The Nexus One won’t tempt me away from the iPhone

It’s Jonathan Mulholland here once again!

Like most mobile geeks, I’m really enjoying all the Google Nexus One news; it’s starting to sound like a very nice device, and it’s obviously a very interesting move by Google. Seeing their vision of what a modern mobile device should be — and how far Google feel they can push their services into our pockets will be fascinating to see.

I’ve already pretty much decided that I’m going to give the Nexus One / HTC Passion — or whatever it ends up being called — a miss though. Not because I’m a total Apple fanboy, or because I’m one of those crazies worried about giving Google too much access to my data – I’m a very heavy user of all of Google’s services, and have been ever since I opened my first Gmail account back in 2005.

Why the reluctance then?  Android has many positives – mobile Gmail is great, Google Maps on Android is better than on iPhone, multitasking rocks and Android’s notification system is just plain brilliant.  But at the end of the day – from my experience (G1, HTC Magic and HTC Hero) – Android is actually a pretty sucky phone.

I think Ewan hit the nail on the head yesterday:

My biggest concern with Google is their apparent inability to bring anything to market that is actually ready for consumers to use. I’m talking, of course, about the perennial ‘beta’ labels that populate their technology. This beta policy makes a ton of sense — and I think the majority of geeks like me are thoroughly delighted to see the company make frequent updates to their services. I wonder, then, how they’re reacting to delivering a physical product that can’t be changed.

To say that the Android phone experience is a bit unpolished (even when tarted up by HTC) would be a massive complement; take the iPhone away from your ear to “press option 3 to speak to an advisor” and the screen lights up ready for use – easy!  Try the same trick with an HTC Hero and the screen will have locked.  Go to press the phones usual screen unlock key and you’ll often have killed the call.   It’s this kind of thoughtfulness that I think Android phones will always lack, mainly because Android devs don’t have a maniacal Steve Jobs standing over them yelling – “not good enough, do it again.”

The iPhone might have limitations — and the App approval process does appear to make some rather perverse decisions — but Apple’s rigid control of the platform undoubtedly makes it slicker.  We had to wait far too long for ‘copy and paste’ to appear, but when it did it was perfect.  Does any other device honestly have this feature implemented as well as the iPhone?

I’m also rather dubious about one of the Nexus One’s really big selling points — availability as a carrier unlocked device.  If this is true I really applaud the move, it could be a watershed moment for the telco industry, but I’m just not sure Google will be able to pull this off.  They don’t have consumer goods distribution experience; I suppose they could rely on HTC’s sales channels, but this would be a really big ask.   Google has previously given away unlocked Android devices to developers only, could they be dong the same with the Nexus One, planning to release the device to the public via one of the carriers (my money would be on T-Mobile)?

Then there is my final nagging doubt; good as the Nexus One may be, in my mind it’s really a second generation future mobile device (1st gen = iPhone, 2nd gen = iPhone 3G/3GS).   I’m sure it will stack up well against the iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre etc, but really we’re still watching Android play catch-up.

I still predict that the really big mobile news of 2010 will be the major update Apple announces to the iPhone platform in June, so for the meantime I’m sticking with Apple.

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