mode with a night mode where it's ultra dimmed and shows just the time, slowly moving it accross the screen (not unlike how Windows NT would pop the login dialog in and out in different places on the screen). If you play and talk with the Nexus a fair bit, you'll have to charge it every night. I use it on wifi quite a lot though, so that might be part of it. Getting the docking station now would be prohibitive, because ...
- Shipping to Canada: Google ships you the phone with DHL. DHL sucks, it blows. DHL is a bunch of trucks filled with fail. The driver claimed to have tried to deliver it to my home, and i can guarantee i was there, and the house was silent (kids were asleep): i would have heard him if he so much as breathed on my door. And he didn't leave anything on the door telling me i missed him. He didn't come, there's just no way. But he still clicked on his system the button which says "i tried, but he wasn't there". Maybe that button is right next to the one which says "i'm a lazy dumbass who lies so my boss can't tell i hang out at Tim Horton's for half my shift" and his finger slipped, i don't know. I called DHL and they apologized, and a different driver delivered the thing the next morning. *BUT* i couldn't take it before i gave him my credit card. Why, you ask? Because DHL suck, and they slapped me a C$76 COD for customs handling!!! I get a lot of stuff shipped to me from the US, by USPS/Canada Post, UPS and Fedex - i've never had a customs charge. Except for ... DHL - this isn't the first time they pull this crap on me. But it means i can't order the dock, because this charge would triple its cost. This wasn't free shipping either - i paid US$26 to get this kind of trick done.
- Hands-free: the loudspeaker is fine for playing some music to put my kids to sleep, but it just isn't loud enough - or it is, but way too distorty when used at high volume. This means that making a hands-free call in the car is not a very good experience. It's not bad, but there's a lot of room for improvement here.
- Multitasking: one downside of the multitasking is that by default, if you click Home when an app is going, it'll just stay in the background, possibly running and eating resources. In the real world, this isn't so much of a problem; at first i got paranoid and installed a free app called "TaskList" which can kill tasks, and started killing anything i wasn't using, but it turns out this is mostly unnecessary - everything stays responsive and you rarely need to kill any app. Most of them have sensible behavior, and if they're being put in the background, will just pause whatever they're doing and be nice. If you click the app again, you go back in the same process, of course. The games i've seen let you Exit the game fully.
on 26 March 2010
english, geeky, linux, screwtheman