Google Nexus One – UK Review

Google’s Android smartphone the Nexus One was recently launched and available to order for shipping to the UK. You’ve probably read all the reports and reviews from the USA, but here’s a look at the Nexus One from a UK perspective. I asked Paul Field, English electronic music fan and proud new owner of a Nexus One if he’d let us know his thoughts. Paul has very kindly sent us the following review of his shiny new unlocked Nexus One running on Vodafone UK.

I took the plunge and dropped an order online for the new Nexus One. A few days later up rocks the much talked about superphone from Google.  I knew in advance that the specs were perfect for UK  mobile operators and upgrading from an existing Android phone (HTC Magic) was a doddle: Insert SIM, type in your Google mail username and password and that’s it. All my contacts were instantly synced from Google. Couldn’t be easier.

Call quality is perfect and the 3G signal is fine: the Internet over 3G is fast and I’ve seen no sign of the problems like the T-mobile issues in the US. It helps that Vodafone have the best data network in Britain, and handily they will be the first official carrier of the Nexus One when it rocks up here in the UK.

I paid £375 for the phone, delivered and including postage and UK mains charger. This is probably still cheaper than than what you’d pay on contract with Vodaphone as I can use it with my existing plan. The Nexus on Voda will probably rock in at £35 pcm over 24 months: that’s £840. You can get sim-only for 12 months @ £20 + £100 cashback. Do the sums: contract sucks!

Visually there are quite a lot of changes from Android 1.6 (but I suspect not so much from the Motorola Droids 2.0). The main immediate difference is the animated wallpapers: expect the market to be flooded with these things, though if they impact battery I suspect they may not appeal to everyone.

All the standard Android apps come pre-installed, although this includes the ones we can’t actually use in the UK such as Amazon MP3 and the Car Home app (voice turn-by-turn navigation, only activated in the US). Facebook is also pre-installed: it seemed better than the version I had previously (better integration) though still fails to update notifications and returns error. UPDATE: the Amazon MP3 app now goes to amazon.co.uk, priced in £ and works fine.

Here’s some more good news. My previous Android phone (HTC Magic) would struggle with 2 or 3 apps open but the Nexus One doesn’t bat an eyelid. Listen to music, and browse the web, and have chat client open, in fact I couldn’t get it to slow down at all with loads of apps running simultaneously. It’s fast too, everything just flies. Apps open and shut instantly, long press home to shuffle between apps with ease; it’s an absolute joy!

For those craving multi-touch browsing (“pinch and zoom”), you can get this via the free downloadable Dolphin Browser (but not with the standard stock Android browser). And multi-touch actually works: on my HTC Magic it was juddered and not a nice user experience at all.

The camera is much better than I was led to believe. The flash was supposed to be awful but I took this photo in total darkness, that’ll do for me.

There are some negatives though, such as the stupid on/off button placement and the hateful slide-to-unlock and answer a call (I’m hoping this can be changed, might need to read the manual, gulp!). The keyboard is way too twitchy, and pretty awful compared to some of the other HTC options available (this problem is already being addressed by modding community though – hat’s off to Cyanogen!). Lastly, everyone uses mini-USB for charging, right? Wrong. It’s micro USB here, so importers ensure you buy the UK charger offered at checkout.

The text-to-speech facility now lets you send texts by simply speaking and it works even in a noisy environment, although you do have that uncomfortable weirdo-shouting-at-his-phone dilemma to overcome. It does make the on-screen keyboard less of an issue since you don’t need to use it.

So, if you’re already familiar with Android it’s more of the same but better. If you are new to Android then there’s no reason not to jump on board, especially with the news that HTC will offer technical support in the UK directly (no need to go through Google). HTC have already set up a dedicated UK support number should you need it.

Finally, here are my current Top 5 Android apps for my Nexus One:

  • Advanced Task Manager (paid), lunacy not to have this on your Android, battery life massively increases (though awaiting update for proper Nexus support). Android 2.1 does show and allow you to end certain apps running, but it’s not ideal.
  • Dolphin Browser – enables multi-touch, though was better pre ad-supported version.
  • Google Goggles – pointless but great fun.
  • Beautiful Widgets – sadly the creator received a cease-and-desist takedown order from HTC as they reckoned it was too similar to HTC’s own clock and weather widget on the Hero. It’s still a nice looking addition though, even in its new watered-down form.
  • Beeb Player – Even though it’s a bit flaky and crashes, my youngest insists on an episode of Charlie and Lola before bedtime, so essential for me.

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Follow Paul on Twitter: @pafster

  • Adam Hepton

    “It helps that Vodafone have the best data network in Britain”

    Can you please tell me where you get this claim from? I have a netbook on Vodafone with a built-in HSPA card, and the signal rarely finds a decent 3G signal (mostly it only ever gets GPRS), even in built-up areas like London: whereas my T-Mobile handset finds a HDSPA signal in most places – even in rural areas.

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  • Not sure where Paul got that from Adam; I was on Vodafone for several years without any signal problems, I’m now into my second year with T-Mobile with only the occasional bad spot in Edinburgh city.

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