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Five Reasons To Get A Nexus One

Nexus One phone with the Android OS I’ve had a Nexus One for a few weeks and I can finally talk about it. It’s really nice – I’ve had a Palm Treo, an iPhone, and a G1 and this is definitely the best mobile device I’ve ever owned.

If you’re like me you’re probably tired of hearing about how every new phone is or is not an “iPhone killer.” To be honest, I really like the iPhone — I used to have one and my wife has one now. I’m not on the Android team, but I doubt they’re trying to “kill” any other devices – most Googlers like any mobile device with a full-fledged web browser.

That said, if you’re wondering which phone to buy, I think the Nexus One has the edge. Here are five reasons why:

1. The screen is really, really nice. This might sound a bit superficial, but the truth is I spend much more time surfing the web and reading than I do actually making phone calls. In my experience the higher the resolution, the less eyestrain. I also often use my phone to show people photos, and the Nexus One screen really does the photos justice.

I remember getting my iPhone and being amazed by the 480 x 320 pixel screen at 163 ppi. The Nexus One has a slightly larger screen, but much higher resolution, 800 x 480.

2. Voice input is awesome. Every time you need to type something, whether it’s an email, text message, or blog post, you always have the option of saying it. Today I texted my wife to let her know I was running late as I walked down the stairs from work – no need to look at the phone or spend time tapping out the message. That’s a pretty trivial example, but I find myself using it more and more in lots of situations just like that.

3. The video is actually adequate. This is the mobile phone I’ve seen that produces video that’s good enough to share with others. Here’s an example, and note that the lighting wasn’t exactly optimal:

We have a Canon video camera that we almost never use because it’s yet another device to lug around and getting videos off of it is a huge pain. I always have my Nexus One on me, and I can upload the videos directly to YouTube right after I take them. This means I’m getting a ton more video of my 1-year-old daughter and sharing it with family all around the country.

4. The photo gallery is nice, with great Picasa integration. I mentioned that showing off photos is a big use case for me, and the photo gallery is easy to navigate, fast, and looks cool too. It’s pushing me to use Picasa more even though I still prefer Flickr.

5. Multitasking is more useful than I thought. When the iPhone came out, I dismissed a lot of the criticism that it didn’t allow multitasking. How many different things do you expect to do at the same time on a small device? But as time went on, little task-switching annoyances started to add up.

I won’t run through all the possibilities, but my friend Wysz has a pretty good demonstration – he was able to get turn-by-turn GPS directions while listening to MP3s and streaming live video to the web. All on one phone. That’s pretty amazing.

Anything else? The Android Market is really starting to fill with cool apps, though it’s not quite as extensive as the iTunes App Store. I expect that to change as more people get Android phones. I wish I could write more about how developer-friendly the Android OS is, but I’m a bit ashamed to admit I haven’t made time to write a single line of code.

So, if you’re looking for a new phone, I completely recommend the Nexus One. If you really prefer a physical keyboard, take a look at the Droid, which has comparable specs to the Nexus One in a lot of ways. And honestly iPhones are still pretty cool, too, and I wouldn’t mind playing around the Palm Pre for a bit. This is the great thing about competition – right now we have a bunch of great mobile devices and mobile operating systems to chose from, and each is pushing the others to do better. If only we could say the same thing about the carriers.

If you have any Nexus One or Android questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.

Adding GPS tracking to your Android phone with Google My Tracks

Did you see the squirrel? I’ve recently switched over from my iPhone to an HTC Dream phone running Google’s Android operating system, otherwise known as the G1.  One of the main reasons I switched was because my older iPhone didn’t have a real GPS, and the cell-tower triangulation just didn’t cut it in many parts of the country.

Google just released an app that makes the GPS really useful, called My Tracks.  I’m not the first to write about it, and there’s a pretty thorough review at AndroidGuys, but I thought I’d share my first experience.  This is also an excuse to post more pictures of my cute kid on my supposedly technology-focused blog, since she came along for the walk.

To use My Tracks you’ll need to download it for free from the Android Market. Once you have it installed it’s just a matter of starting up and hitting the menu button and then Record Track.  You can put your phone in your pocket and forget about it while you hike or even surf the web and use other apps – it will keep running in the background.  Multitasking is another advantage that Android has over the iPhone.

Here’s my walk with my internet-famous firstborn:


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It’s fairly accurate, and you can even tell which side of the street I walked on most of the time. Mountain View is no metropolis but walking near tallish buildings downtown did seem to throw it off a bit. I promise I was not staggering from side to side as I walked down Castro Street.

You also get summary data about the duration, traveling speed, and even elevation changes of your trip.

On the trail at Rancho San Antonio The best thing about My Tracks is that it uses Google Maps and makes it easy to share your route with people. One note – you’ll have the click the little down arrow button on the map screen and choose “Send to Google…” before it shows up in your “My Maps” list in Google Maps. To embed the result in the blog post (like I did above), click the “Link” link in Google Maps and you’ll get code for an iframe.

You can also share some route details with Google Docs but to be honest I was hoping for more data – I’d like to get the point-by-point GPS data so I can use it to automatically geotag photos. I am an obsessive geotagger on Flickr but it’s just too time-consuming to do it manually if the data already exists somewhere. You can access Google Docs spreadsheet data with Python, after all.

Another similar Google product I haven’t signed up for yet is Latitude – I’m not so much worried about privacy as I am unlikely to be traveling around enough for it to be interesting at this point. Athena likes to go for walks but we aren’t roaming too far yet.

A Twitter Experiment: 15 Movies, 30 Hours

I’ve been known to do geeky things.  For one, I’ve been experimenting with putting parts of my life on the web live via Twitter.  For another, I’ve been going to a 30-hour science fiction movie marathon with friends for the past 14 years.

It’s time to merge the two together in a Twitter Experiment this weekend.  Starting on Friday, 7 p.m. EST I’ll be posting updates to Twitter about the movies, ridiculous sci-fi plot devices, funny cracks from the crowd, and the general movie marathon experience.

Now for some questions and answers:

Q:  How can I follow along?

A:  Follow me on Twitter and watch the snippets roll in.  Alternatively, if you’re connected to me on Facebook you can watch my status updates, it’s the same thing.

Q:  I’m going to be there, how can I participate?

Let me know in the comments below, we’ll make it a thing.

EDIT:  Use hashtag #marathon34 in any Tweets.

Q:  Why would anyone have even the slightest interest in this?

A:  The CWRU Science Fiction Marathon is really an excuse for a bunch of sarcastic people to shout insults and rejoinders at a movie screen.  It’s like a huge, live-action, sleep-deprived version of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Q:  No, I mean why would anyone have the slightest interest in you going to a movie marathon?

A:  Point taken, its not like I’m famous or anything (outside of being temporarily internet famous in Australia, of course).  Luckily many of my readers are friends, colleagues, and a bit geeky themselves. If you’re going to get a tiny-text-snippet tour through a science fiction marathon, though, I might as well be your guide – I have a fair knowledge of the genre, I used to be a movie reviewer, and I like to make sarcastic comments.

Q:  How is this possible?

A:  An iPhone, and WiFi or the regular data connection, that’s how.  I might also play around with my G1 phone with Android a bit.  If my connectivity fails for some reason, I reserve the right to basically give up and pretend I never even mentioned it.

One other thing I just can’t leave out of this post – when I mentioned this to my coworkers, they poked fun.  My coworkers at Google.  That’s right, I’m officially too geeky for Google.