Mobile

Phone-Hater Linus Torvalds Blesses Nexus One

Google’s Nexus One phone is a winner, according to Linus Torvalds, founder of the operating system it’s based on.

“I generally hate phones,” explained Torvalds, who is known as “the father of Linux,” in a blog post on Saturday.

“At the same time I love the concept of having a phone that runs Linux, and I’ve had a number of them over the years,” he wrote.

Torvalds has rarely used the phones he has had, including Google’s original G1, he said. However, he’s been a happy camper since he bought the Nexus One last week.

Navigation the Clincher

For Torvalds, the phone’s big selling point has been its turn-by-turn navigation capabilities.

“I guess what made me decide on the Nexus One was that I was driving up to Tacoma for a local scuba diving trip two weeks ago, and I actually had my old G1 with me,” Torvalds told LinuxInsider.

During the course of that trip, Torvalds used his G1 to find a restaurant using Google Maps.

‘Local Is Relative’

“But without navigation, and without knowing the area — ‘local’ is relative, since scuba is still over two hours away — it only got me part of the way,” he noted. “Then the guy I was car-pooling with used his portable nav-unit to actually get us there.”

That, in turn, “made it clear that a Nexus One would have been a good combination: the ability to look up things with Google — rather than the addresses or very limited points-of-interest that normal nav units have — _and_ then just navigate to them with turn-by-turn navigation is something I am willing to carry a piece of hardware around for.”

Both the phone and browsing capabilities were “very secondary” to Torvalds.

Superphone Status

Google’s Android-based Nexus One, which was unveiled last month, is billed by its maker as one of an emerging class of “superphones.”

It competes with numerous other Android-based phones, including the high-profile Droid by Motorola.

Though given top billing by Google, the Nexus One has encountered its share of obstacles in the few weeks since its release, including connectivity issues and problems with customer service.

Also notable is that the phone can only be purchased online.

‘What a Difference!’

“I wasn’t enthusiastic about buying a phone on the Internet sight unseen, but the day it was reported that it finally had the pinch-to-zoom thing enabled, I decided to take the plunge,” Torvalds noted in his blog.

“What a difference!” he enthused. “I no longer feel like I’m dragging a phone with me ‘just in case’ I would need to get in touch with somebody — now I’m having a useful (and admittedly pretty good-looking) gadget instead.”

‘A Superior Effort’

Indeed, Google’s heavy emphasis on location sets its device apart, agreed Chris Ambrosio, executive director of wireless with Strategy Analytics.

“I think what they do with not just navigation but the larger effort around location is an attractive part of the offering,” Ambrosio told LinuxInsider.

“The search and recommendations part of the product is where they’re spending a lot of time and effort, so it’s clear they’re making a superior effort there,” he added.

‘Gadget Porn’

Torvalds and his wife are now considering replacing her iPhone with a second Nexus One, whose screen “really is pretty gorgeous,” he told LinuxInsider.

“When browsing, you really can use the thing as a real Web browser, just because the pixel density is so high, and you can actually read some really tiny text,” he explained. “So sure, there’s the plain ‘gadget porn’ angle — the thing is a beautiful piece of hardware.”

The Android Market is another nice feature, he added, “for the couple of silly games that I can play when I’m waiting around for the kids or whatever, and having music _without_ the insane Apple iTunes model.”

Those, however, “are details,” he concluded. “So far the big thing is ‘Google Maps + navigation — that to me is the killer app. Maybe I’ll find others, but it’s been just literally a few days so far.”

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