14
Jan
IMGA0020

It doesn't seem like it, but just a year and a few days ago, Google made available the first handset to bear the Nexus name - and what a long way we've come since. When the Nexus One was released, there were cries of "iPhone killer" and of Google entering the handset arena in direct competition with Apple. While the latter assertion remains debatable - the first does not. The Nexus One was a near-total commercial failure next to the iPhone 3GS, and even the original Motorola DROID ate the Nexus One for breakfast in terms of sales.

But the Nexus One changed so much about Android, and the design philosophies of the phones that followed it. Way back in May of 2010, Android Police scooped the blogosphere with news of our own Nexus One running Froyo - generating a huge amount of buzz, especially for a device that was a "commercial failure." And yes, that buzz was more about Froyo than the Nexus One, but it was Google's flop of a handset that got the first taste of Android's latest incarnation at the time. The Nexus One spearheaded Android evolution in a way that surely has affected the devices we see on shelves today.

Changes: Android Evolution

After the release of the Nexus One, no handset manufacturer was about to have their flagship smartphone be bested by a one-off Google-branded device, and so the ante was upped. The EVO 4G offered a front-facing camera, a bigger screen and 4G WiMax speeds. The DROID X offered an even bigger screen, HDMI, a better camera, and Verizon's much-lauded network. Both phones sported 1GHz processors - undoubtedly in direct response to the bar set by the Nexus One. Android handsets began competing with one another.

Google's relatively quick release of the Froyo update for (well, at least for T-Mobile) Nexus Ones must have jabbed at the sides of Motorola and HTC. Motorola worked quickly to get Froyo on the DROID X, while HTC did the same for the Incredible and EVO 4G (though, at a markedly slower pace). Even if it took them months, it was a vast improvement over the rate at which smartphone software had been updated in the past - manufacturers and carriers alike had an incentive to get their devices running the most recent version of the Android OS.

IMGA0019

That is one impression the Nexus One has left on Android, and that impression won't be fading any time soon. Many consumers understand the difference between their phone and the Android OS, and this means manufacturers have two sets of demands to meet regarding their products. This has generally been a good thing - aside from a few bumpy Froyo transitions, the pressure to update Android phones to the newest version of the Android OS has generally (ahem, Samsung...) prodded manufacturers into action. The Nexus S is trying to continue that trend, but in the face of next-generation devices unveiled at CES (and those that will be unveiled at the MWC), manufacturers appear to be slacking off with Gingerbread.

Of course, you can't forget the spawning of the "pure" Android handset philosophy - though only the G2 and Nexus S have followed in those footsteps, to date. There's also the easy-root and unlock factor, something no device aside from the aforementioned Nexus S has featured since the Nexus One.

The Hardware Phylogeny

The Nexus One was a unique phone when it was released. 3.7" AMOLED display. Multi-color LED trackball. Capacitive touch buttons. Removable storage, battery, and SIM card. LED camera flash. Micro USB. Rubberized plastic.

How many of those things stuck in subsequent devices? After the AMOLED shortage, HTC and Motorola have consistently used SLCD technology for displays, though Samsung's SAMOLED-sporting Galaxy S line of phones remains the king of the hill for visual pleasure among Android phones.

The trackball design did eventually fail - debris inside and accidental damage to the trackball have made it seem archaic and unnecessary on an OS designed for touch-based interaction.

But the micro USB, LED camera flash, removable battery, rubberized plastic, and capacitive touch buttons have all survived in numerous devices. Granted, many of them are HTC phones, like the Nexus One, but it's fair to say that Google's brain child once again set the bar for consumer expectations in a flagship Android smartphone. When my Nexus One is dead and gone, I'll probably still use the charging cable it shipped with, and the data transfer USB cable as well. While the same could be said for an iPhone 3GS versus and iPhone 4, I can remain cable-compatible between three (or more) very different handset manufacturers on Android. I'll also be able to transfer over (well, hopefully) my handy 16GB SD card to the next phone. Eat that, iPhone users.

Battle-Hardened

My Nexus One has been through a lot. Here, let me show you.

IMGA0016 IMGA0018

Correct: I've rubbed straight through the paint on the metal banding along the back of the phone.

It ain't pretty - but it works. To date, I've not had to send in my Nexus One for any sort of repair. The only major hardware failure I've had is the atrocious ADATA micro SDHC card I bought shortly after my phone. It just decided to die one day - and ADATA, the kind folks that they are, refused to provide warranty service because I hadn't saved the cardboard packaging containing the serial number of my SD card. Needless to say, I use Kingston now.

The light-gray notification bar has permanently yellowed the upper 1/4" of my display - I don't lose any sleep over it. My trackball works fine. Battery life is just as good as the day I bought it. Capacitive touch buttons work great. I've had some weird banding issues on the camera - don't know what that's all about. And for whatever reason, whenever the phone experiences a sudden jolt, it powers off (and I mean very sudden).

Call quality is great, and I don't ever find myself wishing I had another phone (aside from a brand-new Nexus One), and that is the hallmark of a great piece of hardware.

Is it perfect? Of course not. I experience the same odd touch-screen firmware issues as every other Nexus One user on the planet, as well as the notoriously finicky power button. But none of that really bothers me so much - it doesn't cause me to feel any ill-will towards the phone. Why? Because at the end of the day, I don't see myself picking up any other Android phone and thinking to myself "Wow, this is so much better."

That said, I'm getting an Atrix 4G come March. Come on, it is pretty cool.

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • robgt81

    Had my N1 nearly a year now, no problems at all. Why would I upgrade to a new phone while my n1 keeps going, all I might get is a bigger and brighter screen. And when CM7 is released my n1 gets a free update anyway!

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Dual-core speed daemon with a 1930mAh battery and 4G speeds (OK, HSPA+), for one.

  • jxcgunrunna

    It is a bit unfair to attribute the beginning of modern android handsets to the Nexus One. It did introduce Google as a player but Motorola's Droid is the phone that kicked off this arms race. Screen size and resolution. A8 processor. High build quality. Mass adoption rate.

    Really the G1, D1, N1 and EVO have been game changers.

  • Michael

    I own a non-contract Nexus One and a Droid-X through Verizon. Despite the Nexus One being an older phone, it's my favorite of the two. The screen is smaller, but looks better. The vanilla Froyo UI has fewer glitches than Verizon's. The battery lasts much longer. Best of all - I'm not forced to have a bunch of apps that I don't want installed on my phone.

    For me, the Nexus One opened my eyes to all the benefits of owning my phone outright. From now on I'll avoid buying a carrier-subsidized phone.

    • D.G.

      I agree. The Nexus One also opened my eyes to owning a phone outright. Even with all the new phones that will come out this year (dual core processors etc..) I will not buy one that is a carrier subsidized phone. If it means that I have to wait longer and continue to use my N1 then so be it. I have grown accustomed to having a phone that is truly mine and will never settle for less.

  • Vlad

    Nice write up. I love my N1. To me, it was the first phone that showed Google & Android could compete with Apple (also the reason I switched from Apple to Google). I'll be switching to a LG 2x, since it's the first phone (along with other Tegra 2 phones) that seems like a true upgrade from the N1. Even then, it will make a great backup phone.

  • Will

    You can't move the SD card to your Nexus S though. And I don't think iPhone owners will be jealous of moving an SD card across when they have complete backup and restore via iTunes...

    • jaamgans

      Having moved from a G1 to a HDH we have backup and restore on Android too - and its even simpler than iTunes. Just switch off old phone. Put sim card in new phone. boot on new phone, type in google details, put on wifi and come back 10 minutes later - virtually everything has been transferred across (some apps didn't as they hadn't been updated for 2.2 - fair enough - and I couldn't just swop my SD card as my G1 was rooted to run off it, but a quick 5 min transfer of my music, books, photos and videos and I was done). 20 mins top and if I didn't want to transfer music books, photos etc I wouldn't have even need to use my PC.

      • Someone

        Well, you could rub it in that you saved $100 because you swapped your memory instead of rebuying the same thing over and over again. If you buy annually / breaking contracts (as they do), you can save you some coin.

        i.e. Enjoy a nice dock or a spare battery with that $100 you save. If you get the Atrix, you can have a portable laptop with a 6 hour constant-use battery with a 10-12 inch screen.

  • RNex1

    I love my N1. I use it many hours every day since I got it on January 8th at 1:30pm. It's running Gingerbread (MM16) perfectly. I have installed over a 100 Apps including the unreal powered game. All running perfect on stock clock speed and a vanilla build. The N1 is a perfect blend of amazing technology and build quality all powered by the greatest OS Android. The N1 is perfect, I have had zero issues with it. The Atrix will be my next phone as well. It brings the best of the next generation technology than raises the bar with revolutionary accessories such as the laptop and media dock.

  • RNex1

    January 8th 2010 at 1:30pm :) Nothing has worn off and nothing has turned my plastic yellow and the trackball and power key work perfectly. My phone looks and runs like I just took it out of the box.

    • Joe

      Yup, mine is exactly the same way...although in my case it hasn't hurt that from day one I've kept mine wrapped in protective soft silicone case (my Case-Mate Torque ROCKS!) and, though I know I probably don't need it, a Phantom Skinz screen protector. And as for the Trackball, I don't know what I'd do without it, mainly because of the customizable notification colors. I get that the trackball itself might not be a great tool, but I have NO idea why other phones don't have a customizable RGB notifications light. With mine, based on the color I know from across the room if I have a missed call, text, email, weather alert, Market app update, package tracking update, or any combination thereof. Easily one of the simplest yet most brilliant ideas to come out of the N1.

      • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

        I used a case at first but decided to get rid of it after a month or so. Frankly, I haven't regretted it. That little guy is built solid! I've flung it across the room by accident, and even though the battery popped out, there was no damage to the phone. I love HTC toughness.

        • converter42

          On the other hand, I dropped my nexus one about 24" onto a carpeted wood floor. It landed square on the top or bottom (couldn't tell). When I picked the phone up, two or three columns of pixels were lit 100% white, and I noticed hairline cracks in the AMOLED (not the glass). Next morning I awoke to this

          http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2019832&l=ecdf4b2322&id=1245012560

          HTC replaced the AMOLED for about $150 and it's still in service.

  • n1-wifi not working!!!!!!!

    I have had issues with my n1 . WiFi not working unable to scan . My old Iphone 2G never have had issues with wifi

  • Jonathan

    Why would you switch to the worst wireless carrier just for a single phone? Really, good luck. As cool as that device is, AT&T will make you hate yourself every day you use it.

    Also, Teflon =/= "rubberized plastic". A lot of subsequent Android devices have indeed used rubberized plastic, but the reason the back of your Nexus One has held up so well is because it's Teflon.

  • Inspiron41

    i cried. i loved my nexus one too. but i moved onto its successor, the Nexus S.

    I wonder i should do with my Nexus One. It's still very much functional. I would give it to my gf, but she doesnt have a data plan and cant upgrade for another year. Some part of my wants to sell it, but i think i might keep it in its box and maybe it'll be worth something in 50 years or so. Dub this phone as the phone that launched a billion androids.

    • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

      She could still use it on wifi. I imagine that in the future it'll be worth about as much as the Star Wars Episode 1 action figures we all kept in their boxes, just in case. ;)

    • Someone

      Yup, that's me too. I moved to an AWS based carrier so I can no longer use my non-AWS N1.

      I use it as a portable game player plus email/browser when on wifi, and plan on giving it to my mom (no data plan) for the same purpose.

      The bonus is that because there's no data connection, there's no ads. It does cause (rarely) app crashes from what I see.

  • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

    Still love my N1, though these days I mostly use a Galaxy Tab (which has done wonders for my N1 battery life...).
    There were certainly rough points to the Nexus, but after we got 2.2 I feel like it was pretty much smooth sailing, and I still think it's one of the best phones out there.
    The N1 will likely be the only phone I actually keep for 2 years, not planning to upgrade until the next generation Nexus comes out. The Nexus S didn't seem enough of an upgrade to justify the purchase. I got the Tab instead, and am happy with that in conjunction with the N1. It also solves the low space issue ;).
    Can't wait for Gingerbread.

    • Andrew Bone

      Yes I agree I am waiting for a dual core nexus mobile till then I will keep my nexus one.

  • Marty

    I have an Evo which I love but I still miss my nexus one. I believe the N1 to be sexist phone ever made. I still prefer it's trackball to the incredible's optical mouse or the G2's track pad even though I only really found it useful for selecting text. I hope the next of nexus phones will be once again made by htc for I believe they make the best phones on the market. Well there's my 2 cents

  • Chris

    Still going strong on my Nexus One. Ironically, I got a Nexus S for Christmas but returned it in favor of keeping my Nexus One and pocketing the cash. I see no compelling reason to upgrade to the Nexus S when my Nexus One can do everything it does minus read NFC chips (which at the moment is a fairly useless feature until it gets widespread adoption).

    I've also been rather disappointed by build quality in later phones; I liked the Nexus One's metal framing for the heft and durability it gave it. I'm sure the newer phones with plastic bodies are every bit as tough (if only because when dropped, their lightness reduces the force of impact), but phones with a solid build like the N1 are hard to come by nowadays.

    Before anyone mentions the Atrix, I'm on T-Mobile and don't plan to switch to AT&T even if their network quality improves when that horde of iPhone users jumps ship to Verizon.

    If it gets released for T-Mobile I may be tempted so long as there's an option to buy it unlocked, and root support.

    • RNex1

      T-Mobile is a sinking ship as they say. They have never been the company that people rush to. They started with the G1 awesome yes but what have they brought since that's better than anyone else? Nothing. Now T-Mobile has stated they will focus more on bringing $100 Android phones to their customers. $100 Android phones are not cutting edge technology. Sure they get the G Slate but the Xoom will be better. That's what being a T-Mobile customer -is buying something and watching others get something better.

      • Chris

        As a GSM network, it's basically irrelevant whatever phones they sell, since unlike CDMA, any unlocked phone can be used on the network. They also don't charge extra for higher HSPA+ speeds, whereas AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint either already do or will when they roll out their "4G" networks.

        Although it is worth noting that T-Mobile has been the launch carrier for the Nexus One and Nexus S, the only one to subsidize and officially support both phones.

        They also do have a point at least in regards to AT&T and the iPhone; you get a great $500 phone, but also get saddled with a horrible network. T-Mobile's network is still relatively unburdened domestically and unlike Verizon/Sprint, all of its phones can go international (a useful feature; I've taken my N1 to Thailand, Cambodia, and China).

  • paulikxp

    Back in January 2010 I bought my N1 as an UK-import from the US because I wanted to be one the first to have it over here. Needless to say that I only met three other people having the same phone...
    Shortly before Xmax my 1st N1 gave up the ghost, the some months ago DIY-replaced digitizer had gone mad, the power button long gone as well.
    I bought a another N1 because it's still the best phone for me. No custom UI, quick upgrades/updates, nearly no compatibility issues. That's the way it should be.
    But: my next phone could be the Motorola Atrix, its specs look and sound gorgeous, the netbook-alike docking station is a class of its own.

  • David

    The only huge failure of the Nexus One was the decision to only have 512Mb internal memory (of which just 190Mb was available).

    Even 6 months after Froyo's introduction, apps2SD has been a huge failure as 95% of apps don't support. In my opinion it was very poorly implemented, the result being I had to stop installing apps months ago and now if I want to install a new app I need to uninstall another one to free up the space (despite the fact I have a 32Gb SD installed).

    As with others the Atrix will be my next phone. A high-res screen that doesn't use PenTile is exactly what I've been looking for.

  • bedoig

    Maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I'm pretty sure the EVO was the first phone outside the Nexus One to receive Froyo. Anybody with me, or am I just making that up?

    • David Ruddock

      The EVO had it before the DROID X, but the DROID X had Froyo within 2 months of release, so the cycle was shorter.

      The EVO took approximately 3 months from the public release of Froyo's source code, with the Incredible at about the same pace.

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        Motorola had a lot longer to get ready for the update than HTC, so I don't think it's a fair comparison. The EVO came out before Froyo was even released.

  • Nexus One on GB

    Love the story and my Nexus, really liking the looks and specs of the Atrix BUT....
    Seems to me the Atrix is setting itself up for the UPDATE failure:( If it is released in March, two months after Gingerbread was released and it is still running (2.2) Froyo with Motoblurr and webtop box that will surely slow the transition to GB. And in actuality this dual core phone is not going to reach it’s potential until it is running Honeycome. Just thinking, can I live with that??
    Spoiled:)

    • Chris

      That's another thing I've been wondering about: rooting is all fine and good for normal phones, but will installing a new ROM break the webtop functionality?

      If rooting the phone isn't terribly difficult and if ROM programmers support it (and keep webtop), that will at least partially negate the update cycle.

  • pax

    Unfortunately I sold mine in favor of a different phone. I regret that decision and would buy another one (if I could) in a heart beat.

  • Russ

    Be nice if Google got their finger out for the official Gingerbread update though.

  • Rich Riddle

    I was waiting online for the site to open when I bought my N1. Jan 5, 2010 12:44 PM CST. I will not be locked down to a vendor again. Have had no problems or issues but I do wish you could see the screen in sunlight...LOL

  • David H

    I bought a case after I dropped it for the thousandth time & broke off some of the camera lens cover. Then my car was broken into & phone stolen. I bought a new AT&T N1 through ebay (one of the few on offer there, thankfully.) This one hasn't gone out of the house w/o a case.

    I love my N1 & haven't even rooted it yet. I'm not one of those who buys a new phone every 6 months, I'll have this one for at least 2 years so long as it does everything I need it to. And you're absolutely right about the updates. We almost take it for granted now, but I had a Nokie e61 for over 2 years. Number of updates? ZERO.

    You really really need a case for this phone unless you are the most careful human being on the planet. I can't believe you've made it a year w/o breaking it!

    As for the AT&T haters -- fair enough if you've had problems, but outside the major metropolises AT&T reception & network speed aren't a problem. I live in Austin, TX & haven't had a single opportunity to complain, nor have I when spending time in Houston.

    I'd probably feel differently if I lived in NYC, but if you've ever wondered how AT&T stays in business (apart from the exclusive iPhone contract) that's the reason. Their networks only suck in huge cities.

  • Justin G.

    @David As long as your not prone to dropping things it will hold up fine. I don't have a screen protector or a case and the most wear mine has is a few scrapes around the corners from the 1 or 2 times ive dropped it and one mild scratch on the screen. Just learn to keep it in a pocket by itself or at least with nothing that can scratch it.

  • http://instantmoneypages.com Bo

    I've had my N1 for almost a year now, and I still can't find a reason to spend $500+ on a new phone. Yes, the new phones do have some better features, but they're definitely not worth $500. Eventually I will get a new phone, of course. However, if I didn't have any problems with the touchscreen, I'd stick with my N1 for at least another year.

  • Forrest

    What's next for pure google phone? Anything coming to Verizon?

  • Yoshi

    My N1 is still running strong. I haven't had a single issue with it other than the touch screen one that plagues most owners. I won't be trading up any time soon either. In my opinion the N1 is still the best available Android phone.

  • circa83

    people are still stupid including the writer of this article. the phone didnt sell as good as other phones because it wasnt offered directly from any carrier. if it did, the nexus would have ate the droid or any other for breakfast,lunch and dinner in term of sales. get that into your non-comprehending brain!!

  • paulikxp

    @circa83: you don't need to be a wise guy to know this well known fact. Nobody said anything else; in fact everybody here is addicted to his N1 and everybody knows about the mistake Google made with selling this phone on their own, so your comment is absolutely pointless.

    • circa83

      this just goes out to the ones that dont know nothing. to the people and writers that compare a phone that sells thru a carrier with a discount to one that isnt. i love this phone and always will. and im just bashing those individuals. hope you understand

      • Andrew Bone

        "goes out to the ones that dont know nothing" Wow thats a double negative... does that mean it goes out to all the people who do know something?

        • circa83

          "this just goes out to the ones that dont know nothing. to the people and writers...":

          you know what im talking. dont try and flip this on me. i posted this under this article and no where else. if i had posted this comment some where else randomly then yes its a double negative.

  • Keith

    Agreed with most of the sentiments here. Despite some of its flaws (touchscreen issues, OS stability after 2.2.1, poor battery life, LIMITED MEMORY (the worst flaw in my opinion)), I'm still inclined to stay with the Nexus One.

    Why?

    Stock Android seems to beat the pants off any of the skins I've played with. And given what I've seen from the OEMs with regard to updates, it does not inspire confidence that things are going to get better anytime soon. And I really don't believe Google has the spine to stand up to the OEMs and the carriers on this front.

    What saddens me is that I don't see phones coming out these days with some of my favourite features of the N1: the solid build quality with lots of metal, and the trackball. I've dropped my phone a few times and it's got a couple of scratches. Actually, I once chucked it across the room and the recipient missed the catch. Other than the few scratches though...nothing. No issues at all. And I really do love the trackball. It's awesome for things like copy/paste. Multi-colour LED notifications are amazing too. I wish that was standard on ever Android.

    Ideally, my next phone would be the N1 with a 4 inch screen and better internals (dual core processor, better graphics chip, more memory, bigger battery). Other than that, I love the form factor, I love the LED, the trackball, the build quality.

    • someone

      I haven't really seen any stability issues since 2.2.1 or .3...

      Battery life is about the same as most other 1ghz phones at the time, so I don't really count that as a strike.

  • chris pugrud

    Got my Nexus One a year ago (exactly) as a birthday gift. My N1 has picked up about 70k frequent flyer miles traveling the world with me and more than a few different SIM cards for local, cheap calling.

    My last AT&T contract expired last November so I dumped them (after 16 years) for the T-mobile "no contract" plan. I pay $20/month less, but don't get subsidized phones. Since I normally buy my own unlocked phones (travel), I save money and don't pay for crap I don't want and I'm not locked into a contract.

    I'll pickup a honeycomb tablet in the spring, but my N1 is going nowhere for at least another year. The N1 is the best phone I've had in 16 years and I'll be happily surprised the day i find a phone that fits my needs better.