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Google Nexus One
The Google Nexus One is Google's first own-branded smartphone, bringing their particular spin on the Google-backed Android operating system. It's a highly controversial move from Google that may bring some disquiet amongst its partners, but on the other hand it could give the relatively new Android OS a major marketplace boost.
The Nexus One is made for Google by HTC, and if you look you can see some design cues from phones like the Touch Cruise 09 combined with the trackball most recently seen on the HTC Hero, although the hardware specification most closely matches the HTC HD2. The overall approach is a sleek, elegant handset that manages to avoid the standard black slabby design that so many rivals have.
The 3.7" 800 x 480 pixel AMOLED display is one of the highest resolution Android screens on the market, beaten slightly by the Motorola Milestone. The usual Android control buttons are on the front of the screen, very much like those on the Milestone, but one unusual feature is the roller ball which isn't really even necessary for most Android users. It's a very slim device at just 11.5mm thick, but the overall footprint is very similar to the iPhone and Milestone.
On the back is a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, again similar to the Milestone, the maximum video capture resolution is 720 x 480 pixels at 20 frames per second.
Inside is a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (as found on the Toshiba TG01), combined with a large 512 MB of RAM which should ensure that applications run smoothly on the new Android 2.1 operating system. This hardware specification should cope with anything you can throw at it, including high resolution video playback. The usual multimedia features are present, and the Google Nexus one also comes with a 3.5mm audio socket.
One unusual feature is that it is possible to get your Nexus One custom engraved when you order it, something that Apple have done before.. but something that might hamper you if you want to sell it on later.
Inside this is a tri-band 3.5G device with WiFi, GPS with a compass and a microSD slot, so it should work on most 3G networks worldwide, although in the US it will be offered on T-Mobile rather than AT&T. HTC know exactly what they are doing with connectivity, so there should be no need to worry here. Maximum download speeds on HSDPA are 7.2 Mbps with HSUPA uploads of up to 2 Mbps. Also, there's a large 1400 mAh battery that Google quote as giving up to 7 hours talktime on 3G.
As for the new Android 2.1 operating system, it is really only an incremental update to version 2.0 as found in the Milestone and DROID, although Google have taken the opportunity to improve it here and there. Perhaps the most obvious thing is that the App Tray slider has been replaced with a new "home icon" which works slightly differently. Version 2.0 has only been out for just over two months, so this new version has followed on very rapidly and is one of the main selling points for the new Nexus One.
For some reason, the Google Nexus One seems to be a big deal with the media. The fact is that the phone itself is just an evolutionary upgrade to existing HTC phones, with another evolutionary upgrade to the software. From the point of view of the actual device itself, the Nexus One is hardly a revolution.
But what has happened is that Google has changed its relationship with its partners. Until now, Google was merely an enabler - a key partner in driving Android forward and providing applications and back-end integration to make it appeal to customers. Manufacturers such as HTC, Motorola, Samsung and many others compete with each other, but not with Google.. until now. This change in direction could prove troublesome, because it is possible in the long run that Google's partners will feel that Google itself has an unfair advantage. Compare this with Microsoft's hands-off approach to Windows Mobile - Microsoft makes the software, but has never competed in the hardware market to avoid this type of conflict of interest, and yet Google have decided to do what Microsoft dare not do.
Perhaps it is no big deal - the Nexus One is made by HTC after all, a company that has happily partnered with other companies in a similar way many times before. So, if the Google Nexus One is a huge success then it will certainly be a boost for HTC, however Google may well choose to go with a different partner for future handsets, so perhaps it actually will be a big deal for future generations of Googlephone when it comes to manufacturing partners.
Still, there is very little that partners can do. Motorola in particular has bet the barn on Android with the CLIQ / DEXT, DROID and Milestone handsets with more to come during 2010.. so they have very little choice other than to put up with direct competition from a company that is meant to be its business partner.
Perhaps one thing that might make Google's rivals breathe a sigh of relief is the fact that Google seem to be selling the handset directly rather than through retail outlets, a SIM-free device is $529.. but if you are importing into Europe then you will probably end up paying taxes on top of that, meaning that the handset could end up costing around £425 or €500 depending on the country that you are in.
In the US the Nexus One is available with a new T-Mobile contract. Vodafone territories worldwide will follow in Spring 2010, and a Verizon version will also be available at that time, although we don't know how much this will cost.
You can order the Google Nexus One now, directly from Google.
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