Android phones integrate with Gmail, of course. But while previous phones could only sync with a single Gmail account, this phone will take multiple accounts, allowing you to use it for both home and work. It can also interface with Yahoo, Hotmail, Apple’s MobileMe, and virtually any other e-mail provider.
Unlike the iPhone, which must sync to a desktop using Apple’s iTunes applications, the Nexus One syncs to Google’s cloud. That can cause problems, because not every setting inside the phone gets backed up on sync. In particular, neither ringtones nor applications are automatically restored after a phone is wiped and reloaded. Equally troubling: applications bought for the G1 through Google’s Android Marketplace need to be repurchased for the Nexus One when users upgrade. Google needs to make this kind of synching flawless.
Overall, the phone’s weakest area is privacy–specifically, features designed to prevent the accidental disclosure of information. There’s an option you can use to wipe and reset to factory-fresh settings, but it doesn’t wipe the SD card, and the wipe happens so fast that I doubt the phone is actually overwriting all the information in its massive memory. (Google did not respond to questions that we asked for this article.) The phone also lacks “remote kill” and “find me” features, both present on the iPhone. Android does support a novel feature that allows you to unlock the phone by swiping a design instead of dialing in a code, but once that’s enabled, the phone constantly drops into its locked state–unlike the iPhone, it offers no way to specify a grace period. As a result, it’s strongly tempting to turn this feature off.
The best aspect of this phone is its geek appeal: there are lots of useful controls and displays hidden under the covers. A built-in text-to-speech functionality has five settings that specify how fast the phone should talk. You can tap “Battery Use” and see the percentage of the phone’s battery consumed by the display, voice calls, cell standby, and each application you’ve been running. And tens of thousands of applications can be downloaded from the Android Marketplace–none of which required preapproval, as all iPhone apps do.
Today Android phones still represent a tiny part of the smart-phone market, which is dominated by BlackBerry (41.6 percent), Apple (25.3 percent), and Microsoft (18 percent), according to Comscore’s December 2009 statistics. During that same period Android commanded just 5.2 percent, although that was up from 2.5 percent in September 2009–presumably a result of the promotional blitz for the Motorola Droid. But it’s sure to expand, since BlackBerry and Apple phones use proprietary operating systems, inextricably linked to the vendor’s own handsets. For a handset maker that wants a state-of-the-art smart-phone operating system with a vibrant community of third-party applications, tens of thousands of downloads, and the world’s best handheld map application, there is really no choice but to run Android. And if you want the world’s fastest smart phone today, the Nexus one is an obvious choice. It’s certainly mine.