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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. mobilephonehut

    The T-Mobile G1 may not have the visual panache and artistry of Apple’s UI, but in terms of navigating the phone’s myriad and diverse feature set, Google has created an interface in Android that is fun, intuitive and quite powerful.

  2. Come on Om, how could your verdict be FOR Google phone? Sorry man Google Sucks at making phones. Please…..

    Google phone is second class and is not cool! Id rather have an Iphone.

    Lets be honest… what phone do YOU use? I’ll bet my a-s-s its not a Google phone

    Take it easy…

    Love reading your reviews!

  3. Come on Om, how could your verdict be FOR Google phone? Sorry man Google Sucks at making phones. Please…..

    Google phone is second class and is not cool! Id rather not have an Iphone.

    Lets be honest… what phone do YOU use? I’ll bet my a-s-s its not a Google phone

    Take it easy…

    Love reading your reviews!

  4. I can relate to the BMW to Honda reference. Just not in quite the same manner. I have owned one BMW, one Honda and one Toyota. I probably wont buy another BMW unless I just want to impress my friends. I will buy another Honda or Toyota if I want to impress myself tho. Bottom line, buy what you want and dont worry about what other people think.

  5. I have had the G1 phone for about 6 months. I thought, like most people, that the open market for apps meant the quality of the phone would excell. The opposite is true. There are very few useful apps. Despite taking all proper steps, the internet is slowing down. After the last “upgrade”, there are MANY videos and websites that are not viewable. (I am not talking about porn, although I have heard this complaint.) I am talking about regular websites and news programs. These things are no longer viewable. The battery has an average life of 4 hours, sometimes less! The keys are too close together and the letters are not visible unless you are typing in the dark. The camera is awful. If you have the G1, you can’t access group-listing for your contacts. Also, even though I have unlimited minutes, MY BILL IS ALWAYS MUCH, MUCH HIGHER THAN IT SHOULD BE! There are always excuses for this. And to top it off, google is openly accessible to government tracking. There are news stories on this currently. Since my “added charges” equal or surpass the charges of iphone, I am switching as soon as I can. This phone was completely premature. The “open market” is a gimmick. Over the last several months, the websites and videos you can view are dwindling down to a very small number. Again, this phone has become a gimmick.

  6. Patrick

    I am an iPhone supporter, 100%!!! I tried out a friends G1 the other night, and I have to say that I like it more than the Palm Pre. I thought it was very easy to use, and it felt good in my hand. I am recommending it to people that ask my opinion…not that many people do (-:

  7. Docextreme

    I got the G-1 about a week ago And I found it to be a really good device buy! there are some thing I don’t like about it also.
    I notice it has the setting for spell checker but it does not have spell check how’s that?
    It is also not user friendly meaning it’s not not using Windows Mobile.

  8. david eyamba

    pls i recently purchased an HTC G1 T-MOBILE phone in the united states and have it unlocked so i can use with a network in nigeria the problem is even though i already have a google account which the phone is requesting to be logged on with before usage , mine keep returning message failed to log in message so now my phone is lying useless and there is no t-mobile service in africa (nigeria) please whats the solution

  9. Tonya Lynn

    I’m a user of the G1 and while I enjoy having the touch screen I don’t enjoy the fact that I was not aware that I had to have the internet in order to have the phone and to make calls. For someone needing to cut back costs because I’m in college it was very disappointing that I needed to purchase a different phone in order to cut my mothly costs. Had I know about the internet issue prior I would have selected a different phone when I resigned my contract…

  10. Jonathan

    Big old thumbs down on the G1. Wow, for something so bulky and clunky-looking, how could it ALSO slap us with utterly no features or user settings? What a piece of junk.

    No tip calculator, no voice recorder, NO VIDEO?, can’t set up ANYTHING for a photo (where to save it, white balance, effects, photo editing, photo dimensions, this is a huge disappointment), no world clock, no way to send colored/moving/gif text–this phone is a huge rip-off, and unless you have never in your life had a mobile phone, how could you be impressed? I guess after this phone, anything would seem feature-laden. No TV, which I guess is still considered “exotic” in the US. Makes me want to get a ticket out, unless I can find a lightweight, long-running phone with some features I haven’t heard of and begged for.

    It lasted about 72 hours with me, and I traded it in for a Samsung, which is just slightly better. I guess I’m just ruined by having a Japanese handset appliance for the last five years. I never even used half of the functionality of that thing. I was always discovering new features. Softbank 410.

  11. Ka Mi Yo

    Well I have had my g1 since November and I really like my g1 it a real phone unlike the iphone and it takes u to a whole new world unlike regular windows mobile phone (so Wack) and the iPhone that controls u FYI people u should have to control your phone not have it control u my g1 is the buisness n if any 1 has a problem with it take it up with me.

  12. I had the g1 for a long time at frist I did not know how to used it now I love it I don’t care I like the g1 better then the i phone. The last thing google need to come out with a next google phone for tmobile and don’t look like the LX

    • david eyamba

      pls how do i use my htc g1 cos i have already unlocked the phone but it has not recognise my local network as i am unable to loggon to google even when i already have a google account

  13. biddermom

    this is the worst phone i have had. can’t get my email,heavy, awkard. i have called,gone to the store numerous timees and nothing. yeaterday i got a blackberry, had one before and thought the google was the answer. oh , how sorry i am i switched. i am so happy to have a blackberry back. DON’T GET THE GOOGLE 1 PHONE – the company doesn’t have the answer and the store admitted they have had numerous problems with customers complaints.