Nexus One vs Motorola Milestone vs iPhone 3GS

It was all so simple, wasn't it? You've saved your Christmas pennies, you've skimped on Auntie Joyce's gift, gave the in-laws something you got free from work and finally you have the cash in your hands to pick yourself up a top-end smartphone with the latest software and high-end satnav capabilities. Then the Nexus One turned up and made the whole thing that little bit more confusing. So exactly what are the differences between these three? Which is the best for what you want and is it, perhaps, worth holding out for something else?

Size

 

1st Nexus One
119 x 59.8 x 11.5mm

2nd iPhone 3GS
115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3mm

3rd Milestone
115.8 x 60 x 13.7mm



First up, it's useful to know exactly how much of a lump you'll have ruining the line of your clothing. The good news for Google fans is that, of the three, the Nexus One is the most streamlined of all and, although it's quite a bit longer than the others, it's a little narrower and slimmer too. The other two are almost too close to call but it's usually the thickness of these things that can really annoy, so it's the 3GS that comes in second here.

Weight

 

1st Nexus One
130g

2nd iPhone 3GS
135g

3rd Milestone
169g



Again, it looks as if the Nexus One is the pleasure to carry around, weighing in at less than the iPhone despite the large screen size. To be fair to the Apple handset, 5g is hardly a deal breaker but the super-size of the Motorola is well worth noting if a heavy handset weighing down one side of your jacket is the kind of thing that might bug you.

Screen

 

1st Nexus One
800 x 480px, AMOLED, 1,000,000:1, 1ms response rate

2nd Milestone
854 x 480px, TFT LCD, 16M colours

3rd iPhone 3GS
320 x 480px, TFT LCD, 262k colours



The screen on the iPhone has long been heralded as a fantastic piece of hardware which makes the handset just as good a media player as as any on the block, but on a phone to boot. Both the Milestone and Nexus One outstrip the Apple offering in this department though. The other two are both bigger and better with pixel densities of 265ppi compared to 165ppi on the 3GS. Combine that with the upgrade to the AMOLED on the Nexus One and you've got yourself a lovely rich, crisp display that uses up less battery power too.

The only caveat here is that a lot of AMOLEDs tend to be a bit of a smudge-fest and can often be prone to difficulty viewing them in sunlight. The iPhone screen gives little glare and has the oleophobic coating to keep it clean too.

UI

 

1st Nexus One
Capacitive touchscreen & full voice control

2nd iPhone 3GS
Capacitive touchscreen

3rd Milestone
Capacitive touchscreen & QWERTY



What you see on a beautiful screen may be one thing but how you interact with it makes all the difference. The pinch and zoom, capacitive touchscreen of the iPhone is probably the key component of the handset's success. It's the standard by which all others seem to be judged. Both the Milestone and Nexus One have similar quality capacitive screens of their own, but neither has multi-touch and instead double tap to zoom is as good as it's going to get for now.

But it doesn't quite end there. As well as the touchscreen, the Milestone has the added advantage of the slide-out hard keyboard. iPhone die-hards will tell you that the touchscreen is all they need and any BlackBerry user out there will pontificate about the glories of the QWERTY. No one is wrong or right here. You just need to figure out which camp you stand in before you buy, but what the Motorola does offer that the other two don't is choice.

Finally, and what lifts the Nexus One up to the top in what was a really tough call, is the full voice control. It's just plain impressive. It's the future, it works with every single text box on the platform and it gets better the more you use it. The Nexus One is on top for now, but perhaps only so long as it's the only phone with Android 2.1.

Imaging

 

1st= Nexus One
5MP, LED Flash, 720 x 480 video at 24fps

1st= Milestone
5MP, LED Flash, 720 x 480 video at 24fps

1st= iPhone 3GS
3MP + VGA video at 30fps



This one's very tricky to call. On paper, it looks as if the 3GS is well out of things. It has a lower resolution and no flash, but what it does offer are features like auto white balancing, touch to focus and a better frame rate on the video capture than the other two - very handy for recording anything moving. What's more, image resolution is one thing but the quality of the components and the glassware on the iPhone snapper work very well together and produce some of the crispest shots you'll find on a phone anywhere.

On the other hand, the LED flash on the other two is a seriously welcome feature on a smartphone. All too many high-end mobiles seem to opt out here which rather limits any photography to daylight situations only.

Processing Power

 

1st Nexus One
512MB RAM, 1GHz CPU

2nd iPhone 3GS
256MB RAM, 600MHz CPU

3rd Milestone
256MB RAM, 550MHz CPU



It's pretty clear at a glance that the Nexus One is the standout winner here with the other two phones pretty much of a muchness. Raw internal specs aren't everything, of course, as any Mac fanboy will tell you. It all rather depends on how much work you're asking the memory and processor to do at any one time. The fact the there's no multitasking on the iPhone will leave it running quicker in general as there's a pre-imposed limit on how hard you can push it. Indeed, first looks at the Nexus One have left many saying that it's only nearly as fast as the 3GS.

Some of that memory power might get tied up in other areas like the live wallpapers too, so it might be an idea to turn those kind of features off if speed is of the essence for you. Once you've tweaked the options though, it's hard to see how the Nexus One doesn't clean up here. Beware though. The Toshiba TG01 also has a 1GHz processor. Doesn't make it a good phone.

Software

 

1st iPhone 3GS
iPhone OS 3.0

2nd Nexus One
Android 2.1 (Eclair)

3rd Milestone
          Android 2.0



Without getting into an iPhone/Android argument as such, there are one or two touches in the iPhone's favour such as the basic video editing and the 10x larger app store. However, don't let the success of the iPhone OS put you off going for one of the other handsets if you're not already signed up to either system. The Android Marketplace still has over 10,000 apps and rest assured that a huge percentage of the 100,000 plus on iTunes are either pure novelty or copies of others by another developer or both.

Mapping

 

1st= Nexus One
AGPS, GPS, Google Maps for Nav.

1st= Milestone
AGPS, GPS, Google Maps for Nav/Motonav

3rd iPhone 3G
          AGPS



All three of these phones offer turn-by-turn satellite navigation options but, if you live in the US, then the Android phones are the way to go given that they offer the modern wonder that is the free and easy Google Maps for Navigation software. They also happen to have dedicated GPS receivers as well as the AGPS system on which the 3GS relies. The maps render at lightening speed and they also happen to come with specially designed cradles for the task too. Naturally, iPhone users can shell out for the TomTom or CoPilot apps but there's still the issue of a smaller screen to drive by.

Storage

 

1st Milestone
512MB + 16GB microSD (expandable to 32GB)

2nd Nexus One
512MB + 4GB microSD (expandable to 32GB)

3rd iPhone 3GS
          32GB


Thankfully, there's little to debate here and it's only really through picking nits that we choose the Milestone as the winner. Essentially, all three phones have more or less equal storage potential of 32GB. The iPhone's is fixed and the only difference between the other two is that one comes with a larger microSD card free in the box. Storage is not an area of concern for the potential buyer.

Battery

 

1st Nexus One
1400mhA

1st Milestone
1400mhA

3rd iPhone 3GS
          1219mhA


Batteries on smartphones simply never last long enough. What's more, measuring them up against one another is a rather tricky thing to do when you take into account the different rates at which users drain each one with video, 2G calls, 3G data use, stills photography, standby, etc. So, once we throw that lot out of the equation, there are two questions left to ask. Firstly, will it last from dawn to dusk, from charge to charge? We won't know about the Nexus One just yet, but the answer for all three is probably - just about, yes.

So, what really separates these phones is the second question. Is the battery removable? The answer for the iPhone is no. So the idea of buying yourself a spare is non-existent. Instead users have to rely on an admittedly pretty good range of third party gadgets. Android users, though, can just carry an extra battery, charged and ready to go.

Other considerations


There are bags. Fortunately all three of these phones have things like Bluetooth, accelerometers, light sensors, proximity sensors, 3.5mm jacks and built-in compasses. The Nexus One has the bonus of a noise cancelling dual mic system as well as dock pins that may one day give Android the kind of exposure that the iPhone has enjoyed.

Probably the only negative feature of the Apple handset is that famous walled garden - both cosy and costly in equal measure. For many it's not a problem but free and easy cloud syncing on Android must be a little frustrating when you have to pay for that kind of service with MobileMe. Food for thought.

Probably the biggest consideration of all though is the age old issue with any part of technology - when will my gadget become dated. The answer with the iPhone is very quickly indeed. We're expecting both a tablet and fourth generation handset from Apple within the next 6 months. Opt for the 3GS and you could find yourself feeling a long way from the cutting edge.

For the Android pair, many might rather take the HTC Hero - an excellent phone in its own right - over the Milestone when it gets the Android 2.0 upgrade expected in the next few months. So, that just leaves the Nexus One. Today, it's the new kid on the block, but we seem to remember a certain HTC road map with a very similar looking phone due for release by March this year - very similar, except for the addition of an HD screen. Now that sounds like something worth waiting for. Decisions, decisions, eh?