Wednesday, October 22, 2008
T-Mobile G1 Review (HTC Dream)
Yesterday it came... my T-Mobile G1. After having used it for a little over 24 hours now I have to say that it definately is worthy of all of the hype. I had the phone fully set up in less than an hour. The interface was extremely easy and made a lot of sense. I had never touched the android emulator and I didn't even open the instruction book -- it just was all extremely natural. I'm just going to go through this one thought at a time.
A lot of people had been saying that the G1 looked too flimsy and unattractive. To be honest, I really saw that point -- until yesterday when I held one in my hands. It's true that its plastic but the phone is built extremely solid. It doesn't feel like it's going to crack on you and the sliding screen is smooth and well built. I also have to say that the phone really does not look as bad as people had been saying it did. I think maybe the photos didn't do it justice?
I was a bit concerned leading up to the delivery of my G1 that I would somehow have to route my IMAP accounts through my gmail account (which I don't even use). I was very pleasantly surprised when I found that that is absolutely not the case. It's true that things like your contacts sync with your gmail contacts but the email is an actual real client.... oh, and it's TRUE IMAP unlike what BlackBerry calls an IMAP solution. I am able to access all of the folders in my IMAP accounts and I can use my own outgoing SMTP server which is yet another thing that BlackBerry can't do. There are only 2 things that I miss from my blackberry and these really aren't drastically important. The first is I liked that BlackBerry pushed the email to the device. Now, in using IMAP on BlackBerry it wasn't always an instant push because the BlackBerry servers would only check your IMAP account every 15 mins but the advantage this did have was saving on battery life. When setting up an IMAP account on the android platform, you are given the option of having it check every 5, 10, 15, or 30 mins. This is really the normal way email apps on phones work so its not that this is a bad thing but it does take a toll on your battery life which is important on a device like this. The other option that you had in the BlackBerry email system is the ability to set different alerts for each email address that you set up. This is actually something that I really miss but something I can live without. In all honesty, it's probably something that will have a solution once more and more developers get on board.
Battery Life / Power
This device consumes a lot of power, no doubt. I drained my battery last night in about 4 or 5 hours of using it -- but that was, of course, constant use. That is a lot less than my BlackBerry Pearl but definately within range for a phone like this. The iPhone doesn't do any better than this. Oh, did I mention that the G1 has a replaceable battery? Carry a few spares and laugh at your friends with iPhones that either run their phones dead or have to walk around connected to an external brick battery.
One thing about this phone that is, by far, one of the MOST important things for me in a phone is the USB charging. This phone can be charged anywhere with a standard mini-USB plug. This also means that you do not have to buy 5 new chargers to replace the 5 chargers you had for your BlackBerry.... If you had a Nokia phone, well, sorry.... Welcome to truely open charging. MiniUSB cables are about $2 online and you can find chargers (AC and car) for less than $10. No need to buy specific HTC or T-Mobile chargers.
Another thing worth noting is that, as of yet, I haven't been able to locate a place to buy an extra battery. I'm sure that with the 1.5 million units that T-Mobile pre-sold, HTC is putting emphasis on getting the phones out the door. I'm sure extra batteries will be readily available soon. I did see a link on Google Shopping for a battery for $49.99 but it was the only place and I wasn't totally sure if it was the correct battery.
Today is the official release of the first Android phone and I've ALREADY installed all of the applications that I need. An SSH client is the most notable need and that was filled by an SSH client called ConnectBot. It does it's job just as well as any mobile SSH client. On the same token I also saw a VNC client (and server!) that is in development. Apparently they work fine already but don't support authentication yet which rules out the usefulness for me at this time.
Ready for the cutting edge? There are 2 applications for the Android platform that is straight out of sci-fi... well, sort of. These are Compare Everywhere and Shop Savvy. Both of these programs do essentially the same thing which involves using the camera on your phone to read UPC bar codes off of products and then return a list of the prices it finds for that product both online and locally! Now when you're in a store and see a "too-good-to-be-true" deal, all you have to do is scan the bar code and see what the REAL price should be. This one will DEFINATELY save you some serious cash -- and it's just oh so cool to use too. There is also the option of building wish lists and shopping lists in the same fashion.
What about Twitter? Of course! I'm currently using an Alpha release of a program called TwitDroid which is phenomenal. It even has the ability to post photos built right in to the application. It's really just like Twitterific on a whole lot of steroids. As far as stability goes, there is some room for improvement but it IS an alpha release. It definately fills the need.
Any Cut .... This is a program that you NEED to get. It allows you to put lots of features and shortcuts on your desktop that are not options built into the operating system. I was able to put 2 icons on my desktop, one for Twitter and one for BrightKit, that open up a window for me to type a text message directly to that service. This is insanely convient.
Ready for more Sci-Fi? There is an awesome program called Locale which allows your phone to configure it's self based on where you are, what time it is, and a whole list of other scenarios. The program even has a built in ability to post to Twitter. You can let the phone read your location based on cell towers and/or GPS and have it automatically change your ring tone, your network, and a host of other amazing things.
There is an extensive list of applications that are available in the Market (Google's App Store) and available online. Installing applications is simple. We're only in the beginning of Android and there are already enough applications to meet your needs and even some that meet needs you didn't even know you had.
The interface for SMS and MMS is really awesome. Messages are threaded by contact which is really nice because you can easily go into Messaging and click on the entire conversation rather than having to click through messages from other people as well -- this is really important if you use Twitter via SMS. A huge step up in moving to this phone from my BlackBerry is that Android is smart enough to realize it doesn't have signal and it will queue messages to be sent whenever it does. This is a HUGE thing for me since I work in a data center that has spotty coverage inside not to mention I drive I66 through an extremely rural area where signal drops frequently.
I don't have any hard data on this yet but I have definately noticed that the fringe areas that I drive through are a lot smaller with this phone than compared to my BlackBerry. For example, there is one notable area near my house where I lose signal and with this phone I was able to drive a lot further into that area before I lost signal. I've also noticed that it seems to have a much stronger signal inside buildings than most GSM phones do. In short, this phone definately has no shortage of radio strength.
The browser that comes with the phone is unbelievable. It's true browsing and it supports a lot of extra languages that very few mobile phones do. I was, at first, a little sad that there wasn't a Facebook application for Android but after visiting the Facebook page (not the mobile -- the real one) I realized that there really isn't a need. In fact, Facebook loaded much faster and I was able to do things much quicker than I could on my desktop machine! If speed and real browsing isn't enough to get you it has multiple windows! That's right -- you can now browse multiple web pages at the same time and swap between them effortlessly. This is one aspect of browsing on mobile phones that I always thought was missing.
People said that the iPhone had them at scrolling.... well it's true... The android interface is very easy to use, much like the iPhone interface, but that addition of a keyboard was a much needed improvement. The screen is very responsive and very precise. There is no need for a stylus and moving icons and rearranging things is just as easy as on a desktop computer. The interface is very intuitive and it doesn't take a lot of figuring out, if any at all. It's also very customizable. There is nothing not to love about it!
When I started using Compare Everywhere and scanning barcodes with my camera I noticed something interesting.... my phone was making some clicking noises. I eventually realized what was going on. This phone actually has the ability to focus on objects and the clicking was coming from the camera when the application was refocusing the bar code so it could read it. I don't know that I've ever seen anything like this in a phone before. The quality is more than what you would expect from any 3 megapixel camera and it also does quite well despite my nervous hands that always seem to shake when taking pictures. I think about 50% of the pictures I took with my BlackBerry were blurred but that isn't the case so far with this phone. Absolutely no complaints about the camera. I haven't yet seen a way to capture video but I'm thinking that may be an application that comes later.
There isn't really too much that can be said about this because it's something that you just have to experience. Street view is extremely awesome on this phone and the new compass view is really cool. It's extremely stable and fluent (even on EDGE, which I am). It really is bringing the full version of Google maps to the mobile arena. The Google Maps experience on this phone is really something that you need to see -- it's that good!
I think the T-Mobile G1 and Android is taking us closer to the place where we can replace most functions of a laptop computer with a cell phone. The power of this phone is unbelievable.... it is extremely fast -- faster than any phone that I've used before. It's surprisingly stable for all the crap I threw at it last night. I did have 2 spontaneous reboots but that was after I was mucking with an application that obviously had some serious issues. What I think is extremely impressive is that Android seems to deal quite well with faults in applications. It seems to have a real solid ability to kill processes that go nuts and, therefore, prevent the entire phone from crashing. The sound quality is great and it seems to deal with echo and background noise extremely well. From what I've seen of the iPhone and of this phone I would take this one over the iPhone any day (and that's excluding my dealbreakers of being stuck with AT&T and not having a keyboard). I am totally in love with this phone and can't wait to play with it some more. I honestly find it hard to believe that we are only on the horizon of the Android platform. It's truly exciting to see what the future brings.
(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved
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