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 Hero, which was once our favourite Android 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 Amazon MP3 store, so you can purchase and download DRM-free MP3s right from the phone. It's a simple, stripped-down 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.
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 translate your speech into text in
many instances where you would use the keyboard, although even Google calls this
feature 'experimental'. It was unreliable in our tests, sometimes surprising us
with a perfect transcription of our ramblings into a text message or email, and
sometimes producing hilarious gibberish. We noted that it doesn't do cursing, so you can't even enjoy swearing at the phone when it doesn't work properly, but it's a fun feature with huge potential. One issue that Google should sort
out quickly is this feature's habit of making grammatical errors -- there's no excuse for common words like 'I' to be
transcribed in lower case.
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.