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Top 5 Screens of 2010: #5 The Google Nexus-One

I’ve decided to make The Top 5 Screens of 2010 a true count down. Over the next week or so, I’ll be taking you on a tour of what I consider the top five most important screens–those square things you look at constantly–of the new year.

We begin with number 5:  The Google Nexus One.

Don’t be confused by all those commercials on TV. The Motorola “Droid” is not a Google phone. It’s just one of many phones utilizing the Google Android operating system.

Google doesn’t actually make phones. Well, they didn’t until two days ago, that is. On January 5th, Google announced the availability of the Google Nexus One, the first cellular phone developed, created by, and distributed by Google.

It is of course, just a phone. But Google is billing it as the first “Superphone.” Manufactured (to Google’s specifications, of course) by HTC, the Nexus One certainly has some impressive specs going for it.

The phone has 512 MB of RAM (compared with the Iphone’s 256 MB) as well as a 4GB MicroSD memory chip. The nice thing about removable memory is that it can be expanded, up to 32 GB in this case. There’s a camera, of course, with a whopping 5 Megapixels (impressive, though standard on the latest high-end phones) and video capabilities. It’s got all the features you’d expect, including WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities. It also touts some substantial battery life, up to 10 hours of talk time, or 250 hours if the phone’s idle.

The Nexus One is a touch screen phone, featuring two microphones- one that you talk into, and one that monitors the ambient noise around you to provide “noise cancellation.” If you don’t have any experience with noise cancellation, it’s a pretty nifty feature. What it does, essentially, is takes the sound of your voice, then takes the sound of everything going on around you, and using an “interference pattern”–the discrepancy between the two sounds–it cancels out all the superfluous noise. So, hypothetically, if you answer your phone in a noisy bar, the person on the other end of the line will hear only your voice, and not all the ruckus around you.

Like all Google products, the Nexus One was built with other Google products in mind. They make it so easy to use services like G-Mail and Google Voice that you’ll probably be tempted to start using them, if you don’t already.

Also, texting-while-driving just got slightly less incredibly-dangerous, thanks to the Nexus One’s voice-to-text feature. You can tell the phone what to do or type, and it will do it for you.

The phone will also talk to you, with the highly useful “spoken driving directions.”  That’s right, combining Google Maps with the phone’s built-in GPS, you have a free navigational system included. It will not only tell you where you are, where you’re going, and how to get there, but it will show you the traffic conditions on the roads ahead. With most GPS systems running for at least $100, that’s no small thing. Watch the short demo video below to get a better idea of the Nexus One’s integrated Google Maps capabilities.

As with any new feature-rich gadget, I could go on and on about all the things the Nexus One can do. But to me, the most revolutionary thing about it is that Google is selling the Nexus One unlocked. That means you can buy it directly from Google and use it on any service provider you choose. Usually, new state-of-the-art phones are tied down with an exclusive wireless carrier for an extended period of time. For instance, the Motorola RAZR–the first cellular phone that really generated a lot of buzz amongst consumers–was only available through Cingular (now AT&T).  The new Motorola Droid is available only through Verizon, and the iPhone is still exclusive to AT&T, though that’s likely to change in the coming year, as their exclusivity agreement is said to expire some time in 2010.

One of the benefits of buying a phone with a specific service provider is that, by signing a contract with the carrier, you almost never have to pay full price.  If you do buy the Nexus One unlocked–and for now, your only other option is a 350 dollar discount that comes with a two-year service contract with T-Mobile–you’ll be paying a pretty hefty premium. The Nexus One retails for $529.00.

As I said, it is, in the end, just a phone. It’s not as revolutionary as the iPhone was. And, frankly, until the phone and the personal computer truly become one, I doubt we’ll see a phone quite as radical as the iPhone seemed three years ago. The real importance of the Nexus One doesn’t lie in the product itself, but in the implications. Google has gone from being an internet search-engine to a mobile phone provider. By making this move, Google is telling the world that they see where the future of computing and the internet lies– and it’s in our pockets.

For some people, a phone is still just a phone. But it won’t be long before the phone is our lifeline to everything electronic. The number of gadgets we’re expected to be carrying around is ever-increasing, and at the same time, the functionality of these gadgets is expanding. Ten years from now, are we going to be carrying around fifteen different screens at all times, or only one? The mouse is already on its way out, but what of the keyboard? The times are a-changing. Where we’re headed is up for debate. But one thing is certain– wherever we wind up, Google wants to be there.


Google Nexus One Official Site

Google Nexus One Announcement

Nexus One YouTube Channel

Wikipedia: Nexus One

Wikipedia: Android Operating System

TechCrunch Review:  Nexus One

PC World Review: Nexus One First Impressions

NEXT: Top 5 Screens – #4 The Amazon Kindle (Review)

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