Now that solid state hard drives are offering large capacities and fast access times, the goals of computer programmers, to recreate the desktop computer experience in a handheld, are getting closer and closer to fruition. Windows has shown us that it is possible to recreate the Desktop computing experience with “Windows Mobile”, while Apple has shown us, with the iPhone OS, that it is possible to simplify the PDA phone’s graphic user interface so that it feels native to a desktop user and can be easily mastered by someone completely new to an Apple style operating system.
Unfortunately, neither the Window’s Mobile phones of the past, nor the iPhone has fully captured the desktop browsing experience. Windows Mobile phones have been buggy, slow and pedantic, while iPhone does not offer a physical keyboard – making constant texting harder than it does making it pocketable and convenient.
The problem is, that no cellular developer has managed to combine a full physical keyboard; a desktop quality operating system; a desktop quality web browser (with Java and Flash), a camera/video camera, a digital music player, a video player and a CPU/GPU powerful enough to handle it all. And then you gotta’ be able to put it in your pocket… Thus far, the only phone I’ve seen that can offer all this, physically, has been the T-Mobile Sidekick, but its OS is too slow to handle most web apps and its got nil internal storage capacity. The G1 is a phone that’s been entered into the cellular market in order to attempt to meet the common point between functions. Compared to the iPhone/3G I’m happy to say that the G1 offers a lot that you can’t get in the iPhone 3G.
The G1 offers a full Qwerty keyboard which makes texting on AIM, typing on webpages and most other browsing tasks very simplistic. No, the phone is not as compact as the iPhone, but, given these circumstances, its overlookable. The G1 looks ridiculously large in pictures, but, in person it’s a much more compact, clever little device. The screen, fortunately, functions just as well as the iPhone’s, and has the same resolution (3.2-inch 480 x 320), but, it doesn’t support multitouch for pinching/unpinching images to zoom in/out. Fortunately, this phone feels worlds better than the “Storm”.
The G1 feels complete and has most of its bugs worked out. The beautiful thing about touchscreen devices is that with firmware updates, the phone can be changed over time to meet new demands - so long as the hardware permits. Android Operating System is a new kid on the block, but, based on this phone, it is a worthwhile, trustworthy option to Windows Mobile and iPhone OS.
What’s to like about the G1?
The G1’s internet browser, riding on the 3G network, is very snappy loading pages. I tested complex pages such as Engadget.com, Autoblog.com and Yahoo.com. I was able to load them in their entirety without artifacting/errors, and without having to opt for the mobile versions of the pages. I like the fact that browsing, both the internet, and the phone’s software suite, can be done multiple ways.
The touch screen allows for “inertial” sliding and scrolling like the iPhone/3G. The device also has a trackball which allows for mouse-like cursor movement. In addition, there is the full QWERTY keyboard that behaves quite similar to the current line of Sidekicks. I like the integration of Google maps. You can use features such as “street view” to see what a location looks like before you visit it, and you may also upload location-based photos so that others can see them. This feature will be available on other high end phones with Google Map software, but for now, the G1 is one of the few phones that does it very well. iPhone’s will get it in the next update by the way. Android is very easy to use. Most of the software is represented as icons on the main screen, and can simply be touched to open them.
The G1 does not support multitouch functions, so, instead, you will learn to touch and to “long touch”. Long touches on something will cause it to fade from orange to white, and you can then choose a contextual “delete this” or whatever other option there is. However, strangely, some icons don’t behave coherently with the touch instructions. The alarm clock for example won’t react to a long touch. Instead, you have to “short touch it” for the same contextual effect. Why?
I also like the snappiness of the phone switching from portrait to landscape. Since you’ll be doing this a lot, its important that the phone’s accelerometers get it just right. In some instances, its even snappier than iPhone’s.
Music downloading is handled through Amazon.com. Brilliant – they have a wide, wide variety of music (probably larger than iTunes) since they also control CDnow.com. Downloading music or videos is a snap and all it requires is an active account. Rather than spending money however, I rely primarily on YOUTUBE. The G1 downloads videos on Youtube just as well as the iPhone does, and fortunately, unlike the Storm, the G1 has a Wifi built in so you can use it even without cellular coverage nearby.
And What’s not to like?
The G1’s physical appearance is so asymmetrical that many people will consider it to be downright ugly, regardless what it can do. The shape is similar to a regular handset phone – curved at the bottom towards the face. When held sideways like a Sidekick, the keypad can be hard to type on for the right hand, or it can be awkward to hold for larger hands. Why couldn’t they have just designed a device more like the Sidekick in shape?
Unfortunately, the keyboard is the only way you can actually interact with SMS and text messages (AIM or MSN Messenger) on the phone. Just like Sidekick, if you want to send messages, you must whip the keyboard out. Why is there no touchscreen keyboard?
The device also doesn’t have built in Solid State Memory. It is forced to rely on micro SDHC memory. The phone comes with 1GB but you can expand up to 16GB (just like the Blackberry Storm). I have never cared for the relatively slow interface access times of these cards, especially after using phones with actual SSD memory. Hopefully, they will offer SSD in the future, but, for now, access times are decent for MP3’s and camera downloads to the card.
And why is it that both the T-Mobile Dash and now the G1 have these silly proprietary USB connectors, rather than a good old fashioned 3.5 (or even 2.5mm) universal headphone jack? How do you expect me to listen to music on my device easily if I need a dongle to do so?
The phone includes mobile versions of Google's Calendar, Contacts, Gmail, and Talk services. While the phone has an easy time synchronizing directly to Google’s online contact/calendar system (I prefer Yahoo’s), the standalone applications aren’t very appealing. I’m used to iPhone’s calendar system, and before that, Blackberry’s. Both of them looked better and cross-integrated better with the other applications. For example, touching a persons name could quickly locate them on iPhone’s Google maps. This part of the G1 needs firmware updating to make it better in appearance. As Google has chosen not to allow apps like VPN and Blackberry Enterprise (for obvious reasons), its important that the developers behind the G1 get this right – and soon. The G1 will auto configure popular email systems like Yahoo and MSN Hotmail, but many other POP3 and IMAP email systems have been left out and aren’t fully integrated. No Verizon.net for me !
The camera here does take video clips, but, its not very great for anything more than email photos. The pics are blurry and colors tend to be off tone.
CALL QUALITY / BATTERY LIFE
If you are already a T-Mobile customer, you are probably not very happy with your cellular reception. My sister, a user of 8 years, hates T-mobile’s service, but loves the phones she’s owned: Sidekick, Sidekick 2 and Dash. The call quality, as my Uncle has experienced over years, is “terrible” in his own words. In my opinion using the G1, the call quality is “distant”, “murky” and “staticy” but, if you happen to be in an area where there is 3G service, call quality is drastically better.
I noticed the exact same thing over AT&T with my iPhone against the 3G, but, AT&T’s network has never seemed as bad as T-Mobile’s. The phone’s battery life seems to be pretty good. It lasts almost a whole day and a half when used to take calls, but, its standby time has been reported by T-Mobile as 5 hours of talk time and 130 hours of standby power. The numbers are roughly those of the Storm and iPhone.
Besides downloading from Amazon.com, Android's also got a dedicated "app Store" like website called "Android Market" which you can see here: http://www.android.com/market
I'm glad they rolled this out because it puts the G1 on a good par with the other PDAphones in this ever-swelling market.
As updates roll in, I may end up changing portions of this review, but as it stands, the G1 is a surprise breakout device that stands up easily to the likes of iPhone and even manages to outperform the Storm in numerous ways (except call quality – which Verizon has hands down). Hopefully, T-Mobile will change the problems I had with the device to make it more accessible. Hopefully their service will get better. For right now, a T-Mobile Sidekick user, best go for a G1 over the Sidekick.
It offers plenty more than the Sidekick and is about $25 cheaper.
I’m not sure if Android is good for me. I’ve had a good time with iPhone OS and Windows Mobile. What I can say is that the G1 is a very approachable device that is user friendly enough for any non computer resident to enjoy using.
BLACKBERRY STORM - http://www.epinions.com/content_452311813764
IPHONE/3G - http://www.epinions.com/content_436824542852
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