A Month of Nexus One

My first Android phone is the Nexus One. I tried to wait for an AT&T one, but the battery in my 8525 wasn’t so good anymore so I decided I could wait no longer. So far I am pretty happy with the phone.

I ordered the unsubsidized phone, which leaves me an option to go with T-Mobile or staying with AT&T. Time will tell which one I choose. T-Mobile coverage is my main concern. If I knew roaming would work well in the US without obnoxious costs, I might switch. On the other hand, I have been reasonably happy even with AT&T’s EDGE speeds. It is fast enough for checking email, do light browsing, and navigation works as well. Most of the time when I need the higher speeds I am in some location where I can use wifi.

Setting up the phone turned out to be a breeze. I just went through all the settings on first boot and everything worked. I was initially somewhat concerned about being able to put in the settings for AT&T network, but I didn’t really need to do anything fancy, just looking in the wireless options and selecting the only carrier it found (AT&T).

Since this is my first actual Android device, I put my Android apps through some tests on actual hardware. Everything worked! I’ve also been able to work on some new features (namely location related) that I didn’t much attempt with just the emulator. Some updates will roll out shortly.

Getting adp working with Nexus One turned out to be a little more work. First I updated the SDKs and the Eclipse ADT plugin, but even after this the phone was just showing with question marks in the launch dialog and would not let me copy the apk and run it. I found a thread on xda-developers which gave me the answer. I am on Ubuntu 8.04 and this is what I did:

  1. Create file /etc/udev/51-android.rules with contents SUBSYSTEM=="usb", SYSFS{idVendor}=="0bb4", MODE="0666"
  2. Restart adp: adb kill-server && adb start-server
  3. Turn on USB Debugging on the phone in Application > Development settings
  4. Connect the phone with USB cable to the computer

I get great battery life on the Nexus One. And what I mean by that is that I can go for two full days before I need to recharge with my normal usage. I keep wifi, bluetooth and GPS off unless I am actually using them. I talk less than five minutes on the phone per day, browse a handful of websites for a few minutes, and read email several times a day. Surprisingly I also find myself playing some games, probably half and hour to an hour a day. You could say on most days I am not using the phone for anything that’d require a smartphone.

During my first week the phone had some stability issues, crashing several times when I had left it in the charger overnight. But once I uninstalled some applications that kept services running (SIPDroid, Fring and some other IM clients), I haven’t had a single crash. Best uptime when I remembered to check was over 300 hours.

I’ve encountered some annoying bugs as well. During my first week the phone got into a state where tapping the messaging icon always launched the browser. The only way I could recover was to reboot. This hasn’t happened since. Far more common problem is the soft keyboard not registering taps, or thinking I pressed one of the four buttons at the bottom (back, menu, home or search, with accompanied vibration feedback). Switching back and forth between apps fixes this eventually. I also seem to have situations when I don’t seem to get any GPS information. Some people have reported that this might require a reboot, but I haven’t been trying persistently enough to confirm if this is the only cure.

Voice recognition generally works great. There have been a few bizarre mistakes, like once I did a voice search saying “swype for android” and voice recognition thought I said “life on crack”. I find I miss a physical key I could press and do arbitrary voice commands, though.

One of my major issues with the phone, besides it not working on AT&T’s 3G network, is the inability to call out with Bluetooth without handling the phone. With my 8525 running Windows Mobile 5 and 6 I was able to tap my Bluetooth headset and say a name in my addressbook, and it would make the call. With Android nothing happens when I tap the headset, and I need to find my contact by handling the phone. This seems bizarre to me, since as far as I know California law requires hands free calling, and Google is based in California. Answering calls does work as I expect.

I haven’t been thrilled with voice quality on calls, which has been a surprise. I seem to get a fair bit of static. Also the earplugs and microphone that shipped with the phone have been practically useless; the other party can hardly hear anything when I try to use them.

I haven’t bought any apps yet, although I was tempted to get Locale. However, Locale author(s?) seem to have pissed off their potential customers by silently removing the free beta when they introduced their relatively expensive paid version while at the same time apparently making the paid version worse than the free version was. I’d also be interested in being able to buy Swype, since I don’t seem to be a very good typist with the builtin soft keyboard. Unfortunately Swype is not (yet?) available on the Android Market.

I don’t want to sync my data with Google, so I am looking for some way to sync with my PC. So far I haven’t had much luck. There are apparently paid solutions for Windows, and maybe Mac, but haven’t found anything for Linux. The most promising effort to me seems to be the Funambol Android Sync Client. AFAIK you could run your own Funambol server, which would solve my sync needs nicely. Except that at this point only contact sync is supported. If my phone loses data now, I am going to be sad…

I installed the Google update which added multitouch to Google apps, and I really like it in the browser.

I haven’t found the need to root my phone yet, but I will probably do that down the line to get some of the features that are not available otherwise.

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  1. Mike Wolfson:

    Thanks for the Nexus review. I have had the N1 for about a month, and your experiences mimic mine.

    Some comments: there is a beta for Swype circulating about the net. It doesn’t work on the Nexus, and gives annoying screen resolution errors all the time (even when the keyboard isn’t actually resident on the screen). I contacted Swype about this, and they informed me that the beta circulating wasn’t intended to be widely used, and thus not intended to be supported. Thus, I can’t blame them for it not working.

    Locale was a very buggy program. It worked sometimes, and not others. Of course, when it was free, that is acceptable. Charging $10 is too much (and I expect something much more polished for something so high priced – in the mobile app space). It is too bad that it isn’t great, as it is truly innovative, and was extremely useful (again, when it actually worked). I suspect they alienated a lot of their existing customers with their move to an expensive paid app.

    I have had 4 Android phones, and the N1 is by far my favorite so far. It is speedy, and the screen is beautiful.

    As with the other phones, I expect the stability will get better with software upgrades. I have had a lot of problems with the touchscreen not registering properly, and have found if I lock the phone, then unlock it, my touches register correctly.

  2. Heikki Toivonen:

    Thanks for the tip about locking and unlocking to get touches registering properly. It does seem to be a good workaround, and has lowered my blood pressure by quite a bit 🙂

    I should add a couple of another bugs and observations I forgot to include in my post:

    1. There seems to be a bug where the phone won’t vibrate on receiving SMS even though the setting is toggled. I read comments from other people regarding this, and it seems like things work right after you do a factory reset, but after you install a number of applications it will break.

    2. I am getting really annoyed by the fact that the trackball only lights up lazily with white. The hardware supports more, and it is possible to re-enable this if you root your phone. When I leave my phone on the table, it would be really handy to show me different color notifications so that I wouldn’t need to needlessly pick up the phone, unlock it, and check the notifications. Some notifications are simply more important than others.

  3. Wade:

    I agree on the notification light. This is one thing I sorely miss moving from a Bold 9700 to the Nexus One. Other than that, I am very happy with my first Android phone. Thanks for the review!