Today I took the plunge and bought a Nexus One from Google. For the first time ever, I might actually have a mobile device that’s not obsolete before I even take it out of the box.
After a less than stellar experience with my previous two phones (the HTC Typhoon and T-Mobile Wing), I decided that I would not buy another phone/PDA unless it met a specific set of requirements. This meant I would be stuck with the T-Mobile Wing until the right device came along, so I was definitely paying attention to the devices on the market. Nonetheless, possible candidates were few and far between.
What I need in a mobile device
- Fast: I should not have to wait all day just to add an item to my shopping list
- Easy data entry: Should be finger-friendly, making it simple to add a quick note while on the go
- Pocketable: Should not need to cinch my belt tighter while carrying it in my pocket
- GPS: I want to track my runs and hikes
- Accessible: Should provide full access to my data and allow me to write and run my own software
This is all very basic stuff, but it is surprisingly difficult to find something that meets all the requirements on this relatively short list. One certainty was that my next phone would NOT be a Windows Mobile device. Furthermore, I’m not really into games, I don’t text much, and I didn’t really see myself watching videos or reading books on my phone due to the small screen size and short battery life of devices in this class. It was clear that I was not part of the demographic most devices these days were being marketed to, so my outlook for finding a device that would meet my needs was bleak at best.
For a long time, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile (né Pocket PC) was the king of the hill in the land of mobile platforms. It wasn’t that it was better than all the rest, but rather that it was really the only somewhat serviceable platform available. Palm was once held the throne, but had since fallen into obsolescence, so Microsoft’s offering was basically the only viable option.
In early 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone, and the rest is history. That is to say, Windows Mobile was history. Users finally had a reason to ditch their stylus (which they had most likely already lost anyway) and use something that was actually usable. Finger-friendly to the core (you couldn’t even use a stylus on its capacitive touchscreen), and oozing that Apple style we all love so much, the iPhone is a seriously slick device. I admit that I was tempted by the allure of the iPhone to join the millions of others going to Apple stores in droves to get their very own iPhone. Unfortunately, the iPhone falls incredibly short (some would say purposefully) in regards to accessibility. The data lock-in and the walled garden that is the app store were both deal breakers for me and are the key reasons I never picked up an iPhone (even as a stopgap until something better came along). I would rather suffer with a slow and clunky device (aka T-Mobile Wing) that I could get my data off of than have a slick phone (aka the iPhone), but be at the mercy of Apple’s whims.
Thankfully, later that same year, Google decided to jump in the ring with Android. Android took cues from many of the good things about the iPhone (finger-friendliness, real web browser, etc.) but a turned sharply from Apple’s approach in regards to accessibility, instead opting for a more open philosophy. Indeed, it would be some time before any of Android’s promised benefits would be realized (it was nearly a year before the first physical device running Android made it into users hands), but they hit all the right buttons from day one:
- Open source: Future proof. Since the platform’s source code is available to anyone, developers can update the platform or develop software to transfer users’ data to a newer platform in the future.
- Integrated: Built from the ground up to work with Google’s web services that I already use (email, calendar, etc.)
- Usable: Finger-friendly UI that made it feasible to use the device with one hand while on the go
- Accessible: Zero barriers to developing my own software. Google provided the SDK and tools that made it fairly easy to start writing apps for the platform.
Slowly but surely, Android devices began to be made available to consumers. While the software had my attention, the hardware of these early devices was another matter entirely. Most of the devices being released had the same basic specs: 528MHz processor and 256MB RAM. While not terrible, this is basically the same hardware that the Windows Mobile devices these phones were supposed be replacing had. Furthermore, these specs were most definitely slow compared to Android’s main competitor — Apple’s iPhone.
On January 5, 2010, Google introduced the Nexus One. Thankfully, it wasn’t just a rehash of every other Android phone out there with a few extras sprinkled in; Google used hardware that was not available on any other phone, namely the 1GHz Snapdragon processor. Coupled with 512MB of RAM and a slew of other top tier hardware additions (noise cancelling microphone, 3.7″ AMOLED screen, etc.), Google demonstrated what they believed should be in all Android phones going forward. They raised the bar.
How does it match up to my list of requirements?
- Fast? The 1GHz processor and 512MB RAM made the Nexus One the fastest mobile device available when it was introduced. Unless I wanted to wait another year, it was unlikely anything much faster would become available
- Easy data entry? Good stock keyboard and very finger-friendly UI makes the Nexus One very usable as a data capture device
- Pocketable? At 11.5mm it’s thinner than an iPhone 3GS, which makes the Nexus One one of the thinnest mobile devices available. Very pocketable.
- GPS? It’s in there, and the Nexus One also has free turn-by-turn navigation to boot!
- Accessible? The Android community is alive and thriving, developing everything from software for everyday use to customized ROMs for the more adventurous.
So I am officially welcoming myself to the future, and am looking forward to seeing if Android is everything I hoped for and if the Nexus One proves to be the perfect device for my current needs.