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Why Google’s G1 Entices Me More Than the iPhone

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I have a confession to make. The new Google G1 smartphone appeals to me a lot more than the iPhone does. Not in terms of slickness and coolness of course, but actually, even though it’s about 30% thicker and nearly 20% heavier than the iPhone, I kinda’ like the G1’s more understated and utilitarian look.

I don’t own a smartphone. I live at least 30 miles from the nearest GSM coverage and we barely get digital voice service here. But were I in the market, I would be leaning toward the G1 for a variety of reasons – appearance being well-down on the list.

For one thing, I’m not a touchscreen fan and prefer a physical keyboard. The G1 has a retractable one as well as a touchscreen (albeit not MultiTouch). I like easily user-replaceable batteries; G1 has one, iPhone doesn’t. I like lots of manual controls. The G1 has a trackball and arrow keys.

As for the G1 not being video-enabled, I can live with that. Watching movies and TV shows on a tiny display doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. I also don’t mind putting up with some advertising in order to keep costs down. Google is the master of that motif. That, and the open platform should make the G1 a much more economical smartphone option than being locked in to the draconian contract package provisions and fees for iPhone service imposed by AT&T in the U.S. and the even more outrageously expensive and restrictive ones piled on by Rogers Wireless here in Canada.

But the biggest factor tipping the scales toward the G1 for me? The iPhone is a heavily locked-down platform. G1 is open. You can unlock it after 90 days. You can use any SIM card from any carrier in it. The Android OS is free and Open Source.  Any software publisher can design programs that run on the G1 and its Android operating system.

I like open systems that give the user maximum choice, flexibility and control. When I buy a product, I resent the vendor dictating how I can use it, but Apple products have for the most part been highly proprietary in nature. Apple has always been inclined to discourage user tinkering, or even maintenance on its hardware products. Temperamentally, I would probably be more inclined to be a Linux fan rather than a Mac aficionado, being much more sympatico with the freebooting, mix and match motif of Open Source movement, except, except…the Mac OS is such a superb tool and the whole Mac experience is so elegant. I love the Mac OS for its transparent, versatile, low-hassle user-friendliness and dependability. However, that dynamic of superiority doesn’t necessarily translate gracefully to the smartphone context.

When I finally do get a smartphone, the available players could well be quite different from current offerings, but for now I would be inclined to pick the G1 (when it becomes available in Canada) over the iPhone.

21 Responses to “Why Google’s G1 Entices Me More Than the iPhone”

  1. Have you looked at openMoko? Open source phone, not tied to anyone. They even provide the CAD files for the case so you can design your own. Not at 100 consumer friendly yet, but from what I have seen neither is the HTC with Android….

  2. David B

    I agree with Nick. The article is about which one entices him more, not which one is better. I love me some iPhone (and I’m not enticed at all by the G1), but it’s perfectly acceptable for someone with no experience with either device to say one is more enticing to him or her than the other.

  3. What’s with all the negativity? If you don’t like his post, don’t read it. I hate reading, “what’s the point of this article, blah, blah, blah… slow news day, blah, blah”. Don’t read it then, and don’t YOU have something better to do than post “slow news day”?

    People seem to think that because they can post comments they need to rip on other people, it’s ridiculous. Not every post on TAB or another site will be useful, helpful, or relevant to you, and that’s ok.

  4. I am totally open to anything, but, I find the following a bit weird:

    ” except, except…the Mac OS is such a superb tool and the whole Mac experience is so elegant. I love the Mac OS for its transparent, versatile, low-hassle user-friendliness and dependability. ”

    Yes, I am a iPhone user, I have been since the first one came out June 9th. I find the iPhone so “elegant” to use. I love how “versatile” (I can do everything from business to fun on it, and I do) and especially how “user-friendly” (I gave my mother one and she had it in a week or so without too many hiccups, she has never owned a smart phone before. Not even a dumb one. He He.)

    Sure, the iPhone has it’s problem. Show me a phone, smart or not, that has not had problems. Then, show me a phone that has had the attention of the iPhone, selling over a million phones in just it’s first three days. With that kind of attention, it is easy for even the smallest of things to be blown into huge proportions.

    I pose to you this. Have you picked up the iPhone and actually used it, not for the ten seconds in a store. I think you would have different thoughts. I am sure you didn’t fall in love with the Mac the first time you saw it, it had it’s break in period…it is the same with the iPhone.

    So for now, my iPhone and I are going to be just fine. I am not saying you can’t have your G1 phone, just know what you are missing.


  5. Based on my experience with the iPod touch I’ll be getting an iPhone when my Verizon contract is up. I don’t use a cell phone much, I want it more as a portable Internet device. I haven’t seen anything that comes close in the category to the iPhone. As a plus, it’s a phone too.

    Google isn’t the best at designing user interfaces. I haven’t used a G1 yet but I suspect it’s not as slick as the iPhone. My iPod touch interface is incredible. But I can’t bear to use its Google feed reader.

    Now – if they would just make a device roughly twice the size of the iPhone with a few extra features, holy moly…..

  6. @Scott agreed. Its so natural. And the UI can change to fit any desire that the developer wishes. Now that’s open. They said one problem about Android is that some apps use the touchscreen and some use the keyboard and some use a combination of both. What if your ” x phone ” that is an Android phone doesn’t have a touchscreen? Then apps will have to be purchased or recoded based on hardware.

    Talk about a developer’s nightmare. Not only do you have to keep up with version control, bug revisions, but now hardware specificity.

    In that case, iPhone seems to be a MUCH smoother route.

  7. I didn’t read the entire article (will do at a later time), but from what it seems you don’t have an iPhone. Well its touchscreen keyboard is far better than any tacticle keyboard I’ve used on a mobile device. In fact, a survey by Technogizer claims that a physical keyboard is the last thing iPhone users want.

  8. Before you write an article about smartphones, I suggest that you own one first and do a bit of comparison.

    Buy a Treo 650, iPhone 3G, and G1 phone and then compare.

    I’ve owned the first two. And iPhone is better than ANY phone that I have ever used. I’ve never cared about replaceable batteries — you still have to remember to recharge the replacements. My iPhone’s ( first gen ) battery is still working and its been over a year and a half. So all this hype about the battery being an issue is stupid.

    And “openness”? How do you think G1 is going to be open? You are still tied to T-Mobile. So what you can unlock it? You are still tied to whatever company is providing your SIM card at whatever rates / contract packages. Some companies even extend your contract when you adjust your plan. You can also get your iPhone out of the contract too — if you are willing to pay for it.

    Apple is doing it right by controlling the hardware on their phone. No worries on having to make sure the software can switch modes and support x amount of hardware differences. Does it have a touch screen? Keyboard? Trackball? Etc… No the UI is simple and easy to use. You touch it.

    Ugh this article frustrates me. Just tapping into popular keywords right now ” G1 ” and ” iPhone “. No substance. Apple Blog… don’t change.

  9. What is the point of your story. ‘If I was getting a smart phone’ – ‘I like easy replaceable batteries’ – I want manual control – I kinda like the understated look – I don’t like small screens – I don’t mind advertising – What are you talking about?

    You’ve summed it up yourself – you don’t want to move forward – you probably like the old LC111 and Volkswagen Beetles – your stuck in a time warp. You are President of the Flat Earth Society

    You seemed to have recognised this yet you write a story about ‘if only’ Do the world a favour and write about the phones when you get one – this story was absolutely pointless.

    Who employs you and for what reason – go get a job – I hear there are some typewriting jobs going – that should suit you – time warp

  10. @devin: I have only be happy with the iPhone. It has the been the only phone that has ever provided a seamless experience. Maybe in the future other phone companies will learn from Apple, but I highly doubt it.

  11. why was this article even published? yeah right, slow news day, the G1 is a piece of crap, albeit a Gen1 piece of crap. I think there’s likely a lot of hope for Android but I certainly don’t see it as a competitor to the iPhone. It’s more a competitor to Symbian and Microsoft mobile.

  12. i can respect differing opinions, so that’s fine. from your description of what appeals to you and what doesn’t, however, it seems you would be happy with dozens of other smartphones that have been available for years. open doesn’t mean anything for day to day usage, especially when you really don’t care for things like “video playback” and other such fancy new-age technowizardry.

    there is something to be said about your point about advertising. i think it’s easy to pass off without having used it yet, but honestly i DO NOT WANT advertising on my phone. case in point, Pandora on the iPhone. I’ve been using it since day one, and then with the recent update it added advertising. it isn’t even that intrusive, but every time a new song comes on a little pop up ad comes on at the bottom of the artwork. this threw me BIG TIME and i seriously think i’ll just stop using it and use lastfm instead. i would rather spend $10 on the app than glance down and see a damn advertisement on my phone. i will never purchase a cell phone that has advertising built into it’s business model.

  13. We are really different people! For one thing, I’m a total touchscreen fan and much prefer a touch keyboard. I don’t care about user-replaceable batteries. And I don’t see the point of lots of manual controls, and I care about the aesthetics of the product just as much as functionality, and in a sense they are the same thing.

    Also I always have a fear of openness. How open should a system be? I’d hate the idea of 2 developers making the same program but work completely differently. I’d rather have a seamless experience where I’m not constantly bombarded with choices, I’d like consistency in a product I use.

    As for ads. I don’t mind them one bit, but if I was to buy the product anyway I’d rather get rid of them.

  14. I think you make some valid points, but I’m still not convinced that the phone is going to be as “open” as everyone claims. There are a lot of open source advocates touting this phone without even touching it or attempting to install an application. Although it may be more open than the iPhone, I’m not so sure that HTC and TMobile are entirely turning over the keys.

    I really hope that the platform is as open as everyone thinks it will be, but there seems to be a lot of hype out there without any facts to back it up. I’d like to see a little less about open-ness on the G1 until people actually get it in their hands and are hacking it.