The coveted "Google phone" launches in the UK on April 30 2010, but HTC's Google Nexus One isn't quite the superphone that Google intimated it would be. Updated April 29 2010.

It lacks some valuable features - like multitouch and Outlook calendar syncing - that we've seen on competing models, and the Android keyboard can be difficult to use. That said, the Google Nexus One's speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 1GHz processor definitely sets it apart from the Google Android pack in performance.

One asterisk attached to the Google Nexus One's performance involves its interaction with the T-Mobile network in the US right now. The phone has run into some network issues, a distressing shortcoming on a phone with so many connected features. Nevertheless, it is a very good handset and marks real progress for the Android platform.

The Google Nexus One will be available on Vodafone in the UK from April 30 2010. Compare deals on the Google Nexus One.

Design: Solid, but Not Groundbreaking

The Nexus One's hardware isn't especially innovative, and its design is unmistakably the work of HTC. In fact, it most strongly resembles a stretched-out HTC Hero. Still, the Google Nexus One is attractive and well constructed. Its rounded corners, solid-glass display, and rubberised back make it a pleasure to hold.

At 119x59.8x11.5mm, the Google Nexus One has a slimmer profile than the Motorola Droid. It also weighs less 130g. We didn't care for the drab two-tone gray color scheme, however.

Four touch-sensitive hardware buttons occupy the bottom of the Google Nexus One's display: Back, Menu, Home, and Search. A trackball, like the one on the HTC Hero, lies below the buttons. Though we're not a huge fan of the trackball on these phones - preferring instead to rely on the touchscreen - this trackball is fast and easy to use.

The touch buttons are quite responsive, too, though you have to press firmly to activate them. An oblong power button sits atop the Google Nexus One beside the 3.5mm standard headphone jack. On the right spine is the volume rocker; and on the bottom of the phone, the micro-USB port. The camera lens and flash are located on the back of the phone, and the microSD and SIM card slots hide under the battery.

The Google Nexus One's 3.7-inch AMOLED display has drawn a lot of attention, and for good reason. The display is superb. Indeed, photos and videos of the phone don't do it justice. You need to view the display in person to see how text pops out and how photos dazzle, as well as how nicely the display showcases such new features of Android 2.1 as the scrolling menu and the 3D wallpaper.

When you take the phone outdoors, though, you lose much of the display's visibility, especially in bright sunlight. This limitation will especially disappoint casual photographers who would like to snap lots of pictures with the phone's 5-megapixel camera - as outdoors it is quite difficult to see the images you shoot.

Android OS 2.1: A Few Cosmetic Tweaks

The Google Nexus One launch was not just about the hardware: this is the first phone to run Android OS 2.1. It hasn't been announced when - or if - other phones, like the Motorola Droid (which runs Android OS 2.0) or the current crop of Samsung Android phones (all of which run 1.5) will get this update.

Android OS 2.1 adds some lively visual and aesthetic tweaks to the otherwise bland operating system - such as interesting animated wallpapers of falling leaves or waving grass. These look good on the Google Nexus One's display, but they're a bit distracting and they seem likely to cut into the phone's battery life at least a little bit. (You can opt for traditional static wallpaper if you prefer.)

You get five homescreens (up from the standard three) for widget and shortcut personalization. Of course, that's nothing new for Motorola Cliq and HTC Hero users: The MotoBlur and SenseUI user interfaces from Motorola and HTC, respectively, also gives users five homepages.

One noteworthy omission from Android 2.1 is the tab for pulling up your main menu. This is a good thing, because you now have one-touch access to your menu via a central icon on your screen instead. The revised menu incorporates a rolling 3D-like effect, and the icons seemed to pop more onscreen than they did in older versions of the OS.

The photo gallery got a welcome makeover, too. When you open the app, your photo groups appear in "stacks". Tap on one of the group stacks, and you can view the photo thumbnails in a grid. Alternatively, you can flick through full-size photos in a slideshow mode.

The most buzzed-about new element in Android OS 2.1 is the voice-to-text input feature. Now you can speak your current Facebook status to your Google Nexus One - if you dare. In our casual tests, this input method worked fairly well, though we had to speak rather loudly and somewhat slowly in order for the Nexus One to pick up on what we were saying, even in quiet environments.

The phone struggled to understand me when I muttered, spoke softly, or used colloquial terms. I can't say how often I would use a feature like this, day in and day out, but it's fun to play around with.

Although we appreciate the aesthetic tweaks in Android OS 2.1, other areas seem to have been neglected since the launch of the original Android phone, the T-Mobile G1. The music player is the same straightforward player that has appeared on previous Android devices; it supports album art, playlist building, and repeat and shuffle modes. You can add music via either the included USB cable or a microSD memory card, or you can purchase DRM-free tracks from Amazon.

NEXT: no Outlook calendar synching >>

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The coveted "Google phone" launches in the UK on April 30 2010, but HTC's Google Nexus One isn't quite the superphone that Google intimated it would be.

Google Nexus One: No Outlook Calendar Synching

To use an Android phone, you must have a Gmail account, but you can also set up POP3 and IMAP Web-based email accounts easily, and you can sync your Outlook account via Exchange.

Unfortunately, you can't sync your Outlook calendar on the Google Nexus One.

Google says that this feature is coming soon; but in the meantime, business users might want to delay jumping on the Google Nexus One.

When the Nexus One first launched in the US, we were disappointed with the lack of multitouch input. Fortunately, Google has seen the light and multitouch input is now part of the deal.

Google Nexus One: Superb Camera

Overall, we were very pleased with the performance of the Google Nexus One's camera. The Android camera app seemed a bit faster than the one we were used to, and we experienced less shutter lag than with other Android phones. Outdoor shots looked fantastic, though (as noted earlier) the display is difficult to see in bright light. A few of our indoor shots had a slight greenish tint to them; despite this, details in my snapshots looked sharp, with no detectable graininess or pixelation.

The 5-megapixel camera gives you four resolutions plus a flash, autofocus, infinity focus, a 2X digital zoom, white-balance and colour-effect controls, and three quality settings. You can record video clips at lengths of up to 30 minutes at a resolution of 720 by 480 pixels (20 frames per second), but clips for multimedia messages are capped at 30 seconds.

Google Nexus One Performance: Hit-or-Miss

What makes the Google Nexus One stand out from its competitors isn't its OS or its design, though. It's what lies under the hood. The powerful 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor makes the phone fly. Apps loaded almost instantaneously, and web pages opened quickly. We especially appreciated the Snapdragon's power as we flipped through the Android 2.1's updated photo gallery app.

Call quality was quite good, although by necessity we were testing it in the US over T-Mobile's 3G network. One nice touch is that Google has now activated turn by turn navigation in Google maps.

NEXT: the Google Nexus One in pictures >>

VERDICT >>

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Google recently unveiled the latest version of its Android operating system, Google Android 2.1, along with a new device built specifically to run the new OS. The HTC Google Nexus One is the new high-end handset for the Google Android OS, featuring a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdron processor.

The Google Nexus One sports a stunning 480x800 OLED screen that displays Android 2.1's 3D graphics beautifully.

Google NExus One touchscreen

The retooled Apps menu in Android 2.1 lets you scroll through your apps with a fingertip - a flourish that rivals the iPhone's interface for slickness.

The Google Nexus One is the latest in a growing line of Google Android phones, though it is the first to offer Android 2.1. Other phones, including the HTC Droid Eris and the Motorola Droid, will feature Android 2.1 in the near future.

Google Nexus One side

According to Google, the Google Nexus One is as thick as a pencil, and weighs as much as a keychain Swiss Army knife.

Google Nexus One thin

In addition to its 1GHz processor and 480x800 OLED display, the Google Nexus One sports a multicolour trackball that serves as a notification device, light and proximity sensors, and a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash.

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Google's new Google Earth app for Android 2.1 includes the ability swipe your way through 3D landscapes. The display updates quickly and the graphics are richly detailed.

Google Nexus One Google Earth

The Google Nexus One's 5-megapixel camera is mounted on the back of the device. The phone includes a 3.5mm stereo jack and supports stereo audio via Bluetooth as well. In addition, customers can customize their phone with personalized engraving on the rear bezel.

Google Nexus One back

Voice control is now integrated into all facets of Android 2.1. So you can do a voice search for a destination, and the GPS will automatically guide you to it.

Google Nexus One voice control

Google Android 2.1 represents a step forward for Google's already impressive operating system, and the Google Nexus One seems like the ideal handset to show off the new OS's skills. But early adopters have reported teething troubles, so it may be worth waiting a few months before upgrading to the Nexus One.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

PCWorld.com

Google Nexus One: Specs

  • 119x59.8x11.5mm
  • 130g
  • 3.7-inch (diagonal) widescreen WVGA AMOLED touchscreen, 800x480 pixels
  • 5 megapixel camera, 2X digital zoom, LED flash
  • 720x480 pixels at 20 frames per second or higher video
  • UMTS Band 1/4/8 (2100/AWS/900), HSDPA 7.2Mbps, HSUPA 2Mbps
  • GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • A2DP stereo Bluetooth
  • Removable 1400 mAH battery
  • Charges at 480mA from USB, at 980mA from supplied charger
  • Qualcomm QSD 8250 1 GHz
  • Android Mobile Technology Platform 2.1 (Eclair)
  • 512MB Flash
  • 12MB RAM
  • 4GB Micro SD Card (Expandable to 32 GB)
  • Assisted global positioning system (AGPS) receiver
  • Cell tower and Wi-Fi positioning
  • Digital compass
  • Accelerometer
  • 119x59.8x11.5mm
  • 130g
  • 3.7-inch (diagonal) widescreen WVGA AMOLED touchscreen, 800x480 pixels
  • 5 megapixel camera, 2X digital zoom, LED flash
  • 720x480 pixels at 20 frames per second or higher video
  • UMTS Band 1/4/8 (2100/AWS/900), HSDPA 7.2Mbps, HSUPA 2Mbps
  • GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • A2DP stereo Bluetooth
  • Removable 1400 mAH battery
  • Charges at 480mA from USB, at 980mA from supplied charger
  • Qualcomm QSD 8250 1 GHz
  • Android Mobile Technology Platform 2.1 (Eclair)
  • 512MB Flash
  • 12MB RAM
  • 4GB Micro SD Card (Expandable to 32 GB)
  • Assisted global positioning system (AGPS) receiver
  • Cell tower and Wi-Fi positioning
  • Digital compass
  • Accelerometer

OUR VERDICT

The Google Nexus One isn't quite the game-changer people hoped it would be, though it certainly trumps other phones in performance, display quality, and speed. The native Android soft keyboard is in desperate need of a redesign. And throwing in multitouch - to enhance the navigation and typing experience - wouldn't hurt. Is the Nexus One the best Android phone on the market? It's close, but we think the Motorola Droid has a slight edge because of its hardware keyboard - imperfect though it may be. No wonder Android watchers have pricked up their ears at the rumour that the next version of the Nexus One will have a keyboard and will target enterprise users.

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