Finally, an Android phone in my hot little hands

Summary:The T-Mobile G1 arrived stealthily on my door step yesterday evening, its unassuming white Tyvek shipping bag giving no hint as to Android-y goodness inside... Here are my initial impressions, both good and bad.

The T-Mobile G1 arrived stealthily on my door step yesterday evening, its unassuming white Tyvek shipping bag giving no hint as to Android-y goodness inside...

Matthew Miller posted a mammoth G1 review and picture gallery a few days ago, so if you're looking for unboxing photos that's the place to go. I do have a few initial impressions to add, however.

Objects in emulator are larger than they appear

First of all, the G1 is tiny. I guess staring at the Android emulator on my computer for 12 months had me expecting a much larger brick of a device, but this thing is about the size of the Blackberry 7130 it is replacing. It fits snugly into the Blackberry case too. It's thicker than an iPhone, but narrower; about as big as a deck of cards but longer.

Click, clack, moo

The keyboard slides out with a satisfying "clunk" sound. There is no shortage of keys there: there are dedicated keys for all the numbers, and even a key for the at (@) symbol. Two keys, actually, if you count the normal shift-2 to get @. For some reason I find the rise to prominence of the @ sign amusing. I wonder what Christopher Sholes, inventor of the Qwerty keyboard would think. His first keyboard didn't even have an @ sign (or a zero or one for that matter).

The position of the Return key and Delete keys  are currently driving me batty but I suppose I'll get used to it. The backlighting is a nice touch. By the way, after looking at the Black, White, and Brown models, I recommend the Black G1 because its matching black keyboard works much better with the backlight.

Say cheese

The built-in camera is nothing to write home about, but it works well enough. Focusing on close-up items (like barcodes) could be faster. Don't sell your regular camera just yet.

This little Android goes to Market

One of the first things I did with the phone was to download every application on the Android Market (well, tried to, more in a second). Downloads are *much* nicer than on the iPhone because they're all done in the background. You get a little notification when it's done. I'm afraid some users may be scared by the permission questions though - they're a little too much "in your face". Some permissions (like "full Internet access") seem harmless to me, so why should the user have to approve that? And "Phone calls/read phone state" is misleading - I'm pretty sure those apps that need it are not trying to make phone calls behind my back.

Man, it's crowded in here

Speaking of applications, I'm sorry to say the G1 has a serious flaw: a terrible lack of space for installing programs. There's under 128MB free in the current model. When I tried to download a bunch of apps from the Market I quickly used that up. Does anybody remember the bootstrapping programs we used to have to use on the Treo to load programs from the memory card? Looks like we need something like that for the G1. That's a shame.

Turn that thing down!

Nobody will complain that the G1 isn't loud enough. You would have laughed if you'd seen me scrambling to find the volume controls the first time I tried out CB Blackjack from Hudson Soft. Yikes! And by the way, is there some reason all their games feature a scantily clad model named "Charlene"? If my wife is reading this, I had to run it for my readers dear.

Keep a charger handy

After charging the battery all night I started playing with it this morning and the battery was dead by noon. I had WiFi and GPS turned on but we don't get 3G in my area so that was off. Screen brightness was set to about 40%.

Fast forward >>

The T-Mobile G1 is the first Android "gPhone" phone to hit the market, so it's bound to have a few rough edges, metaphorically speaking. What's really interesting about the G1 is the Android software and operating system that power it, and the application ecosystem that will grow around it in the weeks and months ahead.

Yesterday, Google released the full source code to Android. And Monday, anyone with $25 and Internet connection will be able to upload applications to Android Market. In "early Q1 2009", Google will allow developers to collect real money for their wares, taking 30% off the top for "carriers and billing settlement fees". Alternate marketplaces are springing up all over, and there are a boatload of Android books either available now or on the way. It's an exciting time to be a mobile developer.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Telcos

About

Ed Burnette has been hooked on computers ever since he laid eyes on a TRS-80 in the local Radio Shack. Since graduating from NC State University he has programmed everything from serial device drivers and debuggers to web servers. After a delightful break working on commercial video games, Ed reluctantly returned to business software. He... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.