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Nexus One vs. iPhone 3GS Comparison: A Touchy Subject

written by: Arnold Zafra•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 5/19/2011

Here's our take on the Google Nexus One vs. iPhone question. Hopefully, after reading this comparison, you'd be able to decide which smartphone is the one for you.

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    iPhone and Nexus Take Off the Gloves - Touch Features

    We begin our iPhone vs. Nexus One comparison with a look at touch screen functionality. Apple has mastered this technology so well that the iPhone's touch screen remains on top in the face of the Nexus One's challenge. The iPhone 3GS is a tactile delight, never failing even with the softest tap or touch on its screen. IMG 9608 It has responded accurately and very seldom acted strangely in the year that I've used it. Even my previous iPhone 3G was great in this department.

    Now, don't get me wrong: the Nexus One's touch capability works well; just not as well as the iPhone 3G/3GS' screen. Sometimes, my first tap on a menu or buttons just won't register, and another attempt, at most two, is or are required. And for a smartphone that relies on touch for all its functionality, this is a significant set back to the Nexus One.

    Considering specifically the on-screen keyboards of both devices: Again, the iPhone 3GS beats the Nexus One in terms of responsiveness and ease of use. In the one month that I've used my Nexus One, it has acted up several times. I occasionally have to retype words or even entire short messages. At first I thought I was just not used to it, but after one month, I am willing to say the iPhone keyboard's touch functionality is better than the Nexus One's.

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    Second Point - Software

    IMG 9615 Going to the software side, we all know that both the iPhone and Android OS are very different platforms from a technical perspective. I will not go into details since this is a well explored topic and I'm not in the best position for such a technical examination. Comparing these two phones and their OSs on the merits of the user experience, in speed and performance, the Nexus One beats the iPhone. The newcomer is actually way faster than the iPhone, when using and loading apps using applications.

    However, one major strength of the iPhone which gives it an edge over the Nexus One is the availability of third-party native apps. The App Store is more popular and more supported by developers than the Android Market. Some leeway should be afforded the Android Market though as it is younger than the App Store and we can hope for more and more apps. If you're into playing games on your mobile, however, the plethora of iPhone games available at the App Store is hard to argue against.

    In terms of usability and user interface both are equally good; essentially down to personal preference.

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    Third Point - Power Management

    IMG 9629 The perennial problem of smartphones sporting a huge screen in high pixel resolution backed up with a sophisticated processor is battery life. One year with the iPhone and one month with the Nexus One have resulted in one truly unequivocal conclusion: they are both power-hungry. Particularly if you fire up every feature like GPS, WiFi, and Bluetooth, or are using the screen or speaker a lot, neither will get you through the work day without a charge.

    The Nexus One however, offers a very nifty power control system via a home screen widget. This widget lets you turn off the Nexus One's GPS, Wi-Fi, and Cloud Synching, as well as adjust Screen Brightness, in one place. Compare that to the iPhone's power management system which essentially has you chasing down options that affects battery life one at a time and you can see why the Nexus One gets the nod here.

     

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    Fourth Point - Look and Feel

    IMG 9619 The first time I laid my hands on the iPhone, the first thing I said to myself was - "Wow!" It certainly looks awesome, elegant and stylish with its glossy finish. Build-wise, the iPhone is solid as well. It feels durable, but looks nice enough that it will encourage you to take good care of it. The Nexus One produced the same feelings. The first time "Wow" factor was there.

    While the enjoyment was similar. in terms of look and feel these two smartphones are very different. The Nexus One looks more relaxed and ruggedized, yet exudes elegance and style. The iPhone exudes style and elegance mixed with an essence of durability. That's the best way I can word it and you're probably better off looking at the side by side pics we've included. Both phones are attractive and comfortable (though the ridge and less glossy surface make the Nexus one a bit easier to hold) and the difference here is down to personal preference.

    One thing we will note here as it is a breif point, though in terms of importance it might warrant its own section, is that more of the Nexus One's surface is made up of screen, and it is a higher resolution screen (3.7", 800 x 480, to the iPhone's 3.5" size and 480 x 320 resolution). And bigger is better when it comes to screens.

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    Fifth Point - Salient Differences

    IMG 9630 

    One advantage of the Nexus One over the iPhone is of course full support for Google Mobile services such as Maps for Mobile, Mobile Search, Gmail and others. Although the iPhone already has some of these services as native apps, when it comes to updates and adding more features, Google will certainly prioritize the Nexus One. Another feature of the Nexus One which gives it an edge over the iPhone is voice command capability. The Nexus One's built-in voice search is definitely wonderful while the voice-to-text capability is simply a great execution of something we've long dreamed of. And with this voice recognition feature, the Nexus One integrates fully with Google Voice. If you're a Google Voice account holder, this is very useful. The Nexus One also scores a blow with its 5MP (to iPhone's 3MP) camera, with LED flash no less.

    Another main difference between these two smartphones is on the media management side. The iPhone has the iTunes while the Nexus One works like your usual USB card which you need to mount on your desktop or laptop before you can transfer music and video files. While many hate iTunes because of its closes nature, it does in fairness work well. Alright, I confess: I love iTunes and how well it interacts with my iPhone. And I was kind of looking for the same experience on the Nexus One. There are third party media management apps that you can use for Android, but I've grown accustomed to iTunes and find that these other apps pale in comparison.

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    Conclusion - Overall Usability

    Overall, both the iPhone and Nexus One are great smartphones with incredibly attractive features. When it comes to day to day use including text messaging, voice calls, mobile gaming, productivity tasks, email management and synchronization - both deliver pretty well.

    The question is which one is better than the other? And the answer depends on what type of user you are. If you use your smartphone for productivity and communication purposes, and have less focus on media and gaming, the Nexus One is likely a better choice. But if you want a great media player and mobile gaming platform that also handles productivity and communications, you'd be better off with an iPhone.

    Brand loyalty might kick in here: If you love all things Apple, obviously you'd have to choose the iPhone. If just seeing a balding man in a black turtle-neck and jeans turns your stomach, the Nexus One is your ticket to a cutting-edge mobile super-gadget. If you're neither of these two and just want a useful smartphone: it's going to be tough choice, and hopefully our review has helped you decide.