Early Preview : Google Nexus One In the UK

As promised to those who follow us on Twitter, we've got photos, loads of them, of the Google Nexus One, the phone which we believe, will be changing the way the telecom market will interact with its customers and users.

Bear in mind also that this is a preview, rather than a full on review. (ed: You can review the 26 articles on the Google Nexus One here)

The Nexus One comes in a rather impressive package, one that looks similar to the iPhone, in build and certainly better looking than the Motorola Milestone, whose box looks no better than a run-of-the-mill, entry level smartphone.

Yet, the Motorola handset costs MORE than the Nexus One and if first impressions matter, then the Nexus One scores highly, certainly better than the Motorola.

Moving on to what's actually IN the box, there's a USB Cable, a startup card, a power supply (with UK/US plug adaptor), earphones, a pouch, a pair of tiny manuals (literally) and the phone itself.

What you don't get though is a CDROM with applications or drivers. Plugging the phone via the USB cable in a Windows XP workstation charges the phone and the Google Nexus One appears as a removable disk but you won't be able to access it unless you mount it from the phone's interface.

The phone itself appears to be quite sturdy; even if it is built using a significant amount of plastic, it comes with a Teflon coating at the back that gives it a reassuring feel. Solid and dense are two words that could define the Nexus One.

Kudos to Google for throwing in a neoprene mini-case with an Android logo. As reported before, the phone's physical layout is quite minimalist. The front only carries four touch sensitive buttons as well as the pearl-like mini trackball.

At the back are Google's and HTC's logo as well as the pinhole entry for the noise cancellation feature, a tiny slit for the speaker, the camera lens and the LED flash.

Removing the battery cover is a fairly easy task and so is taking out the battery. Google has chosen to leave the microSD card reader underneath the battery, next to the SIM slot, something that some might say, is not a judicious given the fact that you will need to remove the battery before changing the card.

That said that's not something you will do everyday. Another minor difference between the Nexus One and other mobile phones we've seen before is the fact that the backplate contains a transparent lid for the camera sensor.

For this particular preview, we used a free SIM from 3 Networks and we found out that unlike many other phones, you could easily insert your SIM card the wrong way in the Nexus One. Just be careful about this.

At the bottom of the Nexus One, there's three touch connectors, probably for accessories that will be launched at a later stage this year, a mini USB port for charging and connecting to a computer while on top, you will find a 3.5mm earphone socket.

Switching on the Nexus One is done by pressing on a button on top of the handset. One thing that you will immediately notice is the nice, colourful but slightly useless, animation that appears and lasts for almost one minute.

Yes, the Nexus one takes more than a few seconds till the login page appears which is very long compared to the iPhone. As you can make out from the photos, the gorgeous screen is a proper greasy fingerprint magnet.

By default, you will need to draw a pattern to unlock the phone by connecting some of the dots that appear on the screen, an elegant alternative to the four digit solution.

However, it is one that might be a security issue as the discernible trace left by a greasy finger can be easily tracked (and seen) on the screen, something we've experienced first hand.

The AMOLED capacitive touch display of the Nexus One puts the iPhone to shame (ed: where's the photo?). Not only is it larger at 3.7-inch, it also carries a much higher resolution, more than twice that of the Apple phone. It is therefore not surprising that small icons appear very sharp.

As expected, the Nexus One comes with a number of Google applications like Google Mail and you can install many of your own. Our test phone had five screens full of applications downloaded from Android's marketplace. Oddly, there's no Picasa application per se although you can sync to your Picasa account.

The search capabilities of the handset would certainly be a match for the iPhone 3G and boosts voice-to-search functionalities. Voice control is one of the Nexus One's forte as, unlike the iPhone, it is available on all applications where text input is present.

Interestingly, the accelerometer function of the Google Nexus one appear to be half-baked. Put it simply, rotating the screen clockwise doesn't cause the application to go in landscape mode.

The iPhone goes into landscape mode whichever way you rotate the handset. Google has judiciously integrated a pull down menu that shows you what applications are running in the background as well as any updates or email alerts. Ideal in a multi-tasking environment.

Furthermore, Android OS provides a handy customised pop-up menu, by using the menu button at the bottom of the screen which provides settings for the actual application in the foreground.

The virtual keyboard on the Nexus one is slightly larger than on the iPhone. Some might like it but we'd prefer a smaller version with more usable screen size (ed: Google, allow Nexus One users to change the size of the keyboard).

In contrast, Apple chose to limit the size of the phone's keyboard to half the area of the touch screen. The camera on the Nexus One is one of its strong points. It comes with a flash and swapping from picture taking to movie recording can be done with one finger.

As for the iPhone, there is no dedicated camera button, which means that you need to perform several steps in order to bring up the camera app.

On older smartphones (like the K800i), just opening the lens cover would bring up the camera application and users could start taking shots within a couple of seconds.

One of the applications we tried was the barcode scanner which worked perfectly well once you had properly positioned the smartphone and taken the pictures in the right light conditions.

But rather than bringing up a product page, it launched a search results page from Google from which you could pick the desired piece of information.

The other app we tried was the free and popular Racing Thunder racing game - available as a free "lite" version on the Android platform.

The colours were vivid and the controls, very much what you'd expect from a top notch hardware platform. We'd possibly get panned if we say that the Nexus One is not that far, graphics-wise, from the Nintendo Wii or the Sony Playstation 2.

This means that it could, in the forthcoming years, become a successful and popular gaming environment.

Now it is still early days and Google (and HTC) will continue to learn the hard way how to improve the Nexus One. That said, while there's not much to improve when it comes to the hardware, things are different when it comes to the general operating environment.

Killer applications are lacking and there is still a lack of traction which might be compensated by the fact that many developers who cannot, for a reason or another, access the App store, may now code for Android.

Furthermore, those looking to migrate from the iPhone to Android, will be face a massive conundrum, what will happen to the applications that they've downloaded? Just like for the iPod, users are unlikely to migrate after having invested hundreds of pounds in buying content.

Should developers bite the bullet and offer free cross platform versions for legitimate owners or cheap upgrades? Only time will tell.

The other bemusement we faced was the fact that Google "forgot" to port some of its more popular services to the Android. Google Earth is not yet available on Android Marketplace and ditto for the Bookmark sync app.

We also had issues with permanent login options. Unlike the iPhone and other rivals, the Nexus One appeared to discard login details as soon as the application was closed down.

Oh and you can't install any screen capture application on it because you need to have root access.

In conclusion, while the Nexus One is way better than the iPhone 2G was three years ago, things are quite different nowadays. The first iPhone from Apple was ground breaking while the Nexus One is, in fact, a refined HTC Android-based smartphone and faces significant competition from its own stock.

Still, we firmly believe that the Google Nexus One and its successors, will change the mobile industry forever.

Lastly, we'd like to apologise for the below average quality of our photos and this is due to a technical glitch which will be solved shortly.