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T-Mobile G1: First Impressions

Gordon Kelly by

T-Mobile G1: First Impressions

So the T-Mobile G1 is launched and given Google’s darling status and embrace of open source surely the handset is all things wonderful and saviour of Christmas and puppies everywhere? Well, after spending some time with the G1, I have to admit: ‘’not really’’…

Breaking it down into most simple terms the situation is this: The software is worth getting excited about, the hardware is not.

Ultimately were the G1 shipping with a Windows Mobile operating system it would garner little coverage. The 3.2in display has a decent HVGA (480 x 320) resolution but it isn’t the brightest and most vivid display I’ve seen and can’t hold a candle to either the iPhone or BlackBerry Bold.

Compounding this is a woefully lacking approach to multimedia where not only is Bluetooth lacking A2DP (required for wireless earphone listening) but a 3.5mm headphone jack has been skipped over entirely in favour of a shared audio/charging miniUSB. There is also no onboard memory to speak of, just a measly 256 MB ROM, 192 MB RAM, though at least you get a 2GB microSD card in the box.

The 3.2MP camera is no great shakes either, lacking both autofocus, flash and video recording (!) while the whole device is very large at 117.7 x 55.7 x 17.1mm and bulky (158 grams) making it one of the heaviest smartphones around. Even in terms of build quality we’ve seen far better with the all plastic finish feeling rather cheap and the sliding mechanism – which moves upwards in an arc – unnecessarily complicating things.

Yet there are pluses – and big ones at that. 7.2Mbit HSDPA and 2Mbit uploads over HSUPA offer all the speed you’re likely to need, there’s WiFi, GPS, an underutilised accelerometer (more of later) and the Qwerty keyboard (while a little squashed) works well enough.

But the real star in all this is Android. In its current iteration it may not be the most beautiful mobile OS but for what is effectively version 1.0 it is fast and works well with native Google apps like Maps and Gmail/email are excellent. Bonuses like Amazon MP3 and YouTube on the other hand are hit and miss with the former an intuitive and welcome addition (even if it can only be used over WiFi) and the later something of a fiddly muddle.

It is also clear at this stage that Android – if it isn’t a long way from finished – will be little more than a barebones system for developers to get their teeth into. On the G1, for example, there is no desktop sync facility (really!) and we were told a third party player would be required just to playback anything other than WMV video content. Meanwhile the handset’s accelerometer isn’t even employed to rotate photos or the web browser, just Maps in Street View mode which isn't yet available in the UK. Programmers you have work to do.

That said, Android Market – Google’s App Store equivalent – is already quite well stocked with content ranging from the fundamental video player to apps as useless as anything we’ve seen come out of App Store (one is stroke a cat fur photo for the phone to purr and vibrate!).

Furthermore one of those welcome apps may soon be a mobile version of Google Chrome, since the browser shipping with Android - while competent - does struggle with the html layout of some sites (including the TR homepage) and – you guessed it – lacks Flash support. Both mobile Safari and Opera Mobile are better options (the latter likely to appear on it soon) though it is at least the equal of what you’ll find from Nokia on its N series handsets. Downloading and installation are also seamless – network coverage allowing.

In short then, with open source approach of Android we may well have seen the birth of the next generation of mobile operating systems, but sadly it has been brought to life on a distinctly last generation handset. So if you absolutely have to get your hands on this exciting OS do so with your eyes open. For the rest I’d advise you wait until there are a few more options to choose from.

Touch HD anyone…?

Go to comments


September 23, 2008, 11:34 pm

I think Android in 6 months will be a match if not a better alternative then the iPhone and WinMo. It being open source it's only a matter of time before developers really sink their teeth in and give this phone a massive range of features, all it needs to really set this off is a flagship phone that is much more desirable *cough* HTC Touch HD *cough*


September 24, 2008, 1:58 am

Remember the code is due to be released sometime in the next few months. Meaning free choice of almost any device. I can see the Android iPhone hybrid abomination now.


September 24, 2008, 1:58 am

i remember when the first 3g video phones got released in the uk... big, very expensive, not particularly good build quality - a particular NEC clamshell was the size of my foot, i seem to recall... oh, how times have changed...


September 24, 2008, 3:24 am

I noticed that over at the XDA-Developers forum theyve already managed to get an early version of Android on the HTC Touch so im sure its only a matter of time before you canb pick and choose which HTC phone you want to use wih Android (HTC Touch Plus included)!



September 24, 2008, 3:46 am

I only registered here to comment the stupidiest thing I ever read:

"Don’t get too excited though, I said this is a midrange phone"

These are the greatest spec I ever saw, if we take apart the massive resolution of HD Touch. This is also a $179 phone.


September 24, 2008, 6:45 am

Errr... a phone with a 3.2in HVGA resolution, 17mm depth, 150g weight, 3.2MP fixed focus camera lacking autofocus, missing video player, missing video recording and 256MB of native memory is "the greatest spec I ever saw".

Hmmmmn, if I didn't already work here I'd register just to comment on the 'stupidiest' thing I ever read...


September 24, 2008, 12:09 pm

Considering that this is effectively just a beta (what from Google isn't?), it sounds pretty damn decent. The phone, I couldn't care less about, it's the OS that I'm interested in. In 6 months time, it sounds like it's going to be a force to contend with! Worst case scenario, it'll give Apple a kick in the pants and make them fix the issues with the iPhone. Either way, the consumer can only benefit from this.


September 24, 2008, 1:51 pm

I don't want every app i use to me a google app, and the complete lack of PC sync means this phone is of no interest to me. And i still think it looks fugly.

Andy Vandervell

September 24, 2008, 1:56 pm

Hmm, definitely has that proof on concept kind of feel. Guess we'll have to wait till 2009 to see how things develop - hopefully well. :)


September 24, 2008, 2:33 pm

Even Ken Bruce is talking about this android, so did he mention short-selling if it means anything to anyone...

We all see the potential of the software, similar to linux that it will certainly grow bigger and bigger. As if any phone can be dressed with it, then it'll come down to hardware and design for us to shop around for... one day.

have to say it.. wot a crap phone! if not becuz of its android, who gives a toss.

'you're fired' says sir alan suger to the designer


September 24, 2008, 2:39 pm

The opensource nature of this I'm not sure is that great a deal, eg. your able to develop for the I-Phone without any fuss, just a shame there is no dev suite for the PC though. I think the biggest problem, is by the time Google have made this into a decent contender for the I-Phone, Apple will have moved the goalposts. But I agree with Hallazini it's all good news though for the consumer, keeps everyone on there toes. :)

Luan Bach

September 24, 2008, 3:22 pm

Someone mentioned that there isn't a headphones socket on the phone, that can't be right ? Especially when there isn't stereo bluetooth either.


September 24, 2008, 3:26 pm

@Keith - iPhone apps are incredibly controlled and restricted though, this will be completely open with apps also available to be downloaded and installed outside Android Market.

Everyone is right here - the phone is something of a let down, but it is a promising start for a possibly game-changing OS.


September 24, 2008, 3:27 pm

@Luan - err, you did look at the photos, right? No 3.5mm headphone jack, a shared miniUSB instead!

Luan Bach

September 24, 2008, 4:08 pm

I thought that it would have been at the sensible place, top of the phone, which wasn't photographed. No 3.5mm is just wrong. I assume the mini usb is for charging the phone also ? Does that mean you can't charge the phone and listen to music at the same time ?


September 24, 2008, 4:15 pm

@Luan - fair enough. And no, not unless the G1 ships with one of those Sony Ericsson-esque chargers with a duplicate port on the back.

Clearly the G1 is trying to hit the mass market, but I think we techies would have loved to see the Touch HD as the launch handset...

Still, 2009 will be interesting.


September 24, 2008, 9:15 pm

@Gordon - Yes I know, and I actually like that part, eg. Virus & some sort of QC. If you really wanted to use opensource stuff on the I-Phone, you could of course Jailbreak it. I'm already amazed at the amount & variety of APP's on the AppStore this is something any contender also now needs to consider, and of course the ease of use in trying them out, and been able to do this without even touching a PC is a nice touch.


September 25, 2008, 3:47 pm

A little disappointing, I must admit. But I look forward to retro-fitting Android onto my N95 - it's GOING to happen, right?

I can't imagine things would be perfect first time, but this feels very much like a technology demo - no a product people will buy.


September 25, 2008, 5:04 pm

on the other hand, is it really sustainable that there is no regulation of such?

1. you can basically do whatever you wanna do on the phone - if you know how - piracy? virus?

2. Would google act like apple so we'll see a similar store? It's opensource so apart from those who are really interested in doing things for free, there is no real incentive (revenue wise apart from junk ads)for big firms to develop anything substantial. There are already loads of iphone apps you can download and install on a jailbroken iphone. why anyone pay for anything you can find freely in the backyard (we can alway google it for instance)

will be really interesting to see where it goes... at least google is not foolish to be the biggest name out there..


September 25, 2008, 5:06 pm

arh.. just said loads of rubbish, embrace me... hallelujah mother teresa

Oliver Levett

October 5, 2008, 1:30 am

"3.2MP fixed focus camera lacking autofocus... missing video recording"

Umm, the iPhones was only 2.0MP, and yet you seemed to have ignored that?

The device itself may not be that good, but as others have said, the OS is what matters. IMHO, it more than makes up for the shortfalls of the hardware, and the fact that you can install apps that haven't be decompiled by Apple is a definite plus (and another reason why I prefer WM.)

Oliver Levett

October 5, 2008, 1:34 am

Oh, and the resolution is the same as an iPhones, may not be that great, but neither is the resolution on an iPhone (although any more pixels and things would be too small to hit with a finger, and then you'd need a stylus, so the only reason for having an iPhone - as a fashion accessory- would disappear.)

The 3G is higher speed than the iPhone, and I doubt there'll be problems connecting with it...

The Touch HD will be great, primarily because it'll ship with WM, and then thanks to the guys at XDA-Devs, you'll be able to install android if it takes your fancy.

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