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The Google Phone Review: What I Love & Hate About T-Mobile G-1

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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.

111 Responses to “The Google Phone Review: What I Love & Hate About T-Mobile G-1”

  1. I tryed out g1, iphone, and storm. I do love the keyboard,and ease of operation without going to the book bor call for help. The storm really upset me for days, and many calls aand lookup of help. Storm has better pix n but no wi fi and slow screen scroll, but like the iphone typing is real bad. Really like g1 keyboard…..
    I think g1 is the homeliest ( ugly ) of all by 10 fold. Going with storm ,not as many app. By far, but the click keyboard is better. and verizons service is unmatched in the rural areaas, they also use alltel towers.
    I never could have sent this on iphone or storm without getting upset. All are great,pix is not great on g1. And it is suppose to accept an 8 gig sd card. Advise novice bye g1.

  2. I owned the G1 phone for 10 days from the blackberry curve. the guy at the tmobile store told me the g1 phone was “heads and shoulders” above any other phone etc…so i got it not knowing that its kind of a mess of a phone. First off, these android apps- pac man, a restaurant finder, whopee, not a reason to buy this phone whatsoever.

    Pros- internet is beautiful.
    cons- horrific battery life, i mean the worst you will have to charge all day at all times and worry yourself sick over it.
    the flip up to txt is annoying. everytime you have to move the phone off its platform to txt. its also heavy for its size. you cant receive any email but gmail….

    this is not a phone you need. the blackberry curve is sooooo much better…

    • Tonya Lynn

      I agree with you!!! I don’t think I ever made it with more than a 16 hours battery life and the apps weren’t all that great either. After a few months I’ve switched because it wasn’t worth all the hype tmobile gave it…

  3. Sadly All I can give is an opinion on the android. This seems like a fantastic and forward moving product, but was released way too early. I tried calling 150 TMobiles customer care and was met by a recording asking me to press 1 2 .. options. The android either needs to be opened or press the call button for keypad. Now 1st and foremost pressing any keys on this number does not work sooo you’ll be stuck in a loop trying to select an option. Then here comes the good part you have to try not to use it as a phone cause it’s a mini unix laptop. If you dare put it near ur ears and speak .. you will end up calling all sorts of random numbers as the phone rubs against ur ears. Then there is text massaging ooohhh.. TRY FORWARDING one to anybody but the person who sent it??? TRY saving a picture into ur pictures etc.. This product has not been tested using mobile phone 101 for dummies soo google I luv u guys to bits n all but… Wassup??

  4. Until Google stops cooperating with the Feds to review email, I will not trust them in anyway. Android or not, go I-Phone. At least we know that Big Brother is not undermining Apple.

    • What do you mean my Google and govt reading e-mails? I havent heard of this before. I have a gmail account and this worries me… Can you tell me more?

  5. CityGirl2008


    So I have had the iPhone for 2 years now and this new G1 phone finally comes out; and I’m switching asap.

    First – AT&T charges extremely too much monthly.
    For the Apple iPhone you must have an AT&T plan, plus an iPhone Data Plan which is $30, plus if you want unlimited text messaging it is an EXTRA $20. Completely Ridiculous! I have the minimal plan, with unlimited text messaging and I have at least a $110 bill every month. AND THATS JUST FOR MY PHONE – ITS AN INDIVIDUAL PLAN.

    Second – The G1 keyboard is what sold me.
    The iPhone keyboard is not that bad, but it gets annoying. Everything you type it tries to correct, yes everything. You also cannot forward text messages thru an iPhone. Nor can you send/receive picture messages. I have no idea why they would leave these little features out??

    Third – Most good Apps from the iPhone App Store are not free.
    Many apps cost about .99-10.00 and these are not charged to your phone bill but to your credit card associated with your iTunes account.

    — Yes the iPhone is great, its sleek and shiny and has appeal. It also has good customer support and they replace phones with no problem ( you can buy for a veryyyyy low price- insurance for the G1 ). They iPod application on the iPhone is really what its good for, thats about it. SAVE YOURSELF THE ENORMOUS PHONE BILLS & ITUNES BILLS AND BUY AN IPOD TOUCH IF YOU WANT THE FEATURES. The iPhone is hardly customizable as far as colors, themes, clocks, and everything goes which is another thing I hate. If the screen breaks on iPhone you must pay about 175 to replace it [ might as well buy a new one ].

    — I do not have the G1 phone yet, however I will within this week. The sleek designs and shiny appearance of the iPhone only get you so far. This google phone has a keyboard, a search bar on the screen, SMS text messages are wayy easier to access than on the iPhone, and applications are cooler and less money if not free. The google phone has touch screen just like the iPhone ( which is sometimes too sensitive and you call people by accident ) and one other thing it has is a send & end button.

    The G1 is worth it. Cheaper, phone with a keyboard that does the same thing with a way lower bill :]

  6. PulSamsara

    I’ll take the ‘Honda’ over the ‘BMW’.

    But the best thing about Android is that I wont have to – The ‘motor’ of this ‘Honda’ will be thrown into everything from ‘Kias’ to ‘Maseratis’ and then I’ll maybe upgrade… to an ‘Acura’.

    …and when I want to swap the ‘tires’, upgrade the ‘stereo’, or add a cheesy ‘spoiler’ … I won’t have to run it by ‘BMW’ first and hope to have the ‘blessing of the gods’.

    Open source baby !

    • Jonathan

      Open source, but who cares when the phone doesn’t really do anything to start with?! Is this the first mobile phone you’ve ever had? No TV, no video??, no settable paramaters on the camera, this phone is filled with no’s. And it’s heavy as a brick.

      I am very curious about the users who found this useful. What do you use your phone for besides talking to people and very basic net browses?

  7. Hi Om,

    Any idea on the schedule of T-Mobile 3g network roll-outs across the country?

    I’ve seen a list of 27 cities that should be up already, but what if you don’t live in one of these places. How do you know when you will have 3g capability?

    I also have questions about the camera on this device. Is the lack of a flash significant? Can the inability to record video be overcome with software from the Android marketplace?

    • Jonathan

      I hope you never got this boner of a phone. No features, nothing. It was released as a hopeful prod to developers, but heck, it still won’t do anything. What a waste of money.

    • Kinda late, but it seems the next update – cupcake will enable video recording on g1.
      re. flash, photos are definitely much better if you take them out in the sun, but
      are kinda ok inside too. much better than iphone camera, and in fact due to
      autofocus scanning barcodes is a breeze while i can spend ten minutes trying
      to scan something with iphone and give up at the end.

  8. I am waiting on my G1 and very nervous on how my experience would be (and the contract extension that I have done for this). My decision to go for G1 has been primarily the Honda vs BMW, yes I want a BMW but I dont want to pay the premium for the basic functionality I am going to use. (not the upfront cost, but the recurring cost of a family plan under $50/month) Unfortunately I could not really test drive before making a decision on this and jumping in really blind! So, just some of these reviews giving passing mark is a relief for me. I wish some of the simple things were taken care like regular headphone jack, desktop sync etc. Well, all I can say is “Hope for the best!”. In the past, I have wasted couple of hundred dollars on Sharp’s linux based PDA which also touted as the game changer but never changed anything. I am just hoping that my experience now would be little different than that.

  9. You’re not really complaining about lack of space are you? A microSD slot means more *potential* space than any iPhone can dream of. There are 16GB microSD cards available now, and that number is ever-increasing. I believe the SDHC spec supports up to 128GB. Not to mention that you of course have the option of carrying multiple of them with you and switching them out at will.

  10. Om, how can you do a review of any modern phone and not mention two of the four more important elements of a phone: Calendar and Contacts.

    Does it sync with Exchange? Is the Calendar integrated w/ Google Calendar? is the contacts integrated w/ GMail?

  11. Android User

    I have a phone t-mobile gave me for review and I am an iPhone user for a year now. So I put them side by side and try. Yes, the iPhone look is perfect, G1 is so-so – but boy, do I LOVE the G1 keyboard!

    There is no comparison to the iPhone because first and foremost the G1 is a PHONE. You can actually make calls and hear what people saying. Try that on an iPhone – phone calls with iPhone is as good as any computer that can alos make calls: pretty bad.

    For the most important functionality – make a phone call
    G1: 1 iPhone: 0

    As far as application goes – well, let’s take the number 1 application the iPhone brought to market – the iPod vs the TuneWiki on G1 (you have to download TuneWiki from the App Store to use it first – it is available).

    iPod on iPhone just play music. yeah, it has this cool cover flipping. How many times YOU flipped thru 1000 album covers on the iPod? I don’t. But that is the only thing iPhone can do that G1 can not. on the other hand iPhone can’t show you lyrics, can’t show you music maps and don’t have any community connected to it. Did I mentioned YouTube music video that actually play on the G1 with a single click? try that on the iPhone, you will not try it twice as you can’t find the music video or it just stutter playing back!

    For the most innovative iPhone functionality – listen to music

    G1: 2 iPhone: 0

    Let’s talk email. Or anything else that need to communicate with characters (this is a communication device, remember?). The iPhone keyboard is… well it does not have one! typing on that painted keyboard is annoying! the automatic spelling of the iPhone is pitiful. On the G1 – pull the keyboard, run your blackberry – trained thumbs and off you fly. What a pleasure.

    For the second most important functionality – SMS, emails and so on:

    G1: 3 iPhone: 0

    I can continue. Third party innovation – iPhone restrict developers and not let them compete against Apple sometime sad offering. Google – hey, they don’t care if my sister write software to the G1 – and sell it or give it away, and even replacing Google search!

    For the future innovation and more functionality of any kind:

    G1: 4 iPhone: 0

    I am ditching my iPhone on eBay, kissing AT&T goodbye and buying a G1. Thank you Google, T-mobile and HTC for having the guts.

    • @Android User,
      Dude, you just made my mind up. I have been a Palm Treo user for the past 4 years and loved my phone but when my son was able to get a G1 thru his mom, I did the research and was duly impressed. I am in line for a new phone and was debating the HTC Pro, The G1 or something else. After reading all the hubbub and your review, I am sold. The G1 it is, i’m telling wifey to put the order in for the phone. She’s been with T-Mobile for forever so a 150 gift will pretty much pay for the phone. Thanks for the honest appraisal. BTW, I raced motocross for over 20 years so slow machines are NOT something I get along well with.


  12. Om,
    That was a very simplistic, political verdict. Of course ppl who don’t care about iPhone versus Windows Mobile have no-taste whatsoever in smartphones.

    The real deal is people who have used or played with iPhone. Will they switch or buy one?

  13. Great review, i tend to agree, I have both the iPhone and the Android.
    Some applications though do look better on the Android. I downloaded TuneWiki yesterday, I use it a lot on my jailbroken iPhone. You just can not compare. The application is so much richer and exciting including video with lyrics and translation capabilities on the fly.
    I think that because the android is so much more open. You can expect the applications to outperform the iPhone, as long as Apple keeps the good apps out from the iPhone.

    I like you comparison to Honda and BMW and I agree with you. The engine of the android is just phenomenal and I expect to see Toyota and Nissan comming around and taking over the market from WinMo and Symbian … on the other hand …looking at the new models coming out from HTC,Samsung and LG …I would not be surprised if Lexus will not come over very soon and …leave the BMW far behind…

  14. Thanks for the early review Om. Interesting to note that the OS is more responsive than WinMo and even iPhone.

    hope you get to keep the review unit ;) [you know where to ship it to me ;) ]