Hands-on with the Nexus One

We get our dirty mitts on Google's latest Android phone, made by HTC. Much has been known about the phone for months now, but Tuesday was its official unveiling.

The Nexus One is the latest and greatest Android hardware. Josh Lowensohn / CNET

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Google on Tuesday finally announced and demonstrated the Nexus One, a phone designed and built by HTC, but sold by Google through an online store. As far as Android phones go, it's currently the fastest. It's also one of the slimmest, coming in at just 11.5 millimeters thick. We got our mitts on it after this morning's press conference.

First impressions:

The phone is very sturdy and solid. Despite having a removable battery cover, that cover fits tight around the edges without leaving any noticeable gaps. And it doesn't give when you press into it like some other smartphones do.

As mentioned in our live coverage from earlier, some of the new features that are specific to the Nexus One compared to other Android devices include built-in noise cancellation that uses two different microphones and a glowing, LED-powered trackball that can light up with different colors depending on what kind of notification it's alerting you to.

The Nexus One's trackball can light up a different color depending on what kind of notification it's showing you. Josh Lowensohn / CNET

Like its HTC siblings the Magic and Hero, the Nexus One lacks a physical keyboard, something that's been made up for with a new voice search feature that like the iPhone's Voice Control, can launch certain phone features with simple voice commands. In our quick testing this worked really well, at least for making phone calls or looking up driving directions, the latter of which launches turn-by-turn directions using Google Maps Navigator. It can also be used for writing text messages and e-mails--a feature that finger-weary business users should enjoy.

Another Nexus One-specific feature (at least for now) is Live Wallpapers, which are animated backgrounds that can react to user touch, whatever music is playing, as well as what part of the home screen you're on. The phone ships with ten of these as part of Android 2.1. It's unclear whether these would burn up more battery life, but based on how pretty they are, we're guessing that's the case.

The Nexus One comes with 4GB of storage in the form of a MicroSD card, although this can be expanded up to 32GB. Josh Lowensohn / CNET

Other niceties include a volume rocker that's nearly flush with the phone, as well as a metallic band that wraps around the phone and that can be engraved at the time of purchase.

All in all, it's an impressive little gadget, at least at first blush. While Google and HTC didn't make it in time for last year's holiday shopping season, it's a promising start to this year's smartphone crop. We'll have a full review up shortly. In the meantime be sure to click through our unboxing slideshow to see what you get.

 

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