The biggest mobile news of 2007 was definitely the Apple iPhone and I think the biggest news of this year is the Google Android. I enjoyed my trip out to see the T-Mobile G1 launch last month and have now had the opportunity to use the T-Mobile G1 for almost a week. As a long time T-Mobile customer I am pleased to finally see a 3G device and one as functional and powerful as the G1. The G1 is not perfect, what mobile device is?, but after getting to spend time with it I am very pleased and happy I pre-ordered my own for delivery next week. You can check out my hardware image gallery with 57 pictures and my other image gallery with over 215 images that show every screen on the device, including pop-ups and options that appear with tap and holds on the display. I also have included 5 YouTube videos that show the device in action. The T-Mobile G1 is the first Google Android device and as I state below, the future success is largely dependent on developer ingenuity and involvement.
|Image Gallery:Take a walk around the hardware of the T-Mobile G1 in this hardware image gallery.|
Box contents: The G1 comes in attractive white box with G1 and Google prominently displayed. Inside the box you will find the T-Mobile G1, SIM card, battery and A/C adapter, Stereo headset, USB to miniUSB cable, 1GB microSD card, slip carrying case, manual, tips and tricks pamphlet, and warranty/terms and conditions book.
I am disappointed with the use of the HTC proprietary port for the headset. While T-Mobile does include a wired headset I want to use my own headphones for listening to music and watching movies. I ordered my own 11-pin miniUSB to 3.5mm adapters, but also heard that T-Mobile may include such an adapter with the G1 devices in the future. HTC and carriers should include such an adapter with every device that uses this port for the headset, especially those like the G1 that do not support A2DP with Bluetooth. I do like the use of this port for syncing and charging though.
|Image Gallery:Just about every screen of the T-Mobile G1 is shown in this image gallery of over 215 images.|
Out of the box first thoughts: I spent a couple of hours with the device in New York at the launch event so I wasn't really surprised by the hardware of the G1. However, without the security tether attached to the device I was able to get a better feel for the device in your hand and overall construction quality. The soft touch back is comfortable and even though the device is a bit long the width is narrower than the iPhone and feels more like a phone. The trackball works very well and the textured finish of it keeps it from slipping under my thumb like my BlackBerry Curve pearl trackball does at times. The device is very responsive and switching between portrait/landscape and between applications is virtually instantaneous. The display looks fantastic and the touch capacitive display senses touch perfectly. The keyboard is quite usable, but I'll talk more about it in detail below.
I was sent a brown (called bronze) one for evaluation and at the launch event they showed a black one (this is the color I ordered for myself), brown one, and white one. In the press materials I received with this eval unit it states that there are two color options for the US and that the white one is not an option.
Specifications: The T-Mobile G1 has most of the same specifications as other higher end devices today and it isn't really in the specifications where the device stands out from the crowd, but in the operating system. The technical specifications of the T-Mobile G1 are as follows:
- Google Android operating system
- 528MHz Qualcomm 7210 processor
- Quad-band GSM (850/1800/1900 MHz)
- Dual-band UMTS/HSDPA (1700/2100 MHz)
- 256MB ROM and 192MB RAM
- 3.17 inch 480x320 high resolution display
- 1150 mAh battery
- 3.2 megapixel camera with geo-tagging functionality
- Integrated GPS receiver
- Integrated 802.11 b/g WiFi radio
- Integrated Bluetooth 2.0 radio with EDR
- microSD card slot with support for SDHC cards (1GB microSD card pre-installed)
- Dedicated 5-row QWERTY keyboard
- Weight: 5.6 ounces
- Length: 4.60 inches
- Width: 2.16 inches
- Thickness: 0.62 inches
Walk around the hardware - internals: The 528 MHz processor seems to be just about perfect for the device since the device is very responsive and the battery life is decent. I haven't felt any heat in the device, even when watching movies and movie playback has been fluid and flawless so the process appears to handle graphics just fine. I am sure we'll see more applications that push the limits of the processor so we'll have to see how it performs then.
The device uses the 256MB ROM for the OS and application storage. I found out there is no way to specify installation of applications on the microSD card like you can with S60, Windows Mobile, and the BlackBerry and was curious if I was missing something so I contacted T-Mobile to clarify the issue. I was told that the device will not allow you to store applications on the microSD card (still not sure if it is the OS or drivers that don't allow it) and that is why a large amount of ROM was provided. T-Mobile stated that applications generally are less than 1MB and that the available memory on the G1 (128MB for applications) should allow you to store 100-150 applications before filling up. So far I have found that Bonsai Blast is 7MB, AccuWeather is 2MB, iSkoot is 2MB, Pac-Man is 2MB, the Video Player is 32kb, and Android Says is 404kb. In that case, I think it will be fine for 99% of the people using the device and it may actually be a good way to ensure your applications don't get corrupted by a bad sector on your card. The 192MB of RAM is used for running applications and so far I have not had any issues running multiple applications and letting the device manage the memory dynamically.
I was able to connect to WiFi networks flawlessly and the signal status closely matched other mobile devices. The Bluetooth profile support is lame on the G1, just like it is on the iPhone, and only lets you connect to a Bluetooth headset. You cannot use Bluetooth for a keyboard, voice dialing (with the included application), A2DP stereo headphones, or file transfer to another device or PC. That said, it does connect fine to headsets and in my tests the quality and connection stayed strong. Also like the iPhone, it is extremely easy to switch between a Bluetooth headset, speakerphone, or the device with a single simple tap on the display after pressing the Menu key.
I was able to obtain a GPS satellite signal in a few seconds every time, but unlike a couple other select devices (the HTC Advantage and HTC Touch Diamond come to mind) you do need a clear sky view to really get a good signal. The RF reception seems to be very strong and I get a full set of bars at my house with T-Mobile. The G1 has a geek status page in the settings that actually presents you with your signal strength and I regularly see
47 to 57 -57 to -70 dBm. 3G is supported on T-Mobile's new network, but currently is limited to King County in the Puget Sound area and in other selected areas around the country. The GSM radio is quad-band so you can use the device throughout the world for phone calls and EDGE data network access. I think you will only be able to use the 3G network here in the US though with the 1700/2100 MHz bands. I hope the local Washington State 3G network expands when the device is actually available in a week or so and hope it spreads fast.
Take a listen to all the ringtones on the device
The 3.17 inch 480x320 high resolution display looks crisp and sharp on the G1 and with the high quality wallpaper images the resolution and clarity is really shown off well. The resolution is the same as the Apple iPhone, but the pixel density is great because it is smaller. There is plenty of brightness available and I have it set at only 1/3rd brightness because it is so bright. There is no automatic light sensor so you have to manage the brightness manually and there doesn't appear to be any keyboard shortcut to help you control brightness. The keyboard has a weak backlight that can not be managed and on the bronze/brown test unit I can hardly see the characters on the keyboard in most of the lighting I happened to be in and could actually see the keys better if the backlight was turned off. I hope a developer comes out with a utility soon to manage the display and keyboard brightness and backlight.
Walk around the hardware - front: Along the top of the front is the phone speaker/receiver with a small indicator light on the right side. The T-Mobile word/logo appears just below the speaker/receiver and above the display. The 3.17 inch diagonal 480x320 display is absolutely beautiful and it is fun to quickly switch between the three Home screen panes with your finger since it is so responsive. The smooth plastic casing surrounding the display is colored to match the back and does a good job of hiding fingerprints and smudges. The casing feels good in your hand and feels like a very solid type of plastic.
Below the display is the edge of the upper part of the device that slides up to reveal the keyboard. Below this is a piece that is slightly angled outwards towards you (when you hold it facing you). Here you will find the Send and End buttons colored in green and red at the outsides of the bottom. To the right of the Send key you will find the Home button, trackball (centered on the device), Back button, and End key. As I mentioned earlier I really like the trackball and was quite pleased to see T-Mobile/HTC use this method of navigation. The small Menu button is located above the trackball and just at the edge of this lower part of the front.
Speaking of the display, it slides up to reveal the keyboard from left to right. The slider/hinge mechanism is unique in that it does not slide straight up like the Sidekick Slide and other Windows Mobile devices and it doesn't flip around and up like other Sidekick devices. It has a hinge that pushes it out away from the bottom and then moves the device through an arc and then back against the small bottom piece. The hinge feels very solid and locks into both open and closed positions with a definite thud. I took a closer look in between the front and back of the display and could see the display ribbon/cable move up and down as the display was opened. This too seemed robust and I think it will perform well over the life of the device, but we'll just have to see.
Walk around the hardware - sides: You will find the word HTC at the upper part of the left side (on the sliding screen part). Below this is the volume button where you press on the upper part to increase volume and the lower part to decrease the volume. Like the HTC Touch Diamond, HTC has implemented a fantastic feature with the volume button that lets you also quickly move to vibration and then silent mode just by holding down the decrease volume part of the button. If a ringer switch (like what is used on Treo devices) is not used I think this is the next best thing for quickly controlling your ringer volume.
Down towards the bottom of the left side is the microSD card slot. You actually need to slide the display up to access this slot and pull out the cover because there is a small notch for you to grab with your fingernail. The slot supports microSD cards with SDHC technology so you can currently use up to 16GB cards with 32GB cards coming soon. I have only tested an 8GB microSD card so I cannot verify what the maximum capacity is.
The only thing on the right side of the device is the camera button that is located down towards the bottom, just before the device turns upwards with the slight slant.
Walk around the hardware - top, bottom, & back: The only thing along the top of the device is the battery/back cover removal tab that is accessed after you slide the display upwards. You need to pull this tab outwards away from the device to pull off the cover (this is shown in one of my videos because it was different than I have seen on other devices and it took me quite a while to figure out how to get the cover off).
The microphone opening is found on the bottom left upper side. In the center of the bottom is the HTC miniUSB port that is used for connecting to a PC (no syncing with the G1), charging, and headset connection. While I don't like this port for the headset, I am very pleased with it for charging and connecting to a PC since I have these cables in my office, at my home, and in my car so I never have to worry about charging the device up. The G1 storage card appears when you connect the device via USB to your PC or Mac.
The 3.2 megapixel camera and mono speaker are found on the back of the device. The camera captures fair images in we lit conditions, but there is no real software and functions to speak of like I have seen on every other mobile device, except for the iPhone. The camera captures images in one resolution and there are no controls to change this. Video capture is not supported out-of-the box either and there is no flash. I would have thought with a 3.2 megapixel camera and HTC's camera software on Windows Mobile devices we would have seen something better than this. The camera does capture location-based information for geo-tagging though.
There is only one speaker on the T-Mobile G1 and it is on the back next to the camera lens. It is louder than the iPhone speakerphone, but can't compete with the fantastic Nokia Nseries speakers. I don't like having a single speaker on the back either as it makes it more difficult to use it for calls when you place the device on the table.
There is no lanyard opening on the device, but since I never use them I don't really care about this option.
Walk around the hardware - keyboard: While the device has a capacitive display like the iPhone, the big distinguishing feature is the full QWERTY keyboard that is revealed when you slide up the display. The keyboard is arranged with 5 rows that include a dedicated number row. There are two shift keys (left and right) and a decently sized space bar. There is a menu button, Google Search button (magnifying glass icon), @ key, and two ALT buttons so using the keyboard is quite easy. The keys are quite flat, but they are well spaced. After playing with the keyboard for a couple of days, I finally figured out when I used a keyboard like this before and it was with the Sony CLIE UX50 PDA. This device had the same flat keys with similar key travel, although this keyboard had larger buttons and was spaced further apart. I have a photo of these two keyboards in my image gallery so you can see the familiarity.
The keyboard does have a backlight that I mentioned earlier and again the trouble here is that in low and fairly standard light conditions the backlight ends up hiding the keys so you can hardly tell what each key is and cannot tell at all what the Alternate keys are. In very dark conditions, the main characters are pretty visible, but the orange Alternate characters are still very hard to discern. I didn't even think there was a keyboard backlight when I saw the device in NY and am disappointed with the current lighting. I am hoping that the keyboard on the black G1 looks better and has more contrast.
The right side area where the send/end keys are located does rest on the lower part of your right fingers as you position your thumbs to type with two thumbs on the keyboard. It actually fits in there pretty well and I haven't found it impacting my text entry. However, with a USB cable or headset jack inserted in the bottom port it is virtually impossible to enter text as you have to try to position your hand around the cable to work your thumb into position. I would like to see how the HTC and T-Mobile testers were able to enter text with a cable plugged into the device. I did buy a miniUSB to 3.5mm headset jack adapter that has a 90 degree elbow on it that may help with this situation.
Software - Home screen: As I stated earlier, the T-Mobile G1 has a beautiful Home screen that is actually divided into 3 parts. When you press the Home screen button you are taken to the center screen/panel where the clock is prominently displayed by default. Google Search is displayed on the third (right) panel by default and the left panel is blank out of the box. You can remove the clock or Google Search box and completely customize each of the three panels to your liking. You simply slide your finger left or right or move the trackball left or right to move between the three panels.
You can move your Home screen icons around by tapping and holding on them until a vibration is felt and then you can move them into one of the 16 available spots on each of the three panels. The picture frame icon will take up 4 spots on the display too. To add icons to the panels you simply tap and hold on a Home screen panel or select Menu>Add to open the pop-up that lets you add icons. You can select to add shortcuts to applications, shortcuts, or widgets with the last option to change your wallpaper.
Tapping on Applications shows you a long list of all the applications loaded on the G1. You simply tap/select the one you want and then move it with your finger to one of the available spots. You can also move it onto one of the three panels by moving it left or right as you keep your finger held on the icon.
Tapping on Shortcuts lets you choose to add a folder, bookmark, contact, Gmail label, or music playlist. I was wondering how I could add shortcuts to all the great applications that I hope are coming soon with only 48 available spots on the three panels since there does not appear to be a way to add more. You just select folder and then you can fill up the folder with applications. You need to tap on the name of the folder when it is opened to rename it. I created one for games and placed all the shortcuts to the games in here. I actually prefer this 3-panel limitation with folder support as it lets me get to my applications faster and lets me organize them how I want them to be. With the iPhone you just keep getting more and more panels/Home screens added and there is no clean way to organize all of your applications. It looks like there are 16 available spots in each folder and you cannot add a folder within a folder. The icons also cannot be moved around inside a folder. So, the bottom line at this time is that you could create 48 folders with 16 shortcuts in each for a total of 768 shortcuts on the device. I suppose you could get to that point if you added lots of contact, Gmail label, bookmark, and music playlist shortcuts.
There are currently only 3 available widgets that can be added to the Home screens, clock, picture frame, and search. Each of these widgets takes up 4 spots on your Home screen. The clock is a large analog clock that cannot be changed to a digital clock. The picture frame is a small thumbnail of one of your photos selected from your photo gallery. The search box is a Google Search box.
You can also change the background image (called wallpaper) and the cool effect is that the image spans across all three panels so you see a different part of the image as you move back and forth through each panel. Check out my videos to see this cool effect. There are several beautiful landscapes, two animals (big cat and jellyfish), 4 solid colors, and 3 other images provided for you to select from. You can also choose one of your own pictures that you loaded onto the device or microSD card. When you select one of your own photos an orange box is overlaid to show you what part of your photo will be used. You can tap and drag this box around to select the part of your photo you want to appear on the Home screen. You can use JPG, BMP, PNG, or GIF images for wallpapers.
Software - Top status bar, menu options, and application shade: I think the upper status bar and corresponding notifications shade is a brilliant way of presenting this data on the G1 and find that I constantly use it on the device. On the right side of the status bar you will see the time, your battery status, wireless connection status, and ringer status. These change as conditions change too. For example, in flight mode a small airplane icon appears in the wireless connection status area. There will also be several different icons that appear starting on the left side and these are all some type of notification. You will see notifications for new email, new text messages, new voicemail, missed calls, downloaded applications, and more. As you can see in my screenshot gallery you can fill up the status bar with notifications and status icons.
This status bar will also change dynamically so that as soon as a text message comes in it scrolls in ticker tape form across the top of the display in the status bar before turning into a notification. There are some very cool animations going on with the G1.
To access more details of these notifications you simply start at the top of the display and run your finger down the display. You will see an animation like pulling down a blind and the full page will appear with details on your notifications. You will see either part of the email or a number of new messages, phone numbers of calls that were missed, names of applications that were downloaded, parts of text messages you received, and more to give you a good idea of the notification so you can make an informed decision on whether or not to tap on the notification and view it in the native application. Once you tap on a notification it will be cleared from the list. You can also select Clear Notifications to clear all of the notifications at once.
The status bar is the one part of the display that appears in most all applications, but it is quite small and you still feel like you have a full screen experience in most all applications. This is refreshing given that Windows Mobile has top and bottom bars in most cases. To still give you lots of functionality on the device without touch only options, the G1 uses the Menu button and menu options throughout the device. In applications you press the Menu button to get access to controls, options, and functions in each application and these menus change with every application (again as shown in my extensive screenshot gallery. The menus change a bit when you switch between portrait or landscape modes too. You can move around the menus, and the entire device for that matter, using finger navigation or the cool trackball.
You do not have to add shortcuts to the Home screen panel if you do not want to and you can get access to every application by tapping the bottom center application shade. Much like the way the notifications shade/blind is lowered tapping on the application button extends the pop-up upwards to show you 16 shortcuts at a time. You then slide your finger up or down (or use the trackball) to see what is loaded on your device. Even if you add shortcuts/icons to your Home screen panels the base icon will always appear and remain here. Throwing away a shortcut on a Home panel does not delete the application and only removes the shortcut.
Software - Gmail: I show the setup process in screenshots and what you will find is that you must have a Google/Gmail account to even use the device. You either login to your existing account or create a new account when you start up your T-Mobile G1. If you are a Gmail fan who may have been a bit frustrated with the limitations of the mobile Gmail clients on other mobile devices you will be very pleased with the implementation on the G1. There are a couple of functions I have found that I can do on a PC in a web browser that I cannot do with Gmail on the G1 and these include selecting and managing multiple emails at the same time and adding any type of attachment other than a picture. Each email is dealt with individually on the G1 and there is no way to multi select a group.
Within Gmail you will see two lines for each email and this cannot be changed in the program. You will see the email subject, sender(s) name, large star (gold if you have starred the email), date or time (date is not shown for current days email), and any label you have assigned to the conversation.
You can view and manage labels (aka folders for you non-Gmail users), starred conversations, full threads of the conversations, full HTML email support so your email looks very similar to the email experience on the Apple iPhone and what you would see in a web browser without the ads, and more with the Gmail client. Emails that have labels appear with the label in white text on a blue background box so it is clear to see when a label has been assigned.
The tap and hold functionality is used in different areas of the device and one of the best places it is implemented is here in Gmail when working in the Inbox. Tapping and holding on an email in the main view makes a pop-up appear that lets you perform the following functions; read, archive, mark unread, add star, delete, change labels, and report spam. However, tap and hold does not work while you are viewing an email/conversation so you have to either scroll to the bottom of the email or use the menu button to work with the email (delete, add a label, archive, reply, etc.
You can tap the email heading (sender and subject) with your finger or select it with the trackball to expand and collapse the rest of the email. This allows you to quickly get to the Archive, Labels, and Delete buttons, but you still have to scroll to the bottom of the message to to Reply, Reply All, or Forward. I think you should be able to reply or forward by tapping and holding or with the menu options, but then again I suppose you shouldn't perform these functions until after you have gone through and read the email to the end, right?
Office documents, text documents, PDF documents, and images that are sent as attachments are also viewable in Gmail. A basic viewer in the program lets you view the attachments. There is no zoom or text reflow control, but you can fluidly pan around the document with your finger to see the content clearly in full native format. Attachments are clearly indicated by the paperclip icon next to the star and date in the email subject line. Attachments are not downloaded to your device for offline viewing so you will need a connection to view them.
You can tap a hyperlink in an email to go to the browser, but tapping and holding it will also give you the option of copying the link. Tapping an email address will start a new message and tapping and holding will let you copy the email address for pasting in elsewhere later. If a Google Maps directions link is in the email then tapping it will pop-up options to open in a web browser (using Google Maps in the browser) or open in Google Maps. You can also set one of these as the default action so that a single tap will bring up the selected application. The ability to send all of my directions (that I look up anyways in Google Maps on my PC) right to my phone for navigational purposes is awesome!
One of the main reasons I love using Gmail online is the powerful search capabilities and this is fully supported on the G1 where entering a search will search your entire Gmail account, on the device and on the server, and you must have a connection to conduct a search. This applies even if you have emails downloaded on your device so don't try searching offline.
Emails are actually downloaded to your device too so you can view them and work with the Gmail client offline. I was able to create emails on a recent flight and when I landed and connected again to the network the emails moved from my Outbox into the sent category.
Within the Gmail client settings you can create and use a custom signature that appears when you send emails from your device that is different than the signature you use with your online account. You can select what specific labels are synced and have content downloaded onto your device (the first 30 emails will appear in each label you select by default). Other settings pertain to the notification control so you can have a new email notification appear in the status bar, have a ringtone sound when an email arrives, and have the device vibrate when an email arrives.
While overall the Gmail experience is great, I like to read one message and jump to the next from the current message and there doesn't appear to be anyway to do this right now. You have to press the back arrow button and then scroll to the next message and then open it. I tried swiping my finger across and up and down and also moving the trackball without success. Am I the only one who navigates in their email like this?
Software - Google Search: When the operating system on the device is largely funded by Google you know that Google Search will be a prominent feature of the device. By default, the Google Search widget is loaded on the right home screen panel. This is a shortcut to Google Search in the browser so that after you enter a search term the browser will launch with your results. You need an internet connection to use Google Search too and unlike the powerful search options in S60 that search online and on your device, Google Search is just a web search. Since Google has a powerful desktop search client I think we may eventually see a device search client too.
You will also find a magnifying glass icon on one of the QWERTY keyboard keys in the bottom left. Pressing this initiates a search either back on the Home screen if you are on one of the Home screen panel or within the application, if it is supported. For example, if you are in your contacts and press this key then contacts search is launched and if you are in Gmail then a search of your email is initiated. However, in other non-supported applications (like Google Calendar) pressing the search key does nothing at all. I think if the application does not support it, then the default Google Search web utility should appear like it does on the Home screen panels when you do not have the Google Search widget on a panel.
Software - Web browser: The web browser on the T-Mobile G1 uses the same webkit base that was used first in the S60 browser and then in the Apple iPhone browser. This gives the browser some real power and gives you an almost desktop-like browsing experience. However, navigation within the browser is not as smooth and as intuitive as the iPhone browser, S60 browser, or Opera Mobile 9.5 and the current web browser will not win any awards as the best mobile browser at this time.
However, it is a powerful mobile browser and does have some great functionality. I just think some of the navigation methods need to be ironed out. A couple of these issues I have with navigation include the fact that you have to press the menu key to access the Stop button to keep a page from loading and when a page loads you cannot tap and hold or double tap to zoom in or text reflow and you need to pan around with your finger for a second to have the zoom in and out on-screen buttons appear to control zooming. This panning and zooming is clumsy and a bit frustrating and IMHO takes away from the browsing experience. Moving the trackball around hops to the hyperlinks found on the website and can be another way to move around. You can simply swipe your finger around the page and this works very well, like the iPhone, with faster swipes scrolling faster too.
You can view and switch between up to 8 windows within the browser (similar to the iPhone and Opera Mobile 9.5).
There are several keyboard shortcuts that are designated in the menus so you can quickly get to the Home page, history, back, and forward and I imagine using these may improve the experience a bit. Maybe adding some zoom capability to the keyboard would help.
Software - Google Maps: I wrote about the GPS receiver and the performance I have been seeing earlier in this review and now I'll take a look at the Google Maps application on the G1. Like Gmail, Google Maps offers a fantastic experience on the T-Mobile G1 Android device. People praise the experience of Google Maps on the iPhone and I think people will be pleased to see that same experience with some additional goodies. Search, directions, My Location, and zooming of the map is supported like the iPhone, but multi-finger zooming is not. The G1 uses the same two zoom in and out icons like we see in the web browser. I find the toggle between the text directions and map view to be very handy think it looks better on the G1 than on the iPhone.
Google Maps on the G1 adds Street View functionality for those areas of the country that support it. Street View can be handy for getting your bearings when walking around a city and to help improve that functionality you can access several unique tools using the Menu key. You can choose to step forward, step backward, zoom in and out, switch to the map view, report an image, and turn on compass mode. Compass mode is very cool to show off as your view of the map will change as you turn the phone, look up or down, and move around the area so you get a real view of the actual area.
Software - Messaging: While I was very pleased to see threaded text messaging included on the G1, I didn't think there was anything more to the Messaging application and almost skipped over diving even further into the application. Much to my surprise I found that when you are within a text message you can choose to add pictures, camera (and then take a photo from the camera), audio, record audio, and a slideshow. Tapping audio lets you send ringtone sounds loaded on your G1. Tapping record audio opens up a voice recording application (why isn't this a stand-alone application too?). Tapping slideshow lets you create an entire slideshow with text and pictures. I now plan to use this even more to fully discover all of its power.
Software - Calendar: Google Calendar on the device is again another powerful application that brings the desktop experience to a mobile device. You can only sync one of your own calendars (for those of us geeks with multiple Google calendars), but you can add and view additional calendars. After I discovered this I was quite excited because now I can easily view my daughters' calendars right on my G1 and each of their calendar appointments are highlighted on the left side with different colors.
You can view your calendar data in Agenda, Day, Week, and Month views. I like to live in the month view on my Nokia E71, but switched to preferring the week view on the G1 since the month view is not very functional. I like that you can tap on/select with the trackball different appointment blocks in the week view to see the details of that selected event. Day view is handy too, but I would like the ability to set my daily work hours so I don't have to scroll from midnight to midnight to see appointments. The Agenda view shows you a day or more (dependent on how many appointments you have) in a nice full screen format that again is quite functional. You can also easily slide your finger up and down the display to view your entire month's worth of events and appointments, which is something I have never seen on any other mobile device.
Entering new events in Google Calendar is also a nice experience with handy date and time selectors that are very finger friendly. You can setup basic recurrences, but I often have events, like soccer practice, that occur on Tuesdays and Thursdays or at other non-standard times that are not supported on the G1. Extra options, accessed with the Menu key, let you set presence and privacy settings.
Software - Phone and contacts: With all of the great Gmail, text messaging and browsing capability of the G1, you may forget it is still a phone. Thankfully HTC and T-Mobile did not forget this and provide you with a decent phone experience. From the Home screen with the keyboard revealed you can just start typing a contacts name and your contact list will be smart filtered, like Windows Mobile and the Nokia E71, and then you can quickly call that contact. There is also a large button on screen keypad to dial any number when the G1 is in portrait mode. This however, does not support smart filtering so is not as good as an experience.
Be aware though that if you are in landscape mode with the dialer pulled up the device states that you use the keyboard to dial. However, the keyboard entry mode makes no sense to me at all as it seems rather random numbers are assigned to the QWERTY keyboard and the device does not smart filter your contacts as you would expect. For example, the number 6 appears when you press O, M, and N and the number 9 seems to appear even more often. This must be some kind of bug in the current version of the software and hopefully will be fixed to function like the Contacts tab does. The number row does work as labeled, but if that is the intent then maybe the other keys should not return anything to avoid confusion.
As an astute reader pointed out in the TalkBack section
I think you will find that they are not so random. Take a look at an ordinary phone (home or cell). You'll notice, in addition to the numbers on they dialpad, each key also has some letters. 2 has ABC. 3, has DEF, and so forth. I think you'll find that these probably correspond with the matchings you'll find on your G1. (6 is MNO :P) As long as the number keys work correctly, too, this makes perfect sense. Often, companies will advertise numbers that have all or part of their name or some word instead of numbers, this is fairly frequent with toll-free numbers. They do this to make is easier to remember their number. Dialing one of these on normal keypad, unless the advertisement is a static/print one, and they also included the numeric version, is quite slow and clunky. It sounds like dialing one on the G1 would be effortless, just press the letter keys as given in the number. For instance 1-800-GOOG411
I gave this a try and this reader was absolutely correct and I stand corrected. This is actually a BRILLIANT implementation with the keyboard and I no longer have to hold two phones side-by-side to dial these types of numbers!
In addition to the Dialer tab in the Phone utility, there are Call log, Contacts, and Favorites tabs. The Call log uses colorful icons for calls placed, received, and missed. There doesn't seem to be any options for filtering the call log and the only thing that appears when you press the Menu key is Clear log. Favorites can be added manually by you when you tap the star, turns it gold, in your contact list. Recent and frequently called numbers also appear in your Favorites.
I never really used Google Contacts very much and after signing into the G1 this became even more obvious as a ton of contacts appeared that no longer are needed. I need to spend some time going through my contacts soon and culling them to really make the G1 a more functional device for myself. Tapping on Contacts opens the Phone utility with the Contacts tab selected. Tapping and holding on a contact lets you interact with them and their numbers via a phone call or text message. You can also edit or delete your selected contact.
You can add photos to your contacts, specify a contact specific ringtone, enter contact data (address, numbers, email address, etc.) and even select to send the contact directly to voicemail if you don't want to talk to them directly.
The integrated Voice Dialer requires no voice training and lets you call names in your contact list or state a direct number. If the number or name isn't clear then you are presented with a pop-up that gives you choices. The Voice Dialer does not work with a Bluetooth headset, but still is a pretty good application to have available.
The integrated Voice Dialer requires no voice training and lets you call names in your contact list or state a direct number. If the number or name isn't clear then you are presented with a pop-up that gives you choices. Usage with BT headset?
Software - Instant Messaging (Google Talk and more): You get mobile instant messaging clients for AIM, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger on the T-Mobile G1. I do not use AIM or Yahoo! Messenger so I didn't get a chance to use either one of these client. Google Talk is a fantastic experience and I actually prefer it on the G1 more than when I am in a web browser. You are able to carry on multiple chats (I don't know if there is a limit), manage your notifications and select a specific ringtone, add friends, and have fun with smileys. The thing I like about the smileys in Google Talk is that they all use an Android icon on the device, which is fun and geeky.
Windows Live Messenger also supports smileys and the ability to view more detailed contact info.
Different fonts and IM attachments are not supported so the clients are not actually as powerful as desktop clients, but they are very functional for mobile devices and are a pleasure to use. Unlike the Apple iPhone, the IM clients run in the background so you will receive notifications when a person responds or chats with you.
Software - Multimedia (music, video, camera): Even though you can only use the included stereo headset to enjoy media content, the device does have some good media applications. The music player supports the playback of MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, MPEG4, WAV, MIDI, REAL AUDIO, OGG formatted songs. I only used MP3 files with the music player, but liked the easy to tap interface on the music player that lets you view your songs by artist, album, song, or playlist. After jumping to one of these lists you can easily choose to shuffle all of your music or jump back to the library (which is where the four main buttons remain). From the main library view you can also select Party Shuffle or Search.
After selecting a song a page will appear that shows the album art, artist, album name, and song name. Tapping and holding on the artist, album or song name pops up a window that lets you search for the term in Amazon MP3, Google, and YouTube. You can also tap buttons to shuffle or repeat a song. Rewind, play/pause, and forward buttons along with a timeline for the song appear at the bottom of the display. Options accessed with the Menu key include library, party shuffle, add to playlist, use as ringtone, and delete.
A dedicated YouTube player is included and you can watch these videos with a WiFi or 3G connection. You can quickly jump to the most popular, most viewed, top rated, most recent, or most discussed videos currently on YouTube. You can also search for videos, add videos to your favorites, browse through categories, and clear your viewing history. You can view videos from today, this week, this month, or all time. All videos play in landscape mode with the standard rewind, play/pause, and forward buttons and content time line on the bottom of the display.
While watching YouTube videos you can add as a favorite, view the video details, share the link via Gmail, comment on the video, or jump to the home page.
The specifications for the T-Mobile G1 show that video playback of H.264, streaming, 3GPP, MPEG4, and Codec 3GP formatted files are supported. However, there is no video player included out-of-the box. If you jump to the Android Market though, you will find that there is a video player already available for free and it does a fine job of playing video content. I took a movie I had converted to MPEG4 for my Nokia E71 and watched it on my G1.
There isn't much at all to say about the Camera application because it is just as lame and basic as the iPhone software with on advanced functionality or even video capture capability. The camera will focus if you press the button down half way and then after taking a photo you have the options to save it, set as background or contact image, share via email or text messaging, or delete it. With the menu you can jump to the Pictures utility.
In the Pictures utility you can flip orientation of the selected photo, create a slideshow, share the photo, delete it, crop it, and view the details. The settings for Pictures include choosing the display size and sort order of the pictures. You can set the slideshow interval, transition, and whether to repeat the slideshow and shuffle the slides. Picture application
Software - Android Market: The Apple App Store has been quite popular and now Google Android owners will get access to the Android Market. When you open the Android Market application you will see featured applications and games along the top with thumbnails shown that you can browse through. Below this is the list for Applications, Games, Search, and My downloads. There are over 35 applications currently available and I have seen a few added even since I have had the device over the last week. My favorite applications are the Video Player, Pro Football, and QuickList. There are currently only 10 games available, but I found a few of them to actually be quite compelling. My favorite games are Bonsai Blast, Pac-Man, and Android Says. I plan to write a follow-up article talking about some of these applications in more depth soon.
After selecting an application, you can choose to install it and it is then downloaded and installed on your device. If the application will be accessing your data, GPS receiver, or other systems a box will pop up to warn you that this will be happening and then you can accept it. Applications are all stored on the device memory and as I stated at the beginning of this review you should be able to store 100 to 150 applications on your G1. So far all the applications are free so I am not sure how payment system works, whether tied to Google account or tied to T-Mobile account.
When you download and install applications, the status will appear in your top status bar. You can view details of the applications, uninstall the application, and view the permissions.
Software - Settings: There are a ton of settings that you can manage on your T-Mobile G1 and I recommend you check out my screenshot image gallery to see what they all are. In summary, you can manage your wireless settings, call settings, sound and display settings, data synchronization with the Google servers, security and location settings, applications, microSD card and phone storage settings, date and time settings, text entry settings, and lastly find out information about the phone.
Some of the most notable settings I wanted to point out that are fairly unique to the Google Android OS include the cool G1 pattern security system, QWERTY keyboard quick launch application functionality, and auto text functions. You can select to and then create a pattern that you draw on the 9 dots that appear on the display. You do not need to use all 9 dots either. My daughter quickly figured out one of my security patterns by following the finger marks I left in the face grease on the display so make sure to wipe off that face grease before leaving your device in a cab.
I LOVE the fact that the Google Android OS lets you assign application shortcuts to every key and number on the keyboard and wish more mobile operating systems would include this functionality out of the box. You cannot assign shortcuts to any of the other keys, but 36 keyboard shortcuts should be plenty to make you happy.
You can also select to have the device auto correct mistyped words, auto capitalize first letter in sentences, and auto punctuate (press the space bar twice to insert a period. I am not sure where the dictionary is stored on the device to correct mistyped words or if you can add words to the dictionary, but imagine this may be something developers work on to improve the device.
Usage - 3G and WiFi experiences: I was pretty excited when I opened up the G1 and immediately saw the 3G icon at my office in downtown Seattle. However, as I rode the train out of town and passed from King County into Pierce County my excitement waned as a large E appeared and the device went back to an EDGE connection. Now to be fair I don't think 3G officially launches in the Seattle area until next week, but it still may be localized to Seattle for a while. While using it in Seattle, and now in Houston, the 3G signal seemed fairly strong. I did have a couple of dropped calls, which I never do on T-Mobile so further testing is required. Here are my speed reports from DSL reports test: EDGE speed report (100kb test, 124kbps to 199kbps) and 3G speed report (400kb and 1MB test-515 to 648kbps).
I have only used WiFi a couple of times to test the network and buy some MP3 music, but the signal strength seems comparable to what I have seen on other mobile phones and I have no complaints or issues with it. I am not sure if this new T-Mobile data plan includes T-Mobile HotSpot access like my old plan did, but imagine that it does so you should be able to get connected via WiFi at Starbucks, Borders, and other HotSpot locations.
Usage - How is it as a phone?: Like I just said above, I have had a couple of dropped calls on the G1. However, I have also had several successful calls that sounded just fine. As I mentioned in the hardware section, the speaker phone is a bit too quiet for conducting a business call with others in the room. It is adequate for personal calls as long as you are not in an environment with lots of background noise.
The device does feel good in your hand and feels like a good phone to hold up to your head. I love the way that you can easily toggle on the screen between a Bluetooth headset, speakerphone, and the device and found it as flawless as the iPhone and much better than Windows Mobile and S60.
I like that you can easily assign ringtones to your contacts individually and the device supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, and WMA files for ringtones. There is no file explorer on the device and I have not found a way to get my own files onto the device for ringtones. That said, there are a ton of fun ringtones provided on the device and if you want you can check out my video that shows every one on the device.
Usage - battery life: While the device does have an 1150mAh battery, it still can't make it through a full day for me with the constant Google syncing, 30 to 45 minutes of browsing, 15-20 minutes of calls, and some other playing around. Thankfully, it does use the miniUSB port to charge and the battery is replaceable. I imagine a 3rd party higher capacity battery will be coming soon from somebody like BoxWave, but out of the box the geek mid to heavy user may not be very happy. It will probably go for at least a day for those coming from a feature phone, but those users are also used to much longer 3-4 days of battery life.
Pricing and availability: The G1 may already be shipping to preorder people like myself and T-Mobile has stated we will have them by 22 October. The second wave of preorders should come in the beginning of November. I am not sure if you will be able to find any in the store for a couple of weeks, but we'll just have to wait and see. The device will sell for as low as US$179.99 if you qualify or as much as US$299 which is what I paid. Unlimited data with 400 messages will run you US$25/month and unlimited data and messages will cost US$35/month with a qualified voice plan of US$29.99 or higher for a single line.
What's missing from the G1?: I think the G1 is worth the current price, especially to get 3G and access to the Google Android OS. There are a few things it is currently missing, but with the openness of the OS I think some of these can be added with software utilities. Here is what I think/hope can be updated with either 3rd party updates or firmware updates:
- Improved Bluetooth profiles (A2DP, keyboard, file transfer)
- Better camera functionality (panorama, macro, black & white, etc.)
- Video capture capability
- Video/movie viewer (already provided in the Android Market though)
- On screen text input methods (sometimes I don't want to open the keyboard)
- Multiple Google Calendar support (even for viewing calendars like we can on the desktop)
- File Explorer (I can't believe this isn't on there already)
- Ability to assign keyboard shortcuts to controls (Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS)
- Internet sharing/tethering utility
- Note taking application (this should have been included at launch)
There are also some things that I recommend changing in the hardware for the G2 and this includes the following:
- Headset jack type and placement (it is tough to type with the headset jack plugged in)
- Flash and better camera hardware
- Brighter keyboard backlight with controls for the brightness
- Auto display brightness control
- Stereo speakers
What applications do I hope to see?: There are a few of the items in my list above that could be down here in the applications area, but there are several other applications I would like to see on my G1 and these include:
- Bible application
- eBook reader
- Office Suite (I know this is coming soon from QuickOffice)
- Exchange client
- Screen capture utility (very helpful for review)
- SlingPlayer or HAVA mobile viewing client
- Streaming internet radio application (Last.fm or Pandora)
- Twitter, Jaiku, Facebook, etc. social media applications
- Podcatcher for downloading podcasts directly to the device
- Electronic wallet application
- Games like those from Astraware and those seen on the iPhone with accelerometer support
- Evernote client
- VoIP application
- Windows Live Search or other application for easily finding movies, gas prices, etc.
- Better calculator
Overall thoughts and conclusions: Embedded Linux devices have been around for quite some time and Linux phones are quite popular in China. However, I know that I had to spend a LOT of time tweaking my old Sharp Zaurus devices and these devices remained relegated to the ranks of the geek. The T-Mobile G1 is highly functional out of the box and doesn't require any tweaking to get things up and running. With the Android Market and the refined OS, even adding applications is quick and easy on the G1. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for the Google Android OS and with Google behind it along with companies like HTC, T-Mobile, Samsung, Verizon, Motorola, and LG there appears to be a large network of support for the future and I am very excited about what we will see next year.
Even though the G1 is not perfect, I have to say I am extremely happy with the device and am please I purchased one. I have been using devices with QWERTY keyboards and now with the G1 I can use both the QWERTY keyboard and the touch screen on a powerful, functional, solid, and attractive device. I have read many articles where people state how ugly the device is, but when you see it in person it is actually pretty attractive.
Without a doubt, people will compare the G1 to the iPhone and out of the box you honestly have to say the G1 wins over the original iPhone with wireless syncing capability, cut/copy/paste, games, a wireless music store, application store and 3rd party application support, integrated GPS, multiple client IM clients, and multi-tasking capability.
There are definitely a few tweaks and utilities that will be needed very soon to reduce people's frustrations (including a wireless connection manager) and I can't wait to see what the developers bring to us. Congratulations Google, T-Mobile and HTC for making a great first generation Google Android device that arrived when you stated over a year ago.