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T-Mobile G1 Hands-On

Software Hardware 3rd Party Apps Live Coverage Comments  100+  

Sep 23, 2008, 9:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman & Rich Brome
updated Sep 24, 2008, 11:52 AM

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.

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.

 

Home

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

 

Settings

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

 

Messaging

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

 

Camera And Photos

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The camera user interface was a bit spare. You can make some adjustments to the camera settings, but I didn't think they were super easy to find.

 

Maps

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

 

App Store

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

 

Music

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

 

Browser

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

 

Google Suggest

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

 

Voice Dial

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

There is voice control, although it seems limited to dialing names in the contacts list.

 

Basic Apps

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

 

crash

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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.

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Comments

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Subject Author Date
I would like to personal welcome t-mobile to 3g DiamondPro Sep 29, 2008, 7:33 PM
Finally the G1 Guamzson Sep 24, 2008, 1:22 AM
Install applications *not* through t-mobile app store? jarandom Sep 25, 2008, 9:12 AM
how does the g1 compare to the wing? bartiah Sep 29, 2008, 10:36 PM
Just wana clear things up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 tasha1986 Oct 8, 2008, 3:45 PM
specs posted / new forum active Rich Brome Oct 20, 2008, 3:03 PM
HAHAHA MEMORY! TWO.S_BABYGIRL Sep 26, 2008, 4:43 PM
g1 music thaboy2007 Sep 29, 2008, 12:44 PM
g1 phone blue thaboy2007 Sep 30, 2008, 11:06 AM
Bluetooth Profiles cdschr1 Oct 16, 2008, 1:22 AM
Data service required?? Jomo0333 Oct 2, 2008, 2:13 PM
Thank You PhoneScoop RockHead Sep 24, 2008, 5:34 PM
Too bad it's made by HTC - so what's the point? bluecoyote Sep 24, 2008, 12:43 PM
I'm sick of hearing this crap about the Instinct tuolumne Sep 26, 2008, 4:26 PM
Will it have a multi tap touch screen? juttsin2 Oct 2, 2008, 5:32 PM
Youtube capability? jonrok Oct 1, 2008, 6:04 PM
i thik flex pay can pre-order???? truetravis9287 Sep 28, 2008, 2:29 AM
what day will it actually ship? truetravis9287 Sep 26, 2008, 3:33 AM
G-1 goodness renejreyes1 Sep 23, 2008, 12:52 PM
Garbage!!!!!!!! ma8007 Sep 23, 2008, 6:22 PM
 
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