The Google Nexus One has received more press than a rabid orang-utan attacking the I'm a Celebrity jungle on live TV, but don't get your hopes up too high. Despite having 'Google' on its name tag, the Nexus One is a pretty normal HTC phone. That's no bad thing, though -- HTC also made the , which was once our favourite phone, and the Nexus One is even better. But it's not the Second Coming, it's tricky to get your hands on, and Android is still not perfect.
The Nexus One is only available unlocked and SIM-free from the Google phone Web site for $529 (£320), and you'll be liable for duty and tax from the US to the UK. It will be sold with a Vodafone contract from this spring, but the price hasn't been announced yet.
The Nexus One is the first phone to come with version 2.1 of Google's Android operating system, and the little green robot just keeps getting better and better. Old features like fantastic Gmail and Google Maps integration are as good as ever, while an improved address book makes contacting people in myriad ways, or just looking up their address, a cinch.
New features include a car mode that displays big, finger-friendly icons in landscape format when you're driving, but, sadly, we Brits don't get to play with one of the best toys -- turn-by-turn directions in Google Maps.
We do, however, get a brand spanking new UK version of the iTunes store that you get on the iPhone, and, although it has fewer types of media and lacks the seamless integration with iTunes on your desktop, it does give you the option of syncing your songs on multiple computers using your choice of music software., so you can purchase and download DRM-free MP3s right from the phone. It's a simple, stripped-down version of the
The latest and greatest version of Android also includes some user-interface tweaks, and useful built-in support for Microsoft Exchange email. But, if you're used to Android, you won't find much to surprise you, although the many small improvements make a good experience even better.
The Nexus One can also
There's even noise-cancellation technology in the Nexus One, which means that, in a noisy room, you should come through louder and clearer to the person you're calling. In our tests, we did find that voices from the Nexus One were louder, clearer and had less background noise than calls from an iPhone 3GS made in the same environment.
Android is packed with smart-phone powers, and the Nexus One backs it up with a mind-boggling array of hardware features, including a compass, GPS, Wi-Fi and 7.2Mbps HSDPA for speedy downloads over 3G. The operating system supports multi-tasking, so you can run multiple apps at once, and holding down the home key reveals everything that's currently up and running. The downside to all this activity is that Android is still occasionally unstable, and we did manage to crash things now and then.
Paper and paste
Unlike the Hero, the Nexus One doesn't have HTC's Sense user interface, which includes a suite of flashy widgets and social-networking features. But even the bog-standard Android on the Nexus One has some showing off to do, with a choice of ten animated wallpapers that flutter behind the five home screens, which you can fill with shortcuts and widgets that suit you. Our favourite wallpaper shows leaves lazily floating over the surface of a pond, while ripples that you can cause with the touch of a finger distort the reflection of the virtual trees above. That is some trippy wallpaper, dude, but beware -- all that pointless animation will increase the drain on the battery, which lasted about a day for us with typical use.
More widgets, as well as hundreds of phone-enhancing apps and games, are yours for the downloading from the Android Market. The apps don't tend to be as slick as those in the iPhone's App Store, and the selection is smaller, but most are still free, and there are more than enough to keep you entertained for a lifetime, or at least the life of the battery.