Nexus One: Who's it for?

The Google Nexus One "superphone" is a formidable entrant to the smart phone market, but what should potential buyers look for? Three questions to ask before you sign up for one.

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    Host Sarah Rowghani looks at an oversized model of a Nexus One smart phone after a press conference announcing it Tuesday at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., on Tuesday.
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It was the worst-kept secret on the Web: Google was to release an Android-powered phone called the Nexus One to do battle with the iPhone, Droid, and the rest of the smart phones out there. Right on cue, Google delivered on Tuesday, introducing the world to the Nexus One and its exclusive Web store at a press gathering at its Mountain View, Calif. headquarters.

Tech reporters fell all over themselves to report the phone's specifications – dissecting the doodads, gawking over the gizmos. But a phone is more than a page of specs – and for the average person, buying one is more of a commitment than picking up, say, a TV, refrigerator, or alarm clock.

It's easy to want to snap up the latest-greatest gadgets, but here's a few questions to ask before buying the Google Nexus One (or any smart phone):

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Will it work where I live? Coverage maps have been the subject of much debate and displeasure of late, earning top billing in a series of AT&T and Verizon ads. Though Google made waves by announcing that the Nexus One would be available with several wireless service providers (and even without one at all, for a price), most US users will end up using the Nexus One on T-Mobile's network. A peek at T-Mobile's coverage map (see coverage.t-mobile.com) reveals great swaths of the country without data coverage. Live in the Great Plains or Mountain West? Things are pretty barren, data-wise. The site, like those of other wireless providers, allows visitors to plug in their address to see what level of coverage to expect. If T-Mobile doesn't cover your home address (and if you can't wait till spring, when other wireless providers, including Verizon, are set to jump onboard the Nexus One wagon) it's probably best to look at other smart phones.

Keyboard, touchscreen, or both? Many, including the tech press gathered at Google's Nexus One unveiling Tuesday, have asked if the Nexus One doesn't upstage the other flagship Android handset of the moment: the Motorola Droid. In answering, Google and HTC execs allowed for the existence of different interface preferences – that two or more Android devices could coexist in the market, each backed by their own cadre of users. It really is a matter of personal preference: one brand of smart phone user, including the devoted droves of BlackBerry fanatics, swear by a physical keyboard. Others are content to tap out their messages on keyboards of glass. Only the latter need apply for the Nexus One, even with its vaunted voice-enabled interface. You use your smart phone more than your wristwatch – it's silly to sign up for one whose main physical interface just doesn't jive with how you like to use it.

Baggage? When choosing a wireless phone, contracts invariably enter the equation. And when thoughts turn to switching wireless providers, the early termination fee can quickly add a couple unpleasant decimal places. Such fees have changed recently, most notably with Verizon, who drew government scrutiny when it upped its to $350 late last year. A change to T-Mobile from a Verizon smart phone contract and you'll incur that $350 fee, prorated $10 for each month of the contract completed. (Patient Verizon customers can wait till spring, when Google has promised a Verizon version of the Nexus One.) Change from AT&T and you're looking at a $175 slap on the wrist, minus $5 for each completed month of the contract. What of those current T-Mobile customers wanting to drop their G1, MyTouch, or (gulp) Sidekick for the Nexus One? CNET's Michelle Lee points us to the fine print, courtesy of Google. The price of the Nexus One with a new, two-year T-Mobile US service plan for...

  • new T-Mobile customers: $179
  • qualifying existing T-Mobile customers who are adding data plans: $279
  • qualifying existing T-Mobile customers who are upgrading their data plans: $379

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When it was released, Apple's AT&T-exclusive iPhone created a wave of switchers, helping boost AT&T's subscriber numbers (and, some say, exacerbate its network issues). Will the Nexus One do the same for T-Mobile? What's your take? Leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter to weigh in.

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