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Google Android/T-Mobile G1 Phone breaks cover. But it’s no iPhone.

There’s a group of people who don’t want or can’t have an iPhone. They have numerous reasons. Maybe they’re locked into T-Mobile, and they can’t switch to AT&T. Maybe they’ve convinced themselves that they can’t live without a hardware keyboard. Maybe they’re open source patriots who feel like Apple exercises too much control over what you can and can’t do on the iPhone. Heck, most iPhone owners (myself included) probably have those feelings in some measure. But for the die hards, these reasons have been enough to prevent them from just giving in and getting an iPhone. In the 14 months that the iPhone has been available in the U.S., Apple has whittled the resolve of this group down as much as it probably can. The ones that are left, iPhoneless, are probably NEVER going to be convinced.

For those people, today is an important day. Today, the T-Mobile G1 (aka the HTC Dream, aka the gPhone), which runs Google’s open source Android operating system, was officially announced. And choruses of heavenly angels were heard. :-)

Photo courtesy Flickr user bpedro, Creative Commons

I’m an avowed Apple fan and iPhone lover, but Android-based phones are fascinating to me. I’ve been perusing the breathless online accounts of “hands on” experiences, shakycam video, and armchair analysis (e.g., this post) that the G1 has generated since it’s launch event in New York this morning. Here’s what I think so far.

The G1 is a GREAT device. It can do amazing things. It’s got wifi, GPS, and works on a (supposedly-fast-but-so-new-that-no-one-really-knows-yet) 3G network. It’s only $179 with two year contract ($20 less than the iPhone – take THAT, Apple!). You can get Google Maps with Street View. You can browse and buy from 6 million DRM-free MP3s at Amazon, right on the phone. There’s an apps “marketplace” where you can download programs to make your phone into a flashlight, or a Tamagotchi, or whatever. It’s got a nice 3 megapixel camera. It integrates with Gmail and Google Calendar. It’s got a real, honest-to-Sergey physical keyboard that hides under the slide-out screen. Check out these two hands on videos from Engadget for all the dirty details.

It has some quirks. For example, HTC, the company that makes the hardware for most of the smartphones in the world (like the Palm Treos, and most Windows Mobile devices), has, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the G1 shouldn’t have a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack. Instead, it gets a single mini USB jack, for syncing, charging, power, and audio, and uses HTC’s proprietary “ExtUSB” dongle. The G1 ships with some (probably cheap, almost certainly uncomfortable and tinny sounding) earbuds that can use this proprietary connection. But if you want to use your own earbuds or headphones, you’ll have to get an ExtUSB dongle, sold separately, and rumored not to be available until some time after the October 22 on-sale date of the phone. To quote Engadget, “Why, HTC!? Why?!” So much for replacing your iPod with the G1. And what’s up with the vast bezel of blank plastic that surrounds the screen? And the bananaphone curvature that the bottom part has, when viewed from the side? I have my doubts about how usable the off center keyboard will be, when flipped open in landscape mode. Oh, and if you’re a corporate Exchange email/calendar user? You’re out of luck, at least until someone writes a decent Exchange ActiveSync app.

No word on how expensive T-Mobile’s 3G data plans will be (though they’d be insane to make them more than the $30/month that AT&T extracts from iPhone users – especially since their Terms of Service set a soft limit of 1GB data transfer per month – something you could EASILY blow through on a device like this). And while T-Mobile will happily sell you an unsubsidized (no contract) G1 for $399, you don’t get to SIM unlock it and take it to another network until you’ve been a T-Mobile customer in good standing for 90 days. And forget about tethering to use it as a 3G modem for your laptop.

But, quirks aside, I’m certain that the G1 will be a popular phone. For the holdouts who somehow don’t have an iPhone, this is the phone to get. It absolutely kills any Windows Mobile phone I’ve seen or used. And unless you’re locked in to BlackBerry via your company or something, I’d say that the gPhone is better than a BlackBerry, too.

So, if you want to or can be an iPhone person? You probably already are. For everyone else, your new phone has arrived. :-)

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8 thoughts on “Google Android/T-Mobile G1 Phone breaks cover. But it’s no iPhone.

  1. Pingback: digitalizes - advice, information and tips for website owners and bloggers

  2. “I’d say the gPhone is better than a BlackBerry, too.”

    Really? Seriously? It’s tied to TMobile (strike one) and it’s tied to Google (strike two, to a certain extent).

    I have a BlackBerry Pearl. It’s the best device I’ve ever used, bar none, in every category except the web browser. The email experience (which is what I use it for 99% of the time) is stellar.

    The browser sucks eggs. Badly. But I don’t use the browser enough that it cripples my use of the device, given that email is my primary usage of the phone, plus phone calls, of course.

    I’d love to see a G1 in person. I’ll probably go see if I can find one. But the voice dialing and email experience of my Blackberry tells me that the G1 can’t match those very easily. Plus the fact that not all of my email goes through GMail.

    Mike.

  3. Well, well, well….the G1 finally raises it’s head from the primordial ooze and it’s already being slaughtered. Actually, I thought you did a pretty evenly balanced review given the low availability of facts (have you seen the atrocious T-Mobile/G1 website?) and the lack of a physical object to handle.

    One thing we need to remember is that this is only the first iteration of a new open source mobile OS. The iPhone is only on v2.xxx and both OSes seem fairly similar with slightly different trade-offs (iPhone cannot cut-and-paste and uses a non-removable battery; G1 has a stupid headphones plug setup and a dumb 8G memory limitation–but removable (I agree with you, Josh, how thinks this is good design, other than the designers for the Motorola RAZR?)). There’s more trade-offs when you consider Symbian, Palm and RIM in the mix. No one has the perfect feature set, and only Apple and RIM have complete control over the hardware as well as the OS so they should have perfection before anyone else.

    Another thing to remember is that there’s this trade-off between features and price. Too many features drives up the price and actually limits the major limiting phone feature of size, people don’t want a brick). As it is, all of the available phones and smart phones and handhelds, etc., are far beyond what anyone thought possible just 20 years ago when we carried brick phones and bag phones, paid $1.05 a minute (only in whole minutes, no seconds), and lost signal as soon as we blinked.

    Ya’ know, Dick Tracey never had it so good (you young’uns can look it up, radio watch and then improved with TV watch). I have video from only 2003 showing a future where good quality pictures and video could be sent directly from phone to phone, and face recognition software would identify and eliminate people from photos on your server, things which are close to universally real today. The iPhone, the G1, and most of the rest are simply toys and trial balloons, the real advancement is yet to come.

    BTW, unlimited data (w/400 txt messages) at $25/month, additional $10/month for unlimited SMS. This is on top of the voice plan and they don’t yet say if you are required to change your existing voice plan or simply add the necessary additional services to your existing plan.

  4. I love that there’s a new player in the market. The introduction of Android phones will only spur Apple, RIM, and others to continue to innovate.

    I’ve got a long list of things that will keep me from buying an iPhone. I’m about 10 months from the end of my current contract on my Blackberry. I figure by that time there should be a few more Android units out there and I’ll evaluate whether I stay with a Blackberry or move to another platform.

    Either way, the G1 looks darn nice for a “version 1.0” device. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

  5. Eve... says:

    WOW… The pics of the G1 phone are awesome! I’m excited for it to finally be available to the public. Although it is cheaper than the iphone when it 1st came out I am not happy about the price. I wish customers were able to by it at a reasonable price with no contract! I just resigned my contract a few months ago… BOO!!!

  6. TYRA says:

    I PURCHASED A G1 AND IT IS HORRIBLE. I HAVE BEEN A SIDEKICK USER FOR 2 YRS AND HAVE BECOME COMFORTABLE WITH ALL THE EXTRAS THAT COME WITH IT. I CAN’T EVEN TRANSFER MY ADDRESS BOOK FROM MY SIDEKICK TO MY G1 BECAUSE NO ONE AT T-MOBILE WAS SMART ENOUGH TO DEVELOP AN APPLICATION. ALL T-MOBILE CAN SAY IS ENTER THE INFO MANUALLY. I AM NOT REALLY INTERESTED IN ENTERING 300 PLUS CONATACTS. T-MOBILE CAN HAVE THEIR G1 BACK.

  7. Tyra — It can be difficult being a pioneer. My son is waiting for his G1 to appear in the next day or two, he is the phone pioneer in this family. One thing to remember is that the Sidekick is a closed system whereas the G1 is an open system, so Sidekick has no vested interest in moving data (of course, you are correct, T-Mobile should have thought of this). A quick Google search came up with these options to solve your Sidekick to G1 transfer:

    1. Move the contacts to the SIM instead of copy them from the phone. As you move them it removes them from the phone. Load the ones you have on the SIM then delete and repeat the process. If they are already on the SIM only and not your phone then just import to the G1 and delete them, repeat.

    2. If you have MS Outlook and you download Intellisynce for sidekick it will do the transfer of the calendar and the address book (i think the notes also)

    3. For your contacts – you can save them as vcards in one email and then that email save as a csv file and upload to Gmail. (the writer had 500+ to transfer). Caveat – it will separate each one and may lose some of the addresses but at least they are in your G1 and you can go in and edit them.

    The writer advises not to discontinue your Sidekick services until you have gotten all of your information transfered.

    4. As far as a calendar, you need to be able to save it as a CSV, ICAD to get it into Google Calendar. Windows Calendar does have several save options. You just need to check or Google to find out how your program works.

    5. As far as pictures, the T-Mobile rep told the writer if he took his memory card out of his Sidekick and put into his G1 that it would reformat itself. Well IT DIDN’T and that was the easiest transfer ever.

    6. As far as email, the writer is still struggling with that part and so far the most important emails he has manually forwarded to Gmail. He also hates the fact that you can label emails in Gmail but they don’t go into separate folders like the Sidekick allows (Gmail uses tags instead of folders, but they accomplish the same thing after you understand tags).

    I hope this helps.

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