Unlike most mobile phones, the G1 is carrying a great weight of expectation on its shoulders, due to it being the first handset to employ Google’s Android OS. However, it’s still important to remember that the hardware that Android is running on is still a major factor. With dimensions of 118 x 56 x 17mm and a weight of 158g, the form factor of the G1 isn’t going to separate it from the competition, so let’s hope that it has a few other tricks up its sleeve.
I have to say that I was pretty disappointed when I first saw pictures of the G1 – it simply didn’t look like a cutting edge handset, in fact it simply didn’t look good at all. The first time I got my hands on the device my initial opinion of its aesthetics remained, at least until I go up close and personal with the black version. Obviously beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in my opinion the white G1 looks, well, cheap and nasty. And while the black version still couldn’t be accused of having movie star good looks, it is a huge improvement over its paler sibling.
The inevitable comparisons with the iPhone just make the G1 look dated, despite it being the newer handset. In fact, you don’t even have to look to Apple for the design of the G1 to appear slightly disappointing. Comparing the G1 to HTC’s own Touch Pro handset, the latter looks far more sleek and modern. But as with all things, you should not judge this particular book by its cover. You see, once you pickup the G1 and start using it, it does start to grow on you. Ugly duckling? Yes. But that doesn’t make it a terrible handset, just an unattractive one.
The G1 has a very tactile feel to it – at least the black version does. While the white G1 is finished in smooth plastic, the black version has a rubberised finish to the back, which makes it more comfortable to hold, while also ensuring that it won’t slip out of your hand. This may seem like a small point, but having used a first generation iPhone for over a year, I still find it almost slipping out of my hand quite regularly when I take it out of my pocket. The G1 also feels comfortable against my ear when making a call – although I’m not convinced that the slightly curved bottom edge of the unit improves anything.
Below the 3.2in screen (I’ll come back to that later) are five buttons and a trackball. The latter works in exactly the same way as the trackballs seen on BlackBerry devices since the introduction of the BlackBerry Pearl. You may, however, be questioning whether this type of hardware navigation is necessary considering that the G1 has a touchscreen. In all honesty the trackball isn’t necessary, but it most definitely is useful. Yes, you can use the touchscreen for all your navigation needs, but there are times – like when you’re moving the cursor in a text message or email – that the trackball is a far quicker and simpler option.