Test driving Google's Nexus One mobile phone

The Nexus One phone from Google Inc. is shown at a demo in Mountain View, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

January 6, 2010 12:02:40 PM PST
I just picked up the Nexus One from my desk, and there was a banner across the home screen saying, "Six Reasons to Not Like Google's Nexus One." I couldn't resist. I gave the headline a tap, and up came a review from PC World.

It's reassuring that Google is making no attempt to filter out negative news.

Tech reviewers are all over the map on Google's new phone. Some love it for its speed. The 1 Ghz Qualcomm processor does make surfing the Internet fast. Others love it for the 5 megapixel camera and LED flash (much better than the iPhone's camera). Others complain that the touch screen isn't as responsive (touch sensitive) as the iPhone (I would agree with that). Hey, every phone on the market is different, and that's what choice is all about. Imagine if we all had to drive the same make and model of car.

It's intuitive to set up. I skipped the manual to see if I could get up and running on my own. I'm pretty adept at that, but discounting my experience setting up multiple models through the years, Nexus One set-up will be a breeze for most consumers.

At its press event yesterday, Google was enthusiastic about its voice search feature for doing Google searches. Voice recognition software can be buggy, and it doesn't seem to be any more reliable using the Nexus One and the Android 2.1 operating system. I asked it to search "George Stephanopoulos," which is a mouthful to say. It delivered. I asked it to search Vint Cerf, one of the creators of the Internet and a Google employee. Nope. The Google search yielded results for "venture." And in a moment of ego, I spoke my name. Google search delivered David Louis instead. If you're pressed for time, I'd stick with the touch screen keyboard for input.

You have to give Google credit for pushing innovation by working with Taiwan's HTC to create a phone worthy of bearing its name and utilizing the newest version of Android, which others do not have yet. It does raise the bar for expectations. Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha yesterday told reporters that it will need to upgrade its Droid to match the Nexus One.

Google has a large and loyal fan base. First adapters will jump on the opportunity to own and use the Nexus One. Google has set up its online store to sell the phone directly to consumers. It's sending a strong message that the phone and its features are the main attraction, and the carrier is secondary. In fact, no one from T-Mobile (its sole carrier partner for now) or Verizon (which will come on board in the spring) was on stage at the Google event yesterday. By selling direct, Google is taking a cue from the way mobile phones are more commonly sold in Asia and Europe.

The test drive continues. More updates to follow.