Hands-on With the Nexus One

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Here it is, folks. The Nexus One.

We’ll keep this at a minimum for now and lay down the facts about what’s new with Android 2.1 and what you need to know about the hardware.

(More on Techland: Live: Google’s Android Press Event )

What we didn’t know about v2.1 of the Android OS revolves heavily around voice implementation. Because of this there’s really no reason to lament on about the lack of a physical keyboard. You can now dictate all text fields (e-mail, Twitter, Search, etc.), but not address fields. Like Google’s Voice Search, the device will learn your speech patterns as time goes on. It appears to work well but I’ve had very limited time with it.

Android 2.1 also replaces the standard slide menu system with a grid icon and now includes 5 pages for widgets and apps rather than the traditional 3. The photo gallery has also been updated, but we’re not spending too much time with it for right now. And then there are the “live” or “interactive” wallpapers. This is enabled by the combination of the Snapdragon processor and 2.1 for better 3D processing. Corporate e-mail and contacts are supported but not calendar because it’s linked to your primary Gmail account.

(More on Techland: Nitty Gritty on the Nexus One)

On the hardware front, the Nexus One has an aluminum unibody-like frame. The 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is blazingly fast. The AMOLED screen should conserve battery power, but it’s too soon to say. The key factor with the Nexus One’s screen is its width. All other Android devices including the Droid have a narrow screen, which, in turn, gives users a cramped keyboard in portrait view. I would have preferred to see HTC’s Sense keyboard rather than the generic Android keyboard, though.

Many of you have asked over the last few weeks which Android device to go with: Nexus One or Droid. Well, from a software standpoint, the Droid will get its 2.1 update in a matter of days so that point is moot. As far as hardware goes, the Nexus One lacks a physical keyboard and comes with a larger screen. The camera also seems to work much better right out of the gate. It boils down to hardware preference – do you need a physical keyboard? Does carrier matter to you? The Nexus One will work on AT&T because it’s an unlocked GSM device, but it doesn’t work with AT&T’s 3G frequency, so it’ll run on EDGE. Google/HTC will push out a CDMA variant in the spring with Verizon. There’s a reason why Verizon has been pushing the Droid and Droid Eris as a buy-one-get-one-free deal the last few months. The Nexus One will eat Motorola’s cake unless Moto manages to push out an even better device before the spring.

We’ll have a full review of the device in the next week, but feel free to drop questions in comments and we’ll be sure to answer them as best we can.