It has been a long, long time since I've "officially" been back on the G1 and Android. In fact, the very first Round Robin post was nearly 2 months ago! But it's time to finally wrap things up and take a look back at the journey that was.
In this final Smartphone Round Robin article we'll take a look back at the T-Mobile G1 and Android and see how it compares to the other smartphone platforms and how it can improve. The G1 is such a new and unknown quantity that many of our editors overlooked it in the beginning, only to find it a lot better than they anticipated.
What's great about the Round Robin is that you get so many varying perspectives from different smartphone owners. An iPhone owner sits at a completely different vantage point than a Blackberry user, likewise with a Windows Mobile user, and so on. The great thing about the T-Mobile G1 is that it accommodates for users who are used to different smartphone platforms. A Blackberry user falls back on the trackball, an iPhone user feels comfortable with the touchscreen, some amount of tweaking is allowed for Windows Mobile, and a physical keyboard is included so no one complains. The T-Mobile G1 offers an almost non-biased user experience and everybody seemed to take to it pretty well.
So, is that a good thing? What does Android Central think about the T-Mobile G1 and Android after using all the other devices?
Also, this is the LAST Official Round Robin Contest Post, Comment to Win a T-Mobile G1 !— More Details Here
Honestly, any smartphone that releases will now be compared and sized up next to the iPhone 3G. It has become that widespread, that commonplace, and that good. We're huge fans of the iPhone 3G at AndroidCentral because its one of the easiest ecosystems to become a part of and the "it just works" feeling of it.
So why is the iPhone so successful and what can Android take from it? How did it become the smartphone that made smartphones matter? I think it boils down to the iPhone 3G's consistency in UI design, it made smartphones less "elitist" and more usable—you weren't overwhelmed by buttons, d-pads, trackballs, menus, keyboards etc. instead you used your finger. It wasn't intimidating to use, there was a minimal learning curve and everything stayed consistent. The screen layout from app to app is relatively similar, the settings aren't buried, and everything makes sense.
Luckily, the iPhone 3G is not perfect, far from it in fact. And even more important for Android is that the weaknesses of the iPhone platform are the purported strengths of Android. The features that are inexplicably missing from the iPhone are all on the roadmap for Android. The iPhone is shrouded in mystery while the Android remains open source. The benefit of pitting Android as the antithesis of the iPhone is that it opens the doors for developers who were spurned by Apple to come over to Android.
But don't think that Android will only get the crumbs of iPhone app development. Because Android has such allowances for their developers, Android will certainly pick up a lot of third party applications that push the envelope of innovation. I've already seen a lot of third party applications (Locale, chompSMS, Steel) that I wouldn't even dare of dreaming about on the iPhone.
The openness of Android directly contrasts with the iPhone's shroud of mystery and hopefully that can allow more developers to realize the potential of Android.
The Fuze was my very first Windows Mobile device and though it was definitely frustrating at first, there are still some great aspects of Windows Mobile that Android can learn from.
In my original review of the AT&T Fuze, I had stated that I thought the most appropriate comparison for Android would be Windows Mobile because of the software-software link. The truth is, that's probably the only thing these two platforms have similar. Windows Mobile differs from Android in the sense that Windows Mobile main concern is all about power and access while Android provides alternatives.
But let's face it. What I'm jealous of Windows Mobile is the plethora of devices that they have. The promise of more Android mobile devices has yet to come to fruition and really, most specifics are being kept under wraps. I want the ability to choose form factors, to choose different makers, and to find a smartphone that fits my specific needs. Windows Mobile has some stellar hardware, no one can deny that, and if any of those devices ran Android, it could be a game changer.
On the flip side, I don't want Android to become Windows Mobile because though I'll never deny the fact that Windows Mobile is probably the most powerful and feature packed smartphone on the market, I don't think that's effective in this day and age.
To quote my original review:
Seeing the iPhone's success and the G1's potential, I think making a cleaner user interface that's easy to use, if not less intensive, is the way to swoon average users. Truthfully speaking, smartphones have been dumbed down in the past 2 years and made easier to use—even TouchFLO 3D is guilty of simplifying. For me, I would never be able to handle everything that Windows Mobile throws at you because honestly, I wouldn't know what to do with it.
Let it be known: I'm absolutely in love with the Blackberry Bold's hardware. I think it's wonderfully built, the screen is absolutely gorgeous, and the keyboard is easy to learn. I believe that the Bold is very well on that top tier of smartphone hardware with the iPhone and well, that's saying a lot for a company whose main focus never was design.
I stick to what I said in my original review: the BBOS is the most limited smartphone platform and every other platform will soon lap it. But I can't deny the things that Blackberry does extraordinarily well. What I want from Blackberry is something similar to that "crack". Blackberry does such a great job at fostering a community that Blackberry users actually have a tangible reason (BBM, push e-mail) to stay on the platform.
To quote the review:
Think about it. For better or worse, every Blackberry user is inherently tied to another Blackberry user because of its use of NOCs and handling everything server-side. The average Blackberry user might not know it, but they're bundled up and bandied together. No other smartphone currently offers that type of communal feel and many just simply can't ever emulate that. The crack is real. Blackberrys have features that other phones don't and Blackberry Users have certain leniencies that Blackberry has allowed them, and to ask them to give it up? Yeah. Right.
Wouldn't it be cool if Android had an always-on, always connected Google Talk Application similar to BBM? It'd be a great way to create that same community feel. Even more so, the Google Talk users who use Google Talk on their desktops could even contact you directly—it could definitely improve on the limitations of BBM. Obviously, I'm uncertain of its technology possibilities but I'm sure giving away your Gmail username is a lot easier than memorizing your PIN.
Palm Treo Pro
The Palm Treo Pro is admittedly a stopgap device. But it's still a fully functional and powerful smartphone. After using the Treo Pro we became huge fans of the famed Treo one-handed use. Because of the limitations of a horizontal slider device, we can never efficiently use the G1 one handed. The hardware buttons on the Treo Pro are also a nice touch, which definitely add to its ability to be used one handed.
Other than that, the Treo Pro is a Windows Mobile device so it has the same strengths and limitations as the Fuze. Though Windows Mobile seemed a lot more comfortable on the Treo Pro, I still prefer the direction of Android over the power of Windows Mobile.
So I guess to sum it all up: From the iPhone I hope for their developers. From Windows Mobile I want their phone hardware. From Blackberry I want the 'crack'. And from Palm I want the beautiful one-handed use. Not too much to ask, is it?
I think the most wonderful thing about the T-Mobile G1 and Android is its flexibility and even more importantly is its newness. Think about it, Android doesn't have a history weighing it down or an overly staunch user base demanding we keep things the way they were. Android has the ability to transform and morph into whatever it so chooses. There aren't round holes or square pegs here because everything is open source and the Android Market is so welcoming. Soon enough, developers will love to create applications for this platform.
But before Android gets those A-list developers on their platform they need to gain more users. They have to have more form factors on a variety of carriers. They have to build stunning hardware. Keep on building on their very capable OS. Perhaps add a community aspect to it.
What's amazing is that these aren't impossible tasks. We at Android Central aren't asking Android to change its stripes--just continue to evolve. By the time next year's Smartphone Round Robin hits, we could very well have all these new features on different types of hardware. That's why we think Android possesses the most potential out of all the smartphone platforms. That's why even after spending time with all of the other devices in the Smartphone Round Robin, we still are most excited to use the T-Mobile G1.