Like much of the rest of Google’s Nexus One, there are a number of high points that sit right next to low points. For example, the phone offers superb audio clarity on calls – possibly the best we’ve heard – but it also has a pretty poor performing speaker phone and questionable signal reception. On my desk is a Motorola CLIQ with 3 bars of 3G signal while the Nexus One offers only EDGE, though 5 bars of it (something the CLIQ could easily do if I turned off 3G). In general I have found that the Nexus One spends far more of its day without signal than the CLIQ does, and the CLIQ is not even the best performing T-Mobile 3G phone we have. This impacts the life of the battery, which is going to be charged daily as a forgone conclusion.
Turning off 3G data in the phone’s settings will greatly improve battery life, especially in weak signal areas like my house since the phone’s GSM reception is pretty good. Turning on WiFi on the Nexus One will certainly help make up for a lack of 3G data, but it, too, adds a drain to the phone’s battery, though it seems to be decently optimized.
The Nexus One does a great job with contacts. The Android 2.1 OS allows for 3rd party developers to integrate directly into the main contacts system, and Google includes a nice Facebook app that demonstrates that well. Multiple Gmail accounts can be added to the device for contacts or email (but only one for the calendar), and the same is true for Microsoft Exchange accounts. New 3rd party apps are likely to be available in the future to add support for other sites like MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn, if they don’t already exist.
Contacts on the phone are managed in two main lists, the full contact list (which can be configured to show contacts from all sources or only one), and the favorites list, which shows only starred contacts. Long pressing on a contact photo (or photo placeholder) will bring up a list of icons that represent the various ways that contact can be reached (call, SMS, Facebook, etc). All imaginable details can be stored in a contact, and there is first and last name searching as well as a slider control that can be used to index through long lists. Shortcuts to contacts can also be placed on a homescreen panel for even more convenient access.
In terms of functionality, the Google Nexus One does very well with messaging tasks. It has great support for IMAP, POP, and Exchange email systems in addition to Google’s home grown Gmail. The Exchange support is pretty simple, lacking even out of office notices, but it works well for bringing your messages and contacts (though not calendar appointments). The setup process for email is simple, and everything works pretty much as one would hope for. Text and multimedia messaging work through a separate system and are shown in an IM-like threaded fashion. IM support on the Nexus One is limited to Google’s own Gtalk system, though there are 3rd party apps that can provide access to other systems.
The Nexus One’s 3G data is hampered by its poor reception, but even when the phone showed but one bar of 3G signal, I still managed to get 1000kbps or faster downloads on DSLReports’s mspeed test, which is great. WiFi data speeds were much faster still, and the phone’s speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, running at 1GHz, is fully capable of gobbling up the data. Bluetooth is also supported on the phone, as is USB.
Update: The firmware update released in February of 2010 seemed to have little to no impact on 3G reception on the Google Nexus One as best we could tell.