November 21, 2014

The Nexus One Isn't a Game Changer, But the First Step Towards a Change in the Game`

A few months back I wrote an article that pointed out how odd it was that we continue to refer to our handsets as phones.  I likened it to a car being called a music player.  With 99% of all cars on the road sporting a radio why don’t we refer to our new ride as a shiny new music repository?  Silly, right?  But it makes just as much sense to call your Droid, Nexus One, Cliq, G1, etc. a phone when it is so much more.

The battle here is a “chicken and the egg” one in that it is all about what came first.  The car came first so no matter what we end up putting in the car it will always be a car.  Same with our phones.  Everything started with the cellular phone so no matter what more we cram into the devices they will always be phones.  With cars it makes sense, with our handsets it does not.

Google showed it understands this evolution of the phone when they dubbed the Nexus One a “super phone”.  I am not a fan of the moniker at all (whats to stop Apple from dubbing their next piece of hardware a “super-duper-phone” for example; it’s silly) but I appreciate the step away from referring to these devices as phones.  The truth is that the Nexus One is no more super than the Droid or even the G1, but what it does do is up the ante and gets us closer to the vision of what these devices need to be.

In the previously mentioned article on this subject I wrote that what we today call phones are in fact information hubs.  We keep our contacts, calendars, pictures, and so much more in there.  They are, for most, our central source for information.  Of course they also serve as a GPS system, alarm, entertainment system, web browser and more.  “Phones” have been doing all of that and more for some time ,so what is so “super” about the Nexus One?  It’s not what it does at all but how it does it.

The next step in the evolution of handsets is speed.

As a society we were all pretty chill initially.  The speed limit was lower, we waited for our food to cook and we were OK kicking rocks or playing ding-dong ditch ‘em as kids.  Then, fast-food places started to pop up.  We began to get upset when we waited a full, gasp, 2 minutes for our fries.  Microwaves invaded our homes depriving us of the fun watching the aluminum foil rising in our jiffy pop popcorn.  Give a kid a rock today and tell him to play and you better duck cause that kid is throwing it back at you.

We demand speed and “phones” have rarely delivered.

Sure apps like Google Maps, Places Directory, Sherpa and more are great, but are they fast?  No.  My wife has regularly pointed out that in the time it takes me to launch the app, type in my query and wait for relevant results she could have rolled down the window and received the same information from at least two to three people.

This is where the Nexus One excites me.  I envision a time where my wife and I are in some far off city watching one of our kids play soccer and the caffeine addiction kicks in.  Before she can roll down the window I will have pushed a button on my Nexus One and said, “Find the nearest Starbucks,” and within seconds the screen lights up with locations.  It will offer me phone numbers, directions and even reviews so we go to just the right spot.

No launching an app, no typing in a request and most importantly no waiting for results.  Husbands everywhere rejoice!

Having not had the privilege of handling the Nexus One as of this posting I am not sure if it can deliver on this promise, but I feel certain it is the first step in that direction.  No, the Nexus One isn’t “super” and in my opinion it’s not even a phone, but it does represent a change in the mobile game.  Before the N1 the focus was on more and more information from our tiny handsets.  With the N1, Google shifted the focus to speed.

Let’s see if everyone else can keep up.  Either way, we consumers are the winners!

  • Mark Yin

    Very good post – agree wholeheartedly… (I'd give you props, but I can't find who wrote this article)

    I bet some people with N1s still have not received a call, but have logged dozens of hours on the little beast! Give it 3-4 years and we will see the tail end of your vision becoming a reality…cloud-based, server side, massively-parallel processing, giving you full voice query results within seconds delivered over a 27-52mb/s 4G network…who needs a window?

    • Jose Salviati

      Thanks Mark. It was ME… ME, I wrote this!! (Smile)

      Hahahaha, N! = Window replacement! :>)

  • roy

    Nice read although I don't agree with the chicken and egg comparison. The iPhone for example used to be an iPod and we stopped calling that an iPod (or an MP3 player for that matter).

    As far as your conclusion goes; I completely agree. Speed is the name of the game and the Nexus One is a good player. This is also why I like the universal search and the speech input features. These things count and more apps should integrate with that. Also 4G speeds need to start popping up with Android leading the way!

    • Jose Salviati

      Thanks Roy. Good catch on the iPhone, iPod – actually pondered that today. Remember when we called devices that did everything BUT place calls a PDA? When the PDA merged with phones, we called them phones. Why not a PDA that makes calls? Appreciate the comment!

  • http://twitter.com/pauginer @pauginer

    I agree with your point. The evolution of the phone term reminds me the story about the Ship of Theseus. If you take someone from the 90s and show him one of the new "phones" he would probably classify the deviceas a PDA but not a phone.

    Another question: I have an iPod touch (which is not considered a phone) and I can call to my parents phone by using Skype. Does it make sense to not consider is as a pone depending on the kind of network it uses for communication (despite the functionality it provides)?

    • Jose Salviati

      Another GREAT point!! You guys are awesome. Most other sites tend to draw in, well, less thought-out comments. AndroidGuys.com readers rock!!

      It comes down to the definition of a "phone" becoming blurry, right? You can make calls on the iPod Touch but we don't call it a phone. We CAN make calls on our Android devices but to call them phones is odd. Crazy times – dogs and cats living together! :)

  • David Castellani

    I dont understand how you can make comments about a phone you haven't used? You are making this post based on your experience with Android then? What was the the last android handset you used? was it a G1? Things have changed greatly, and my experience with the N1 allows for just what you are asking for.

    Voice is available for almost every input box, launching Sherpa takes around 2 seconds, then pressing the search button and speaking "Starbucks", it automatically uses your GPS location and finds the closest Starbucks.

    By the time you have rolled down your window and found someone who might know where there is a Starbucks, Google Maps has already plotted the route and told me where to turn. :)

    • Jose Salviati

      Thanks David! Making comments about things we havent used, seen, or even experienced is the wonder of the contributing writer!! :)

      Glad to hear your N1 is providing the type of functionality I hoped for in this piece.

  • Ken

    I'm just waiting for the day I can say to the "phone", "find the nearest Starbucks" and it doesn't find a wiki on James Madison because it got confused by my wife who was yelling at people on the street.
    However, I would settle for this webpage displaying correctly on my Droid.

    • Jose Salviati

      Hahahaha. Thanks for the comment Ken.

      Makes sense to develop some type of ability to recognize a primary voice. Voice recognition is awesome, but its not at all where it needs to be in this category. A wife on her phone close by, kids screaming or the radio blaring all makes it hard to get the thing to understand YOU! Ken, I think you just threw down the gauntlet that will be the next challenge for voice recognition software – ESTABLISHING AND UNDERSTANDING A PRIMARY VOICE OVER ALL OTHERS!

  • Nick

    Google's "super phone" is just another name for a "smart phone," regardless, it's still a phone and still called a ____ phone. If you really want to call it something other than a phone, what it really is is a pocket computer. Our laptops are computers, our netbooks are computers, and when your phone is able to do everything that your laptop does, well, that doesn't make it anything more than a smaller computer.

    • Jose Salviati

      I wholeheartedly agree Nick! My wife uses her G1 way more than her computer. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://nexusonephonenow.blogspot.com/ Devlin

    It's a nice new smartphone indeed.

    Learn more about Google's Nexus One online now at:

    http://nexusonephonenow.blogspot.com/

  • Miguel

    I actually thought that what Google meant by Super Phone was that these class of phones would be of superior specs and price when compared to other smartphones and dumb phones.

    • Jose Salviati

      Thanks for the comment Miguel. I'm sure you are right. Google wanted to differentiate the N1 hardware-wise. When they announced the G1 they said it had as much processing power as our computers did 10 years earlier. The N1 has as much processing power as computers we had five years ago making it SUPER.

  • androidawg

    I always just call mine a handset. That seems to encompass everything and I never really felt right calling it a phone. Just sounded too dumbed down. I say "Handset" is the new "Phone".

    • Jose Salviati

      There it is…. lets start the grassroots movement Androiddawg – EVERYONE, call it your handset NOT your phone! Who is with me? :)

  • Ken

    I think the definition of phone is changing. When I hear phone, I think cell phone and generally assume most people I know have at least feature phones. Home phones are more often referred to as landlines. I hear low end cellphones referred to as dumb phones more often. So I will probably keep calling my phone a phone and expect others to adapt. It work for the the refrigerator that now includes a freezer and icemaker.

    • Jose Salviati

      I think the name has stuck. Good point on the 'fridge! Thanks for the comment Ken.

  • Dave Haynie

    "Phone" is a very silly name right now, but the name sticks.

    None of the smartphone devices came into being by evolving a mobile phone. Palm and WinMo came from a PDA tradition, bolting a cellular modem and microphone to an otherwise plain old everyday PDA.

    Apple took a different path.. they took the world's most popular PMP, the iPod, and bolted a cellular modem on it. And added web tablet functions. A year+ later, they decided, oh, maybe it's a PDA.

    In all case, the phone is minor… one function of a device that does hundreds of things, and otten a weak implementation of that phone. Silly, but that's how the naming was driven into the market. It's like calling my Swiss Army Knife (Wenger) a magnifying glass.

    The big reason the name "phone" sticks is simple: you buy the device from a phone company. Most people, in North America, sure, but some other places, buy a ready-made, configured and subsidized phone from the carrier. So obviously, it has to be a "phone". By the same logic, adding a G3 modem to my laptop ought to render that device a "phone".

    This should change. But nearly all the money is spent by the network people: Verizon, Spring, T-Mobile, AT&T. "Phone" kind of supports them. Does anyone really expect this to change?

    • Jose Salviati

      Nah – don't expect it to change, but – like you, I will call it out as SILLY! :) Great point about part of the reason these are still referred to as phones is because of where we bought them. Never really considered that! Thanks for the pose Dave!

  • http://eggincubator.blogsavy.com/ jim

    I enjoy hatching eggs and I loved this article. Very informative. Keep up the good work!

    • Jose Salviati

      Ha, thanks Jim. Keep hatching eggs, I'll keep writing :)

  • http://www.quadaple.com/ Business Solutions

    nexus one is a great technology and mobile phone thanks for the post.