6 years ago

Review: T-Mobile G1 Hardware


It has been a long while since speculation first began for a Google Phone. After all, it seemed like a natural order of events for a web-centric, ad based revenue company like Google to move on to the world of smartphones. But Google threw a curveball with Android, it wasn’t going to make a Google phone per se, it was going to make the operating system on which phones are based. Google is after all a software company.

Insert HTC and T-Mobile. HTC has much experience making smartphones and populates much of the smartphone market. Previously, they have been an unknown company that builds the phones while other companies re-brand and market them. This was the case for the T-Mobile G1. Originally determined to be the HTC Dream, T-Mobile decided to make it clear that the G1 was going to be the first Android device. Google One, anyone?

When the anticipation for the G1 and Android began to turn into a frenzy, T-Mobile launched an event that will soon become an important date in Android History. It showed off the first Android phone. What was shocking was that the G1 wasn’t a jaw-dropper; it didn’t blow anyone away. The design was understated, a throwback of sorts, but people still began to question if this was the right device to launch Android with.

Well, after our own initial doubts and the industry’s ribbing, after using the T-Mobile G1 for a week, we can say that the folks at Google, T-Mobile, and HTC got it right. This is a great phone to launch Android with. Is it perfect? Not yet. Is it any good? Definitely. Check out the rest of the review to see where it succeeds and where it can improve!

Read on for the rest of the review!

Look and Feel

We’ll be the first to admit that in product shots and pictures the T-Mobile G1 looks decidedly basic. In a world now filled with Bolds, iPhones, Storms, Touch Diamonds, and X1’s, the G1 simply cannot compete for design awards. It’s not flashy with chrome lining or unique backing—the T-Mobile G1 just isn’t as photogenic as you’d like.

In person, it’s a completely different story. The flat black color option is actually a breath of fresh air over the glossy, glossy, and more glossy choices these days. And the soft matte finish offers a certain amount of grippiness which makes the phone feel great in hand. It’s also a lot more compact than I thought with the whole phone being a tighter package than I had originally assumed. Plain as it is, it absolutely does not feel cheap—the build quality is solid and there is a certain amount of weight to it that heightens the overall feel.


Touchscreen, Trackball, “Chin” and Keyboard

The touchscreen of the T-Mobile G1 is great, it uses a capacitive screen (like the iPhone) so there is no need for a stylus. The 3.2 inch 320 x 480 screen is certainly big enough, bright enough, and responsive enough. Though it may trail the iPhone in terms of sensitivity—that’s being a bit nit picky—it’s most definitely in the top tier of touchscreen devices available. It is a bit of a let down in that it isn’t capable of multi-touch but we’re hearing that’s because Apple has a lock on multi-touch on cell phone devices rather than a hardware issue in the G1. The touchscreen isn’t made of glass, which isn’t that big of a deal considering the high-grade plastic works and responds just fine.

The ‘chin’ as it is affectionately being called has been under much scrutiny but trust us, it’s not as big or as pronounced as it looks in pictures. There are 4 dedicated buttons: dial, home, back, and end call/lock. There is also a trackball, which actually proves to be more useful than anticipated, and a Menu button that brings up the menu of whichever app you’re currently in. Like most phones, the end call button doubles as the power button, however in the G1 it also serves as a screen lock switch. This may prove confusing to those who are used to hitting the end call button to exit a program. The dedicated buttons are essentially flush with the chin panel but it didn’t detract from our user experience. In fact we preferred the design of making it seamless with the phone’s body.

The keyboard is accessed by way of sliding the screen, think Sidekick. The slide function of the phone is noticeably, well, harsh. It really snaps into place and though it may scare a few users at first, the slide mechanism is really solid. No worries on that front. The screen orientation changes instantly upon sliding the screen, rarely have I encountered a hiccup, if at all.

The full QWERTY keyboard is obviously going to be a huge pull for any potential user. Those who are still weary of soft, virtual keyboards should definitely consider the G1 because the keyboard really works. The five-line keyboard is well thought out, with most of the buttons maintaing a similar key layout to those of a regular computer keyboard. The keys are flush with the phone’s body so those expecting Blackberry-like buttons will be in for a surprise. But even without the added dimension of depth, the keys are generously spaced and offer enough room to type the next great American novel, or e-mail. There is also an option to program keyboard shortcuts, a great bonus that can be used for a quick launch of any application.

The keyboard does have its faults, but that is more due to the phone’s limitations than the keyboard’s buttons themselves. When the keyboard is exposed, the chin is awkwardly placed; your right hand has to reach over the chin to hit the right side of the keyboard. Granted, after time the ‘chin’ issue subsides but it does prove for some awkward hand positions until you find something more comfortable.

A second limitation is mostly an Android problem (for now), any text input needed on the phone is done via the keyboard, so you have to flip your phone horizontal, slide open the screen, and then type for even the most inane typing tasks. Friend cracks a joke on SMS? To type LOL back to him is at least a three-step process. Considering the highly responsive touchscreen, it is dumbfounding how Google didn’t include a soft, touchscreen keyboard option on the G1.


3G, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Luckily, T-Mobile’s sparse 3G Network is available in my area and well what do you know, it works as 3G should. My impression of the G1 was formed almost entirely under 3G and the T-Mobile Network actually delivered. Putting it in a quick eyeball, side-by-side test with other 3G devices such as the iPhone 3G and Blackberry Curve (on Verizon’s Ev-Do Network) it definitely held its own. Though the iPhone does win out more often than not, the difference isn’t vast. And with a better rollout of the T-Mobile 3G Network we’ll expect better performance and faster service in the near future.

GPS on the G1 was supposed to be another killer app, considering the inclusion of Street View and the much-hyped Compass Mode, and on some levels it succeeds. We can tell you that Google Maps works as well as it does on any other phone and that under our own testing, GPS was accurate and was quick to find your location. However, we should give a disclaimer that there was no large buildings or crowded cities where our GPS testing was done. Street View and Compass mode is a fairly new and unique feature to smartphones and we can say that when it’s under Wi-Fi it is flippin’ sweet and certainly a key “show off” feature for your friends. 3G performance is also noteworthy and though EDGE performance is admirable, the Street View feature under EDGE is almost unusable.

The Wi-Fi on the G1 is easy to use and seems to have good reception. I connected easily to multiple Wi-Fi access points. As an added bonus, if you download the HotSpot Connect App from the Android Market you’ll gain access to thousands of T-Mobile HotSpots across the nation. For free. Bluetooth is also easy to pair but be aware that there is no A2DP support and you can’t currently send files via Bluetooth.


Call Quality

I was actually very impressed with the call quality of the phone. Perhaps, it was due to T-Mobile’s 3G network but I found callers to be clear and pronounced with no digitizing whatsoever. Callers also preferred my voice on the G1 over that of the iPhone 3G. The G1 really succeeds at being a phone first and foremost, with the other features being an added bonus rather than the main draw.

I do have gripes with the screen turning dark after 10 seconds mid-call. To bring up the screen again you have to hit either the menu or dial key. This problem doesn’t seem like it can be solved since it lacks a proximity sensor and shutting off the screen does improve battery life.

Other than that, the phone works great. I definitely prefer making phone calls on the G1 over the iPhone and I think many people would find that to be the case too. Though T-Mobile is notorious in my area to have dead zones, when being able to place a call it works just fine.


Camera, Headphone Port, Indicator Light

The camera is passable at best. Though it is 3 megapixels and has auto focus, I didn’t really find it to be any way impressive. Those looking at the specs and wishing it could be a digital camera replacement should be aware of the camera’s deficiencies. You’ll be able to take decent shots under the most pristine lighting conditions but other than that, it’s just another cell phone camera that doesn’t quite push the feature any further.

The ExtUSB headphone port is a serious error in judgement on HTC’s part. Though it has proven to be the case with most HTC phones, the inclusion of such proprietary hardware in a consumer device can’t be ignored. I have a great set of earphones that can’t be used without an adapter, and who the heck wants to use an adapter anyways?

What I do love about the G1 is the subtle indicator light that notifies you of missed calls, e-mails, text messages, and IM. It flashes green when something is afoot and remains dark when there is nothing to be notified about. Blackberry users will find this a useful feature, though it may not be as piercing as the Blackberry indicator light, it works just the same.


Battery Life

I don’t know, maybe I put the G1 under too much stress—I left 3G on all the time and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth was on occasionally—but the battery life isn’t as great as I expected. In my testing, it even fails to equal testing with the iPhone 3G, a notorious battery hog. Luckily, the battery is removable so power users can still use the G1 as their daily driver.

Maybe it’s because of Gmail Push and the heavy usage I put on the G1 but if you’re going to use this device a lot, be sure to have either an extra charger, car charger, or extra battery around. To be sure, the battery life isn’t horrible—but don’t expect to go on a weekend trip without charging the G1.


Final Thoughts

In all, I still believe that the T-Mobile G1 is the perfect device to launch Android with because of its plethora of input options. If you don’t like using a touchscreen, navigating via trackball and keyboard works just fine. If you find using a trackball silly in this day and age, the touchscreen is highly responsive and works just as well. Soon you’ll even have the choice of a soft keyboard. The choices the G1 offers certainly matches the future of Android.

Though it surely won’t win any design awards, I still like the overall feel of the G1. It’s combination of just the right amount of weight and soft matte finish makes this a quality unit. It won’t be mistaken as a luxury item, but it gets the job done.

Finally, the T-Mobile G1 isn’t the next iPhone or the next Blackberry, but it is the first T-Mobile G1 and we really think that HTC, Google, and T-Mobile succeeded on that aspect. It comes off as highly approachable and fairly user friendly. To be honest, the main draw of the G1 won’t be the hardware. It’s the software, folks. It can stake claim as being the only Android device on the market, and if you believe in openness and have faith in Android’s roadmap, well, this is a great start.

Be on the lookout for Android Central's software review!

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6 years ago

Android Market and iPhone App Store Compared


Medialets did a study on the first 24 hours of both Android Market and the iPhone App Store and came to the realization that users of both competing smartphones are strikingly similar. To quote:

There are myriad similarities between iPhone and Android users:

  • They like to play games, shop, and know what music they are listening to,
  • They are curious about the weather, and
  • They generally share the same interests as iPhone users 

Only 62 Apps were available upon launch of Android Market. This number is less than 10% of the apps made available on the iPhone App Store's launch. Be sure to take notice that paid applications won't come to the Market until Q1 2009.


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6 years ago

T-Mobile G1 Works With No Activation


We already showed you guys how to unlock the T-Mobile G1. Now we're catching word that it's possible to use the G1 with no activation with no hackery or tomfoolery necessary. Simply, when you get the G1, insert an already activated T-Mobile SIM card (preferably from a very nice friend), go through the sign in process, and switch on Wi-Fi. According to the enterprising user who did this, you can do everything the G1 can do except phone-related tasks.

Be wary, we're not actually endorsing this option until we actually try it because we've already run into an issue with the T-Mobile G1 not working without a data plan. Let us know in the comments if you were able to rig this setup and have a halfway functional T-Mobile G1 with no activation!

[loveforbiz via Engadget]

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6 years ago

Android Market First 24 Hours Stats


Curious to know about how Android Market performed in the first 24 hours? Medialets has got you covered! According to their stats:

  • The average application has 7,800+ downloads with 100-500 being the smallest range and 10,000-50,000 downloads being the largest
  • 9 Apps made it to the 10,000-50,000 range. ShopSavvy is at the top of the helm right now, which isn't much of a surprise considering how hyped it was before Android was even released.
  • iPhone users and Android users - strikingly similar (more on that later)

Big ups to Medialets proving these statistics for us! Which apps have you downloaded?


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6 years ago

Dvorak tired of trolling Apple, goes for Android


It's not just a coincidence that "Cranky" is prominent on the screen behind Mr. John Dvorak, a writer/"tech pundit" and self-admitted Mac troller. Apparently Mr. Dvorak has had enough of new technology, more specifically smartphones, and the release of the G1 Android phone through T-Mobile is the icing on his gadget-hating-smartphone-cynic cake.

It's almost embarrassing to point out the glaring irony that Mr. Dvorak butters his bread at the table of a fast-moving industry with a new gadget around every corner. After all, he has admitted to trolling Apple users in a likely effort to create controversy and increase traffic to his column. Although this blog may be serving the same end, it's worth the entertainment value.

Is Dvorak truly tired of Apple's iPhone and is he channeling his Cranky energy for merciless rants against all things Android? Is Android just another fad, or will it have staying power?

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6 years ago

No G1 Love for Neil Gaiman


Neil Gaiman is a best-selling author; a top writer in the comic realm, a wordsmith of poetry, journalism, film, song lyrics, and drama; but NOT an owner of a shiny G1 Android phone from T-Mobile.

Just as I encountered the day before the G1's much-anticipated launch, Mr. Gaiman has blogged his own experience of epic failure in trying to get a G1 on launch day from a T-Mobile store near him. It's both a comedy and tragedy - you should give it a read.

The thing I found most fascinating is that a T-Mobile store in a non-3G market would display all the posters, signs, and paraphernalia to participate in all the Android / G1 hoopla, but not have a SINGLE G1 phone in sight nor know anything about it??

Funny? Check. Sad? Also check.

What is your experience with finding a G1 at T-Mobile? Anyone in a non-3G area have this kind of experience, or did you call the stores first?

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6 years ago

How to Unlock a T-Mobile G1

That, folks, is how you unlock a T-Mobile G1. It's pretty darn simple: just insert your non-T-Mobile SIM card and then enter in your SIM unlock code. How to get one of those? Simple: T-Mobile has promised they'll continue their policy of offering free unlock codes to customers after 90 days with a phone. If you're in a hurry to get it done faster, there are plenty of places to buy them online. You can even use your G1 to start Googling for them. Once you've unlocked your phone, setting it up for Data is dead simple. Simply go to Settings > Wireless Controls > Mobile Networks > Access Point Names then hit **Menu** and select **New APN**. Enter the settings for your Network. For example, this will set up AT&T (If it's not mentioned on this list, leave it at whatever the default was: - **APN Name**: AT&T - **APN**: wap.cingular We are still working on getting MMS going -- if you've got it, let us know in the comments!

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6 years ago

Android Virtual Touchscreen Keyboard Coming In 2009


One of our biggest gripes about the T-Mobile G1 and Android is the inability to type on the touchscreen. There is no virtual onscreen keyboard so every time you need to type, you'll need to flip the G1 horizontally and slide out the QWERTY keyboard. This quickly proves to be a nuisance for quick things such as SMS or short e-mails. Plus, when the keyboard is open, it's nearly impossible to use the device one handed.

Luckily, the Android Roadmap has got us covered. Here are the details of the soft keyboard:

Q1 2009 Input method framework (IMF) This feature will enable support for input methods other than physical keyboards, for example soft keyboards. IMF will also enable application developers to provide IME (see below) applications based on the framework. Input method engines (IME) IME will support soft keyboards, a dictionary of suggestions, and a suggestion algorithm. The Android platform may contain few reference IMEs, and developers can provide IME applications through the Android Market.


Make no mistake, our thumbs love the physical keyboard on the G1, it's a very well implemented system. But being on Android is all about openness and choice, having the soft keyboard option is a no brainer. With suggestions and algorithms, we're very confident that the G1 can provide a great soft keyboard along with the already great physical one.

[Android Roadmap via Gizmodo]

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6 years ago

Android Video Walkthrough


The G1 mania continues. Today we bring you a video walkthrough of the basic features of Android. The manual that comes with the T-Mobile G1 is pretty sparse, so watch the above video to get a handle on how to navigate around the G1's homescreen and learn some tips and tricks for getting more power out of Android!

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6 years ago

Facebook Says NO to Android, Refuses to Develop App


Well, even if you're well intentioned and have no interest in "being evil", there are still petty corporate beefs that have us at Android Central a tad bit sad. There is word coming out that Facebook, of social networking fame, simply REFUSES to develop an app for Android. Yes, as cool as your T-Mobile G1 is right now, you won't be able to poke friends or update your status quite yet. Officially, maybe never.

The feud between Google and Facebook began with Facebook blocking Google's Friend Connect because of security issues and has now led to Facebook ignoring the Android platform. Having Microsoft in  cahoots with Facebook certainly doesn't help the Google relationship either.

Facebook has applications available for both Blackberry and iPhone users and from what we've seen, they're fairly good and useful. It'd be sad to see no Facebook on Android but hopefully some entrepreneuring developer can create a third party solution or Facebook will grow up and recognize the Android platform.

Either way we hope this doesn't mean we have to use MySpace again

[Into Mobile]

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6 years ago

Android Market Details, Paid Apps Q1 2009 and Google Takes No Profit


With Android finally in people's hands, Android Market was released to the wild and people were gettin' to downloadin'. However, there is one obvious exclusion right now and that is the support for paid apps. According to Google, Android Market won't receive paid applications until early Q1 2009.

Developers should also take interest in that it costs a one time $25 application fee to register the developer's authenticity and responsibility. After that, the apps that they develop are on the fast track to release. There is no further validation or approval needed.

Google also noted that they won't be making a profit off of Android Market. Instead, they'll use the 70/30 split (70% of paid apps to developer, 30% to Google) to finance the upkeep of Android Market.

[Android Developers Blog]

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6 years ago

T-Mobile G1 Commercial "Questions"



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T-Mobile has finally put the G1 in the public's eye by way of commercial. This advertisement, aptly named "Questions", shows a lot of random people asking random questions. To solve this dilemma: the T-Mobile G1, of course! With integrated Google Search on your phone, all your questions can be answered. We guess that's the pitch.

It has a similar feel to Microsoft's "I'm a PC" ad because it links people of all class, color, and occupations with one uniting factor. In this instance it's curiosity. Do we find it particularly effective? Not so much. You can pretty much use Google on any smartphone with internet access, this isn't unique at all.

If T-Mobile asked for our opinion on how to market the T-Mobile G1. We'd tell 'em: Milk, use, and squeeze Google for all its worth. People who tend to like Google will have high hopes on the mobile platform created by Google.

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6 years ago

T-Mobile G1 Getting An Update TODAY


You probably just ripped off the plastic off of your brand new T-Mobile G1 and we've already caught word that there will be an Over-The-Air (OTA) software update for the T-Mobile G1. Wow, that was fast.

TmoNews has the details on the update and basically it'll include enhancements and make all songs from Amazon available for listening. Should you get it? Probably, it's always good practice to eventually move to the updated OS because of basic bug fixes and stability. The update is termed to be small so don't expect much. T-Mobile will likely send a text message to notify those units in need of updating.

To check if you have the new software: Hit Menu>Settings>About Phone>Build Number. The build number of the updated software is RC28. The old one is RC19.


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6 years ago

Android Keyboard Shortcuts for Gmail


One of the biggest hassles in the Gmail program on Android is that the buttons you're going to want to use the most aren't easy to find. Sure, "Archive," "Label" and "Delete are simply two button pushes (underneath the menu) away, but Reply, Reply to All and Forward are on-screen buttons that appear at the bottom of every email. This can be a huge hassle -- huge as in "Oh my god, I might not be able to be a power-emailer on this thing" because who knows how long an email may be -- sometimes there's old threads in the chain of emails and sometimes, well, and email is just freaking long.

Good news, though, if you have the keyboard out, there are convenient one-push keyboard shortcuts for most of your popular email functions. We list them for you (plus a bonus feature), after the break!

Android Keyboard Shortcuts for Gmail

Just tap these letters when you're reading an email to access their function:

  • R - Reply

  • A - Reply to All

  • F - Forward

  • Y - Archive

I can understand the decision not to make a keyboard shortcut for delete -- archive is better in most cases because you never know when you'll want to search for something later. However I use labels very heavily and it would have been nice to see a keyboard shortcut to pop up the label listing. Heck, I would have settled for keyboard filtering of labels once that labelling menu had popped up.

Nevertheless, having keyboard shortcuts for Gmail in Android is a lifesaver.

One last bit -- when you're in a mailbox looking at a list of emails, you may know that you can hold your finger down on a message to access a pop-up menu of features. What you may not have known is that you can pop up that same menu by holding down the trackball on a message.

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6 years ago

Review: G1 Screen Protector by SPE


It's launch day for the G1 today and undoubtedly people are going to be hunting down some accessories. The G1's screen has a few of problems with it. First: it's plastic and therefore vulnerable to scratches. Second: it's pretty reflective and is susceptible to glare. Third: it collects fingerprints with a vengeance.

So naturally the first thing I wanted to do was slap a screen protector on it. Enter the SPE Screen Protector Pack for the T-Mobile G1. It's a three pack of matted-screen protectors for 14.95. Read on to see if and how they tackle the above issues!

Applying the Screen Protector

Check out the glare!

The first and possibly most important step in applying any screen protector is cleaning the screen beforehand. Get as much oil, dust, and debris off the device as humanly possible. I don't recommend going so far as to use chemicals like Windex (which can damage some plastics), but a good clean cloth is a must (These 3M Cleaning cloths work great).

Once you have the screen clean grab one of the SPE Screen Protectors and note that it has a convenient tab for peeling off the backing. This is a nice touch and not common with most screen protectors, which make you try to peel away the backing directly and you inevitably end up getting a fingerprint on the sticky side.

Next up is the trick passed down to me by a shaman: peel off the backing and then reapply it to the sticky side of the protector, as you see in the image above, right. This gives you more control when applying the screen protector because you don't have to 'bend' it as much to try to pull the backing out from 'under' it. It also lets you re-apply the protector a few times if you don't get it straight the first time.

Finally, line up the top of the protector with the screen and roll your finger down from the top to press out any bubbles. If you have it straight, remove the backing and finish rolling your finger down. If there are any extra little bubbles in there they'll likely work themselves out over time.

The SPE Screen Protectors are nice because they are relatively firm without being too thick, they don't 'flop around' when you're trying to apply them. Because they are matted, you do lose a little bit of 'crispness' in the display and you need to apply just a tiny bit more pressure on taps and swipes, but all in all I find those trade-offs worth it.

The Results

The results: good. The screen is now safe from scratches, doesn't show fingerprints, and is significantly better about glare. Win-Win-Win. A three pack will set you back $14.95, but it's worth it. Check out the 'after' pics below, check out that reduced glare compared to the screen-protector-less photo above!

You can buy the SPE Screen Protector Pack for the T-Mobile G1 in the Android Central Accessory Store.

Verdict: 5 of 5, Recommended!

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