Google Nexus One review – and why Android is the future of mobile phones

We don’t take much time here on Gadling to review mobile phones – and rightfully so, as there are plenty of other sites that do a much better job than we can pull off. Still, there is something to be said about a phone review that has a strong focus on travel, and describing why a certain phone (and its mobile operating system) are the best available choice for active travelers.

In this review – we’ll take a closer look at the Google Nexus One, and the Android operating system powering it. First a brief refresher – Android is a product of the Open Handset Alliance, a group of 65 companies that got together to develop a mobile operating system. Android is often (incorrectly) referred to as “the Google phone” – even though Google is just another member of the alliance, it is most certainly not “Google only”. That said – most phones released do come with great Google integration along with several very powerful Google built applications.Here are some of the reasons I personally feel that Android is the best pick for travelers – obviously you are free to disagree with me, because everyone has different requirements from their phone.

Multitasking and notifications

Yes – Android is not the only phone in the world that can multitask – but it does this without any hullabaloo (and certainly none of the fanfare Apple used to announce multitasking on the upcoming iPhone OS). Android has done multitasking since the very first phone, in the very first version.

There is no task manager required (though you can install one), there is no complicated app double-tap to see running tasks, and there is nothing to worry about – apps run in the background, and you can surf the web and listen to Pandora or Slacker without having to think twice.

The same applies to any app – checking flight times in TripIt? You can leave TripIt, read an email and return to TripIt right where you left off – without having to log in again or start from scratch. Seriously – it makes the entire experience so much more efficient.

Best of all – multitasking is so integrated in the OS, that battery life is not impacted too much when you push the device to its limits. On most Android powered devices, battery life is between 18 and 36 hours, depending on usage.

The notification system on Android is (in my opinion) the best of any mobile operating system. There are no silly push notifications that rely on other servers to hope you catch their message on time – all apps can run in the background, and send notifications to the pull-down notifier available from almost any screen. Gate change? It’ll notify you right away, and you don’t have to worry about missing the little popup window.

Applications and the Android Marketplace

Android now boasts more than 50,000 apps – an impressive performance, especially when you look at its initial slow growth. But now Android is taking off at such an insane pace, developers are keeping up.

There is no denying that the iPhone is miles ahead of what Android has to offer – but the majority of the apps that travelers use on the iPhone are also on Android. Apps like Urbanspoon, FlightTrack Pro, TripIt and more have been available for several months now.

Best of all, the Android Marketplace allows for 24 hour trials of all apps along with carrier and credit-card billing. No longer will you fall for an app purchase, only to discover that the app is useless or broken – simply uninstall within 24 hours and you won’t be charged.

The default Android apps on a Google experience phone include Google maps, YouTube, the fantastic Android browser, Google Voice support and a variety of standard programs like calendar, contacts and a calculator.

Additional Google apps add things like Google Earth, Google Sky Map and Google Goggles (all free).

Oh, and Google Maps on Android does free turn by turn navigation – without any monthly fees.

Widgets and your home screen

This is the part I love the most about Android – on most recent Android versions, you get at least four different home screens – and these home screens can be filled with almost anything you want – from application shortcuts to direct dial and text message buttons. The majority of quality apps also offer widgets – instead of having to open FlightTrack, I can simply place its widget on my home screen.

Best of all, I can create different home screens for different events – so I have a “business” screen and a “personal” screen, both offering different apps and shortcuts.

Google integration is as seamless as it gets

With Google life is simple – you either use it (and love it), or you don’t. In my case, my life revolves around Google. I use it for my mail, my searches, my contacts, my calendar, my domain names and even as a way to track where my friends and family are.

Yes – I put a lot of faith in Google, but they have never let me down. Google integration on Android is amazing – you enter your Google account, and you are done. The phone syncs everything from Google to your phone. Changes made in your Google calendar are immediately pushed to your phone (and vice-versa). The same applies to contacts and emails.

If you have multiple Google accounts, you can add them, and manage them in the email client. Added a photo to a contact on your phone? That same photo is instantly synced to your online client where it is viewable in your contacts.

Another great part of the Google integration is voice control – you can use your voice in almost any portion of the phone – from entering an address in Google maps, to searches and even within text entry.

Multimedia is where it should be (finally)

The initial offering of multimedia applications on Android was quite pathetic – it played music, but no videos. It had a headphone jack, but no Bluetooth audio. Those days are long gone, and the current multimedia system on Android is fantastic.

The platform has Slacker, Pandora and (coming soon) Sirius Radio. The video player is excellent, and there are several very easy to use add-on multimedia players. You can search Youtube, and upload video from the phone directly to Youtube, browse photo galleries using the new gallery app, and sync/send photos to any number of photo hosting services.

iTunes users can even sync their Android phone using Doubletwist which also converts and syncs most popular video file formats. And yes – Doubletwist is free.

Android is an open world

Almost every Android powered phone can be “rooted” (a term describing a method of obtaining full and unrestricted access to the device) – and while the process often voids your warranty, the rewards are usually worth it.

There is a massive developer world where smart people make Android even better than it is today. Some developers release new and improved versions of the phone firmware several times a week – unlocking even more features.

But, even if you don’t want to risk unlocking your phone, the entire Android system is more open than most mobile operating systems on the market. Want a different touch-screen keyboard? Go ahead. Need to be able to “tether” your phone to your laptop? No problem. Want a nice rotating 3D wallpaper? Go ahead. Google Voice? Already installed. The list goes on and on. Android may not be a fully open system (without rooting there are still things you can’t do), but those restrictions are mainly in place to prevent you from breaking stuff.

In addition to this, Google (who operate the marketplace) are not constantly trying to police what you can download. They don’t care if you like porn apps, apps that are overly political, or apps that “may replace core apps on the phone”. Developers can write and sell any app they want – though there is obviously some protection against rogue apps.

In the Android world, Adobe Flash is soon going to become a reality – unlike on the iPhone where Apple has pretty much decided that Flash is useless and that it’ll never come to their phone. Anyone that has browsed the web knows how much Flash content there is – and why Flash support is important. Both Adobe Flash 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0 will be released as beta versions very soon.

Choice in operators and phones

Android started as one phone on one operator – and has now evolved into something much, much bigger. Android phones are now available on the four largest operators in the country, along with countless international operators. Phones come from companies like Motorola, LG, Samsung, HTC, Sony-Ericsson and even companies like Acer, Dell and Lenovo are getting on board.

Best of all – Android is not just a system that powers phones – Android media tablets are available from Archos and even the Barnes and Noble Nook e-reader is an Android powered device.

The end result is that you can pick based on price, brand, features or operator – and make sure you get the phone you really want, without having to settle.

What is not so good?

Life in Android land isn’t all perfect – because so many companies make Android phones, there is some “fragmentation” in the version of Android installed on the phone. Some phones come with the newest version, others may still be shipped with a year old version. Thankfully, Google has acknowledged the problem, and should be able to push updates to phones regardless of the manufacturer and model, greatly reducing the time it takes for updates to be released.

Also, Android phones lack the immense accessory lineup offered to iPhone owners. Sure, there are some cases, cables and docks – but forget finding an Android suitable alarm clock or solar powered case.

And finally – if you are a hardcore gamer, the assortment of games on Android will probably disappoint you. There are some great titles, but nowhere near the entertainment value of iPhone or portable gaming consoles.

So – why Android for travelers?

Looking at all of the above – it makes sense to pick Android as your mobile operating system. As a traveler, I prefer Android because of the Google integration, widgets, free navigation support and availability of hardware.

Google integration means my phone and Google are always in sync – if I happen to lose my phone, I can remotely track, lock or wipe it (using WaveSecure), pick up a new Android phone and as soon as it is done syncing, everything is back in place. There are no monthly fees for this, as it is all part of the Google world.

Because my wife and I share calendars, she can add things to my schedule, and anything she adds to TripIt is also automatically added to my phone (and this obviously also works the other way around). I don’t need to pay for an Exchange service, and I don’t need a yearly subscription to MobileMe.

make my life easier because I can see more without having to open apps for everything. I even have a widget that shows a camera image of my front door (so I can check for packages left by FedEx or UPS). My FlightTrack widget shows my upcoming flights, and Weatherbug shows the weather forecast (based on my current location). I even have a Widget that controls the TiVo in my bedroom (which is handy when I can’t find the remote).

Free Google maps with navigation allow me to leave my dedicated GPS system at home. Google maps with navigation is a full navigation system, with support for driving or walking. Add a nice car mount, and you have yourself a perfectly usable navigation device (though I must point out that you will need a data connection for the maps to be accessed). Other than my monthly data plan, there are no fees for Google navigation.

And finally – availability of hardware. With Android, I don’t need to wait for the next new phone – new devices are coming out almost monthly, and even though the investment is steep (this is an expensive hobby), I can have the latest and greatest phone 4 or 5 times a year, instead of once a year.

The Google Nexus One

At the moment – the Google Nexus One is the best there is for people on T-Mobile or AT&T in the U.S. Of course, “the best” can change in a matter of weeks, when the next new phone is released.

Inside the Nexus One is a 1GHz processor, a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera (with flash) and a really stunning OLED display with 800×480 pixels (which is not very good in direct sunlight). The phone has GPS, a compass, accelerometer, and worldwide 3G support. Best of all – the GPS and compass are put to amazing use inside Google maps street view – simply start the app, and point your phone around – it’ll show street views based on what it is looking at.

The phone looks good, feels good, and has enough power to handle anything I throw at it. Memory expansion comes from a MicroSD card – 16GB cards can be found for just $40, and 32GB cards are on their way. Oh, and I can obviously invest in a spare battery, because unlike some brands, Google doesn’t mind me removing the back panel to replace my own damn battery.

The Nexus One is available with a new (or extended) contract for $179 (only available for T-Mobile), or for $529 unlocked and without a contract for customers on T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S. and Rogers in Canada. Within the next couple of months, the phone will be available for Sprint and Verizon in the U.S. Vodafone in Europe is getting it on April 30.

Buying the unlocked version means you can swap out the sim card when you travel – all without the need for a paperclip or “sim card removal tool”.

The future of Android is secure

The future of Android handsets looks bright – this summer, Sprint will be releasing the HTC EVO 4G – an Android device with 3G and 4G access, along with an amazing screen, great camera and TV-output. In just two years, Android has evolved from a pretty basic device onto the most powerful mobile phone ever developed.

I’ve been a phone freak for years – and rarely keep the same phone for more than 4 months, but after almost 200 different phones, Android has become my new home – and a home I don’t see myself leaving any time soon. The phone may change, but the operating system feel just right for my needs.

Of course, hardware support isn’t the only driving force – as more and more developers try to make money with their Android apps, the quality of programs in the Android Marketplace will get better every month.

T-Mobile HTC HD2 smartphone comes with 6 months free inflight Internet access from Gogo

This spring, T-Mobile will finally start selling the highly anticipated HTC HD2 smartphone.

To be honest, calling this a smartphone is being a little mean to this powerful device – it comes with a massive 4.3″ screen, a 1GHz processor, 16GB memory (MicroSD card), 5 megapixel camera and full turn by turn navigation.

What grabbed my attention in the announcement is the inclusion of a pretty impressive array of pre-installed applications and content.

For starters, the phone comes with Transformers and Transformers 2 ready to watch. In addition to this, you can access the Blockbuster on Demand movie service, or watch live TV with the MobiTV service. Fans of books will appreciate the Barnes and Noble eBook application.

Better yet, you don’t need to be on the ground to stay in touch – the T-Mobile HD2 comes with six months of free Gogo Inflight Internet access, which means you can get online on airlines equipped with the Gogo service.

The phone runs Windows Mobile 6.5, so you also get mobile versions of Excel, Word, Outlook and Windows Media Player.

Pricing of this new phone has not yet been announced, but I’d suspect it’ll be between $250 and $350 when purchased on a 2 year agreement.

You can register your interest in the HD2 on the T-Mobile product page.

Verizon Wireless Touch Pro2 hits shelves with a surprisingly decent price

Several weeks ago, we reviewed the latest Windows Mobile device from HTC – the Touch Pro2. Back then, the phone was only available in a GSM version, and was headed to mobile operator T-Mobile.

As of tomorrow, customers on Verizon Wireless can also get in on the action, and in many ways, their version of the Touch Pro2 is better than any other.

For starters, Verizon Wireless priced it at just $199 (after a $100 mail in rebate). That is $150 cheaper than any other operator (the price requires a new 2 year agreement).

The Verizon Wireless Touch Pro2 also combines 2 different wireless systems, to offer real global coverage. This means you can use the phone in the US on Verizon Wireless using their nationwide CDMA/EVDO Rev.A network, and abroad on any operator using CDMA and GSM/EDGE/3G.

The Touch Pro2 also features a 3.5mm headphone jack, GPS for use with the VZ Navigator and Global Navigator software, 13 days of standby time (manufacturer rating), WiFi, Bluetooth and a MicroSD memory expansion slot.

The Verizon Wireless Touch Pro2 will be available online at and at Verizon Wireless retail stores starting tomorrow.

(Via: Engadget)

Gadling gear review – HTC Touch Diamond2 Windows Mobile smartphone

It has been several months since we last reviewed a Windows Mobile smartphone, and in this review, I’m going to give you a close look at what could very well be the best Windows powered phone ever made.

The HTC Touch Diamond2, is as the name implies, the second version of the HTC Touch Diamond.

The Diamond series phones are thin devices, with no hardware keyboard. The Diamond2 hardware specifications are spectacular – 528MHz processor, 512MB rom, 288MB ram, quadband GSM, triband 3G, a 5 Megapixel auto-focus camera, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, MicroSD expansion slot, FM Radio and best of all – an 800×480 display.
The outside of the phone is stunning – and in my opinion the best looking HTC phone ever made. The phone combines a smooth plastic cover on the back, with sleek stainless steel trim on the front.

On the left side is the volume control, on the right is a slot for the stylus. The front only has 4 buttons, and no “D-Pad” like found on most other Windows devices. Removing the D-Pad also means the entire front of the phone can be used for the screen, and oh boy what a joy that screen is

The Touch Diamond2 runs Windows Mobile 6.1 but it runs it with a twist – HTC included the latest version of their TouchFlo interface on the device , and I have to say – this is the best thing to ever happen to Windows Mobile. The reason? Windows Mobile is 90% hidden from view when TouchFLO 3D is running.

Every single annoying part of Windows Mobile is hidden. Everything from the program manager to the settings screen has been replaced by the TouchFLO 3D interface. This also means all the components are extremely finger friendly, and I rarely needed the stylus.

Until Windows Mobile 7 arrives on mobile devices, I’d say HTC TouchFLO 3D has finally put Windows Mobile on par with the iPhone and Google’s Android operating system. I am not exaggerating when I say that the OS is an absolute dream to use. Even parts of Windows that used to be a pain in the backside to use (like the Windows WiFi setup screen) have been completely replaced with TouchFLO and its finger friendly interface.

The TouchFLO 3D home screen displays a large clock, and allows you to scroll between the various features included on the main page; weather, stocks, programs, people, messages, email, music and settings. Being able to access all these things on the front page, means you’ll waste less time digging in the programs list, and that everything is finger friendly.

If you showed someone the TouchFLO 3D home screen, program manager and browser, you’d probably be able to convince them that your phone was running some kind of new operating system – Windows is that well hidden.

Now, back to that screen – seriously, this is the best screen I have ever seen in a smartphone. It is crisp, bright and extremely easy to read. In sunshine, it is less effective, but still usable. The screen has an auto brightness feature, using the front facing camera. Just below the screen is the new HTC Zoom-bar, which is a touch sensitive scroll control, perfect for scrolling up/down in the RSS reader, or for controlling the zoom in the browser.

As I mentioned earlier – there is no hardware keyboard on the Touch Diamond2, which would normally be a major inconvenience for me. As it turns out, it actually made me rethink devices without a keyboard, as text entry on the Diamond2 works surprisingly well.

The screen is extremely responsive, and one of (if not – THE) best touch screens on any Windows device. It lacks the multitouch features found on the iPhone and the G1, but the upside is that you can still use the stylus if you want to. The photo on the right shows the Diamond2 next to an HTC Touch Pro and the T-Mobile G1 (also an HTC device).

The 5 Megapixel camera finally looks and feels like a real camera – the interface is snappy, and shots are made immediately when you press the button, something many other phones are not capable of. The resulting photos look awesome.

Since there is no flash (or LED flash light), photos made in the dark don’t look very good, but anything made outside or indoors with enough light looks like it was made on a normal 5MP camera. Videos are equally impressive, and are shot in MPEG4 at 640×480.

Performance of the phone itself is great for a Windows Mobile device – there is seldom any lag, and even memory hungry apps like Opera Mobile open virtually instantly. Surprisingly, even the EDGE transfer speed is quite snappy (I tested the phone on T-Mobile). During my 2 weeks playing with the Touch Diamond2, I did not have to press the reset button once.

The version of the Touch Diamond2 I tested included a fairly basic lineup of applications. The most common Windows Mobile apps are of course on the device (Media Player, Pocket Word/Excel/Powerpoint) as well as a couple of Games. Additional apps made by HTC are the addictive Teeter game, which uses the accelerometer, their FM radio program and a version of the Opera Browser optimized for HTC phones.

The browser is a treat to use, and makes the Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer look even worse than it is. Opera renders pages very fast, and they actually look like they were intended.

The Opera Browser looks amazing on the high resolution screen of the Touch Diamond2 – this is an actual screenshot.

The browser may not be completely on par with the excellent abilities of the iPhone or the G1, but it comes very close, and finally makes browsing the web on a Windows Device very pleasing. One extra feature of the browser is the ability to save “push pages”. These pages are bookmarks you can add to TouchFLO 3D on the main screen, offering quick access to a page that is always updated in the background. This is ideal for news, traffic or other dynamic pages.

There are one or two things that bugged me on the Touch Diamond2 – there is still no normal 3.5mm headphone jack, something HTC seem to do to all their phones (even their Android powered G1 lacks a normal headphone port). Headphones are included (and are required to use the FM radio) and normal headphones can only be used with an optional adapter. My only other minor annoyance is that the power button sticks up a tiny bit, which means the phone tends to turn itself on if the top is pressed.

You’ll notice that these 2 “annoyances” really are very minor – there simply isn’t anything on this phone that I “hated”. Seriously – everything on the phone, from its camera to its GPS is perfect. For the first time, I think it is safe to say that we finally have a Windows Mobile powered alternative to
the iPhone. Anyone who wants to stay away from Android, the Palm Pre or the iPhone, or who has a specific need for a Windows Mobile device should take a long hard look at this phone, and try to justify its purchase price.

Yeah – the purchase price brings me to the only real downside to the Touch Diamond2 at the moment. Currently, no US operator is selling the phone. The only way to purchase one, is through an unlocked phone reseller. The downside to this is of course the price – it currently sells for about $600. The other downside? Those phones lack the 3G frequency support required to use in the USA.

Still, I found the device to work surprisingly well on EDGE, and you can always switch over to WiFi when required.


  • Fantastic design
  • Amazing screen
  • Speedy processor
  • Windows Mobile mostly hidden underneath the brilliant TouchFlo 3D interface
  • Very impressive camera


  • No regular headphone jack
  • No 3G availability in the US (until the phone launches on a US operator)
  • Price is steep

Bottom line – this is the best Windows Powered phone I have ever used, and as a Windows fan, I’d even say that the hardware is better than the current iPhone (yes, even the 3GS). No US mobile carrier is confirmed to be on board with their own version, but rumors all point to a Q3/Q4 launch on several operators.