Hands-on with the T-Mobile G1 from HTC, the first phone to run Google's Android smartphone platform. Plus hands-on with 3rd-party applications.
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After waiting nearly a year, we finally had the chance to really take a look at the new mobile operating system from Google. Android is a clean operating system that needs some polish, but shows a lot of promise.
Android is easy to use. There's no doubt. It may not be as intuitive as you-know-what, but it nearly is. Using the touch capacitive screen to interact with the phone via swiping motions comes naturally and works well. The UI is responsive, and fast for the most part, though we did notice some lag every now and then.
The default home screen has a clock resting at the top, and four application icons sitting at the bottom. This screen is entirely user customizable. Pressing and holding the home screen will bring up the tool that's used to customize the home screen. It offers a bunch of choices. You can add, delete, or move icons, application shortcuts, bookmarks and widgets at will. This means you an make the G1 you own.
You can also swipe to the left and right to access "extra" home screens, which can be used to house other shortcuts, bookmarks and so on. Anything on the center screen can be moved to one of the other screens, or removed entirely.
The drag-and-drop home screens are more like Samsung's TouchWiz than the iPhone, since it supports widgets and you can arrange things any way you want. However TouchWiz can get crowded quickly, so the three screens will be much appreciated by power users.
At the bottom of all home screens is a little dock bar. Swipe the bar up and the full main menu appears. This screen starts out filled with just over 20 icons/folders/applications. This let you tap into all of the phone's settings and is where you find pretty much everything. The menu appears and disappears quickly.
On all screens, you can press the "menu" button to bring up an options menu at the bottom, specific to whatever application you're in. There's also a "back" key (which you need to be careful not to confuse with the delete/backspace key on the keyboard) and a dedicated "home" key always takes you back to the home screen (not the main menu).
The main applications found on the phone of course are GMail, Google Maps, built-in Google search, contacts, calling, media player, camera, and a host of others.
Here is a look at the basic UI:
The messaging application is decent, and the G1 supports push GMail, plus regular IMAP.
It also supports Google's version of presence, so you can see if your Android-using friends are online/available. The threaded SMS app was easy enough to use, and showed SMS conversations in a pleasant way.
The Maps software was slow and buggy on most of the models we used, but the Compass feature is really cool. Combined with Maps and Street Views, you can see a picture of the destination you'd like to go to. As you move the phone around, the accelerometer interacts with the Street View software and will show you all around the area as if you're looking through a movable window. You can pan around and look all over the place. It is pretty neat, when it works.
Buying applications and music is well-implemented and super-easy. The app store will give Apple's a run for its money (perhaps lieterally), and Amazon's music store is equally well-designed.
Download status is available through the robust notification feature. There's a small group of icons for this at the left end of the top status bar, which you can swipe down to expand for details. All applications can use this function to alert the user to something that has happened in the background. New alerts can briefly take over the whole status bar to display scrolling text.
Speaking of applications running in the background, Android supports them! Unlike the iPhone, Android is a true multi-tasking OS, so all kinds of 3rd-party true push applications are possible.
The music application supports basic things like playlists, but nothing too advanced. It does not support any kind of DRM whatsoever, which means music purchased from certain sources (like iTunes) will not play, although with the variety of incompatible DRM schemes on various other phones, this is almost a non-issue. Naturally you can play MP3s, and since there are no DRM restrictions, you are free to use music for ringtones, etc.
The browser is based on WebKit, like Safari and Google Chrome, although it is not actually Google Chrome. It does not support Flash, for example. It's a good browser, with good rendering, easy enough page navigation. Zooming in and out is one area that's a tad cumbersome, although an icon in the bottom-right conjures up a zoomed-out view with a square "magnifying glass" area. Dragging that box to a new part of the page and simply releasing takes you right to that part of the page very quickly. It's a handy feature.
The best parts of the browser are perhaps the parts that lie outside the browser, on the home screen. The Google search box on the home screen includes Google Suggest, which is like an ultimate auto-complete that uses Google's entire index of the web to guess what you're searching for - in theory - before you even finish typing it. Unfortunately, it's slow to start - sometimes taking up to 15 seconds to get going on a 3G network - but on WiFi it should be fast enough to be useful. Once it gets started, though, it's quite fast, even if you clear the box and start over. If they can speed up that initial lag in future updates, it could be a killer feature. You can also save bookmarks from the browser directly to the home screen as dedicated icons, much like on an iPhone.
There is voice control, although it seems limited to dialing names in the contacts list.
We did manage to crash an app once, although - like the iPhone - the OS is robust enough to shut down and/or restart just the one problem application gracefully, without freezing up the whole phone. Click "force close" and you can keep on working with minimal inconvenience.
Overall, the user interface is very good. There are some rough edges here and there, but over time it will surely evolve and become more fine-tuned. The fact that the software will be completely open source means it can be upgraded over time, and plenty of new features and functions can be added.
We have a host of videos showing you several different features and functions of the user interface. Be sure to check them out.
On behalf of myself and everyone else who already has this service we would like to say congragulations! for finally catching up. Only to be left even farther behind. Pretty soon we will be on 2 the next generation of network speed. And your iphone, instinct, wannabe is a nice phone thanks to Google and Htc. Welcome to 3g kido's
Don't hate just because your jealous that your carrier didn't get such a cool phone. Yeah every phone that comes out with a touch screen is a iphone wannabe...right Yeah HTC hasn't ever done a touch screen in the past...never.
DiamondPro said: On behalf of myself and everyone else who already has this service we would like to say congragulations! for finally catching up. Only to be left even farther behind. Pretty soon we will be on 2 the next generation
oh yeah i forgot tmobiles 3g coverage does not even cover a quarter of the U.S; on top of that... you spend that much on a phone that just like the iphone requires higher data speeds and a much more advanced network; then you have tmobile just releasing that they are gonna restrict you to only up to 1gb of data usage a month.... hmmmmm good luck using that phone to its full capability; oh yeah and did i forget to mention the instinct is on a much more advanced network, with great coverage, much more advanced features.... and with sprint headed into 4g its about time tmobile caught up with 3g... Hey i got a great question lets say you do buy this phone for the retail price of uhhhh 129.99 with a 2 year contract, wheres the gps navigati... (continues)
Install applications *not* through t-mobile app store?
Perhaps the main reason I haven't bought an iPhone is the restrictive policies apple has about application distribution.
If you write an application and I want to install it on my phone, I can't unless you submit it to apple and apple approves it and puts it on their app store. (Or I jailbreak my phone.)
As we have seen, apple has refused to distribute developers' applications when they don't like them, such as when they think they overlap with the built-in applications or when they might subvert Apple's or AT&T's revenue model.
Is the T-Mobile G1 any different? Can I install any application I want on my phone without going through T-Mobile/Google? Or do I have to download the applications from the T-Mobile app store? Is the pho... (continues)
The Android OS is 100% open so as far as I am aware the sky is the limit. We just had one of our engineers working with us today stating exactly this that many developers have already received information from the Android OS to have many apps ready a... (continues)
There is a lot more to be said about open apps. Right now your cell phone is protected from the very things that harm or infest your computer. lets see open apps= more freebie's, great software, more options. I know I know, but this also equals junk a... (continues)
So they did make a application that will let you have a on screen keyboard???? and has anybody tried to c if they could find accessories for this phone yet.....cuz i went on ebay and i couldnt find any....so any suggestions?
From what I understand, the data service is required to get internet and all that and without this service the phone is pretty much an ordinary phone with a touch screen. Shouldnt the WIFI still work w/o the data service? I dont want to pay the extra money for data service when I can pick free wifi connection at school/home/work, and other places as well. I dont understand, someone please explain
You will need the data connection at first because you will need to activate a gmail account. After that from I guess you could cancel the data but why would you? If your going to get a top end phone you should be able to afford to run it. Thats li... (continues)
The phone won't work without a Google account, and I think that set-up step requires T-Mobile data service. I don't see a wi-fi option during that first step. You can't even power it up fully without a Google account set up and linked to it.
for the most comprehensive and factual review of the G1... and for all the photos and video.
There's been a lot of hype over this launch, and lots of fanaticism for and bashing of this product on other sites. I appreciate your factual product presentation.
The G1 appears to be very much what it is, an early product, a bit rough around the edges, but with the capability to grow as the OS gets updated and apps are developed. I can live with the adapter for headsets, though that WAS a stupid decision by HTC.
I only hope I'm a little happier with the keyboard than you seemed to be.. I've been holding off on replacing my Treo, waiting for this. I've ordered 1 for my wife and 1 for myself. T-Mobile kicks VZW's coverage in my house, and 3G... (continues)
Yes, thank you Phonescoop. I agree 100%. I'm very excited for the G1 and will be getting it at launch. It is very refreshing being able to go to a site that just gives you the facts and doesn't try to be funny, sarcastic, or angry. I commend you o... (continues)
Thank you Phone Scoop! I highly appreciate the elaborate information on this new phone. I actually was considering not to get one anymore, but went ahead and ordered mine. And now I am even more statisfied with it then I was upon hearing the "rumor" o... (continues)
Thank You, phone scoop for always having up to date info on more than just one provider. I know its not easy with such much out there but you guys do a really great job. Im impressed with the quality of your work. You guys dont miss a detail and have ... (continues)
Overall the OS looks solid, too bad it's made by HTC, which I think is going to be Android's downfall (all of the good hardware manufacturers have their OWN OS.)
HTC (Heavy Taiwanese Crap) devices always seem glitchy as hell and have really shoddy build quality. The devices made to other manufacturer's specs seem to be solid enough (Palm), but I'll never live down the POS Apache or Mogul.
The real problem is that this device looks like a 'prototype,' not a finished product. I'm not even sure what its purpose is.... the business crowd is going to want a Blackberry, the trendy crowd is going to want an iPhone, and the super-nerds are going to want WM crap.
Maybe the htc phones made for tmobile. Visit the website htc.com for yourself and see tmobile gets prototypes compare to everyone else. T-mobile obviously get crapy phones from them intentionally any one with a few minutes to browse can see the wing a... (continues)
There also seems to be alot.Of bashing on T-Mobile and the new G1 on this site.Their sure are alot of jealous people on here.Why bash a phone that.You guys either cant afford or arnt intrested in?Dont hate the phone.Hate the system thats holding you b... (continues)
I am a tmobile dealer and none of you guys have any idea what you are talking about the fact is it is and open os meaning you can do anything with it including programs like outlook word excell it is sutied for all consumers teens,bussiness man and ev... (continues)
YOu guys seem to big missing it completely. By the time this phone even comes close to surpassing the Diamond or even the Pro (which i doubt it ever will). By then We meaning Sprint, Verizon, and even At@t will have better phones. t-mobile is always i... (continues)
After your disastrous reviews of both the Glyde and Instinct, I am a little put off that you never maned up and actually tried other units, like you said you were going to. The Instinct does not have a capacitive touchscreen, but it is not anywhere near the level that you make it out to be. I have been using the phone since the launch date and can tell you that that initial Instinct review, where you harped on the display for false presses and unresponsiveness is absolute trash. The touch display on this phone is nearly iPhone level of responsiveness, to both flick gestures, grabbing the screen for scrolling, and selecting items. Just because you had no idea how to calibrate the display out of the box doesn't mean you can continually harp on... (continues)
the Instinct is not now nor ever will be a competitor to the iphone and or the g1 it lacks in too many areas its a wanna-be not to mention the fact that its with sprint who had -1,000,000 customers in the first quarter....
I want to know if it will have a multi tap touch screen like the iphone. This function allows the iphone to do cool things like shrink and expand pictures. This will open a lot of doors for writing 3rd party apps. does anyone have any feedback???
Yes and no. From what I have heard apple has the patent on the finger thing with the pictures, so google would have to pay apple. But it does have double tap just someone would have to write an app to use it.
This is looking very promising so far. The phone looked pretty speedy in the demo videos they showed but we will see how fast it really is when actual videos come out. Hopefully they add some sync options before launch and allow tethering some time soon or come out with a 3G aircard. I am very excited to see what types of apps people come up with and what apps will come preloaded on launch. Otherwise this looks very promising!
The demo's seem fake I wonder if there actually on t-mobile network when they do them. Besides they dont have good coverage in most areas anyway. I think google will do all they can to boost speed when browsing and as many features as they can. It the... (continues)
That's an old fable. T-Mobile coverage is excellent as of late. I'm so tired of hearing this s**t about coverage. People are hating on T-Mo and have never used the service. In my opinion, I believe people are jealous of the pricing plans at T-Mo, and... (continues)