It’s here: the Google Phone. After years of speculation and months of waiting, the first Google Android OS-based smartphone has finally been released by T-Mobile USA. The device formally known as the G-1 and made by HTC has started to ship and will be made available to those who have pre-ordered the phone sometime today.
T-Mobile USA sent me a pre-release review unit, and after playing around with it for a few days, I have some observations, which might help you make a buying decision about this device. I am eschewing the traditional review format because there are dozens of very smart people who have reviewed the G-1 after putting it through its paces. Here are my major takeaways:
This isn’t an iPhone competitor. If you look at it, you can very quickly see that the G-1 is a Honda to iPhone’s BMW. After a few days of usage I have become increasingly convinced that people who like the Apple iPhone will find Google-based G-1 aesthetically lacking.
Maybe it’s because I have been so conditioned by the iPhone’s touch screen, but I don’t care for too much buttons on a phone that has touch-screen ability, though it makes navigating through a complex array of features relatively easy. I like the trackball, which makes flipping through features very easy as well.
The device is very easy to use overall. It took me less than an hour to figure out how to use the phone — most of its features including touch-screen abilities, surfing and setting up the network — without as much as referring to the accompanying handbook even once. Most people who use Windows XP or Vista for their daily computing will find the Google Android user interface remarkably familiar and find comfort using this device. In other words, it will sell a lot of units. And yes it is going to become a thorn in Windows Mobile’s side.
What I like about the G-1 Phone.
- It has the width of a normal phone, and still packs a big enough screen to make web browsing via a great Webkit-based browser a meaningful experience. (iPhone still has a better, bigger, crisper screen.)
- The keyboard makes it easier to sift through a lot of emails, whether they are coming to your Gmail account or from your IMAP account.
- Seamless instant messaging with Google Talk, Windows Live, AOL and Yahoo Messenger, and the cutest, funniest smiley icons based on the Android logo. This has to be the best Mobile IM client on the planet!
- Google Apps and Search are so tightly integrated into the phone that you often wonder why you don’t use these services more often.
- Amazingly robust operating system with little or no lag time. It makes Windows Mobile feel like a retiree; even the iPhone feels like a middle-aged person compared to Android OS.
- A simple, easy and comfortable keyboard designed with real people in mind. The keys are small but well spaced and comfortable to type with thumbs.
- Music player supports MP3, M4A (iTunes AAC, DRM-free), AMR, WMA, MIDI, WAV, OGG Vorbis.
- Phone part of this smartphone actually works like a phone, something I can’t unfortunately say about the iPhone.
- Multitasking of apps is the best amongst all mobile platforms.
What I hate about the G-1.
- G-1 feels bulky in hand, even though it has svelte dimensions. It is heavier than the iPhone: 5.6 ounces vs. the iPhone 3G, which weighs in at 4.7 ounces.
- Despite the heft, the battery life isn’t superior to the iPhone if you have all networks (including Wi-Fi) turned on
- Google Maps on G-1 feels like a poor cousin of the iPhone-based Google Maps and Microsoft Maps on Windows Mobile. Though I do like this feature, which uses the built-in compass on the phone to allow users to view locations and navigate 360 degrees by simply moving the phone with their hand. G-1 also lacks turn-by-turn directions.
- Not enough built-in storage – the device comes with a puny 1GB MicroSD memory storage.
- The AppStore when compared to the iPhone lacks in user experience, and reminds me of the carrier decks, which are awkward and non-intuitive.
- And lastly, I hate the dialer on this phone. It just isn’t good enough.
So what is my verdict? Will I recommend this phone to anyone out there looking for a smartphone? The answer is yes, especially if you don’t much care for either Windows Mobile or Apple’s iPhone device.