Android

So I finally got my hands on the long-awaited Google phone AKA Nexus One today. After a long and unpleasant battle with NatWest my credit card payment cleared, and the phone was shipped from the US on 22nd January. It took only three days to arrive at my place in UK. That's quite amazing, especially since I was warned that the personal engraving on the back cover (see below) could take up to 72 hours.

The phone costs $530 without contract, and the shipping to UK is $30. On top of this I will have to pay 17.5% VAT. The customs procedure is handled by Google itself, so I will just receive a bill for that later. Google suggested a UK-compatible AC adapter during the online order for an additional $20, but I deselected this. Firstly, other people reported that this is basically just a US-to-UK converter plug that you can buy much cheaper at a local electronics shop (right now Google always ships a US recharger which is compatible with both major voltage standards). Secondly, you can also charge the Nexus One on your computer via the enclosed USB cable. Being the geek I am, I always have a computer running, so I can combine recharging with accessing the internal storage of the device on my PC. So the phone itself costs me around $658 (£410) in total, which is quite a bargain for an unlocked 'superphone' that is roughly on par with the iPhone. As for the SIM card, the data (internet) allowance is much more important to me than free minutes and texts, so I chose the "Online simplicity 10" tariff of O2 for £10/month with 150 mins, 300 texts and 30-days notice for cancelling, and spiced it up with the 'unlimited' internet option for an additional £7.5/month. Over a period of two years this tariff would set me back £420. I'd like to see someone getting an iPhone with two-year contract for £830 total. :)

Here are some pictures of the shipment. The stylish white box contains (from left to right) the phone itself, a nice protection pocket, the USB cable, the US recharger, and earphones. The engraving on the back side isn't as impressive as I hoped (printed instead of relief), but then again it doesn't cost extra. I also like the idea of being easier to identify in case I lose my phone. And if the finder has no intention to return the phone to me, at least he has less fun with it. :)

Many reviews have remarked that the build quality trails a bit behind the iPhone, but that the display is excellent. Not only is the resolution of the Nexus One higher (800x480, compared to the iPhone's somewhat feeble 480x320), but the display is extremely bright and with very saturated colors. In fact, it is so bright that I choose a medium setting in most environments, not least to save battery life.

Currently I'm having lots of fun playing with the phone and trying out its numerous features. There is also a huge amount of applications out there for Android-based devices, though not as many as for the iPhone. Below is a more random one displaying Calvin&Hobbes strips.

Surfing the web and watching videos on the Nexus One is also a treat. It supports Adobe Flash and even comes with a YouTube app preinstalled. Several other apps for watching videos can be downloaded from the Android Market, some of them (e.g. Meridian) having lots of advanced features like support for subtitles. Considering the open nature of Android, it is somewhat disappointing that the default range of supported video codecs is not larger than for comparable phones (basically just 3gp/mp4/h264). Until this issue is (hopefully) remedied, it will be usually necessary to transcode videos for watching them on the Nexus One.

"Jailbreaking" the Nexus One is a no-brainer compared to the iPhone. Google doesn't even try to prevent you from doing it and merely displays a warranty void warning when you do so. One of the main benefits of unlocking your Nexus One is certainly the possibility of tethering it to a computer, in order to go online on your laptop through the phone's network. It should be noted however that most providers forbid such a use of their data flatrates in their terms&conditions (though it is nigh impossible to detect) and that the fair usage policy gives you an effective limit of something like 1GB/month. This shouldn't be a problem though, as long as you keep the downloading of large files and online video watching to a minimum.