The Hyperpessimist

The grandest failure.

A Curious Kind of Review

Well, most hardware reviews go about devices that are brand new and yet to be released or recently released. I’m going to do the other way round, a review to a device being decommissioned.

So this is going to be about the Google Nexus One aka HTC Passion.

The Google Nexus One is a smartphone from the generation that presented Android as a viable system. This generation includes other devices like the twin model HTC Desire (a huge seller in Germany, you can still see many people using it) and the Motorola Droid/Milestone and shipped with Android 2.0 or 2.1.

The Nexus One got kind-of a false start in Germany, since it was only sold in stores for two months by Vodafone untill they pulled it from the shelves (actually, it was not on shelves, you had to ask for it). And while there was no branding, Vodafone still managed to flash their own firmware to it, meaning that the updates came form Vodafone and not the Google, effectively meaning that you had to wait a lot for updates.

But let’s talk about the device first. The Nexus one has a 3-point-something screen and as such can be used rather well with one hand. The singlecore 1 GHz Snapdragon is maybe not the fastest, but still fast enough for most day-to-day tasks and still, two years later specwise faster than entry-level Android devices. The Nexus One has two variants, one with an AMOLED screen, the one I own, and a later one with LCD which was produced because of AMOLED shortage. The AMOLED screen is rather okay, although you can see the PenTile artifacts. But still, better this than an overall lower resolution. The brightness is fine if you never leave home or live in places without sunlight, although if you wait long enough the autmatic brightness regulation kicks in and cranks up the brightness a bit.

The Nexus One was available in many colors: Black screen, and a pinkish brown bezel :-) Being a HTC product, it feels sturdy and according to my involuntary drop tests it is. I dropped it once from about 2m on a tile floor which split the device into three pieces… the back cover, the (removable) battery and the remaining device. After reassembly, the thing booted without a hitch. All the droptests caused a number of scratches in the body, though the screen does not have any, despite not being Gorilla glass or whatever. Also, my Nexus survived flooding in my pocket, because I was travelling during a japanese typhoon and it drowned. It crashed, displayed a red screen and after spending three days in a bag of rice it was revived, just like Jesus. Except for the vibration which is less intensive now, the device works just fine.

But the thing does have it’s hardware faults: the digitizer sometimes goes haywire and detects touch events with random offsets (fixable by turning off the screen, waiting, turning on the screen). The second issue is that the power button wears out and breaks if you press it often. Which is funny, because hardware issue #1 is fixable by pressing the power button which causes hardware issue #2. Also, the built-in amount of flash memory, 256 MB is ridiculous and can be only partly fixed by moving apps to SD since this only moves part of the app.

So, we made clear that this thing takes a lot of abuse. Let’s check the software. Mine came with Android 2.1-update1 which means “Android 2.1 with emulated multitouch” but was eventually updated to Android 2.2 and then 2.3.5. At this point, Google abandoned updates to the Nexus One, and Android 4.0 was only released for the subsequent Nexus S. So my “Nexus experience” was rather disappointing. At some point, I unlocked the bootloader (which was indeed easy) and flashed CyanogenMod.

One advantage of CyanogenMod is that it supports unlocking the screen via trackball, so I don’t have to use the flaky power button anymore.

Other surprising issues with the Nexus One: the battery is really good, I haven’t seen any (subjective) decrease in battery runtime at all. If anything, the runtime has increased with Android 2.3 which has some power usage optimizations.

Overall, I kinda think this was one of the best devices I ever owned. It’ll stay in the family :-)