The key to Android though is its open source nature, which means that anyone and everyone can develop applications for it. This is reflected in the basic application mix that you’ll find on the G1 when you take it out of the box – as one of my colleagues pointed out, there’s not even a text editor installed. But a quick visit to the Android Market should reveal most of what you’re looking for – it didn’t take me long to download and install a text editor for example. And of course you get copy and paste functionality, unlike on the iPhone. I was also quick to install a weather app, and a proper instant messenger application – everyone I know uses Live Messenger rather than Google Talk, which of course comes pre-installed.
There’s a good mix of applications available from the Market already, and that list will just keep growing as more people and companies start to develop for the platform. I couldn’t help but download Pac Man, which resulted in a couple of lost hours when I should have been writing this review. Anyone who’s old enough to remember ploughing 10p pieces into a Pac Man machine will love having this arcade perfect version in their pocket – it’s almost reason enough to go Android in itself!
Web browsing is good, but not perfect. I couldn’t get TrustedReviews.com to render properly, while neither mobile Safari or Opera Mini seem to have any problems doing so. That aside, I didn’t encounter any problems with the plethora of other sites I tried. The pages can be scaled to the screen size, or zoomed in and out, while text will be blocked to fill the whole screen width, thus making reading easier. Again a multi-touch interface would make things easier, but let’s not dwell anymore on that.
Email is also handled with aplomb. When you first turn the G1 on, it asks you to register your Gmail account, so if you use Google Mail as your main inbox, you’ll have to do nothing more. Obviously you can add any number of email accounts, but what you don’t get is Exchange support. Although some may despair at this omission, Google hasn’t indicated that Android should be a business focussed mobile OS, although I wouldn’t rule it out in future iterations.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record – like the iPhone, Android has native YouTube support, which was always something of a given due to the fact that Google owns YouTube. The YouTube support worked brilliantly, whether connected via HSDPA or Wi-Fi, and it was good to see that the G1 allows you to view the content in landscape orientation, even with the screen closed.
Clearly Apple has every other phone on the market beaten when it comes to music playback, but Google hasn’t neglected music in Android either. OK, so the music application is somewhat basic compared to the iPhone, but it does the job well enough, with cover art displayed and easy access to shuffle and repeat functions. Of course the music app is somewhat moot with the G1 and its lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack, but I can only assume that future handsets will rectify this issue and make better use of Android’s music potential.