It was Day 1 yesterday for the T-Mobile G1 Android phone and I wanted to share my early impressions of the device. 24 hours is NOT enough time to complete a full evaluation, as mobile devices like this are very personal and take months to fully explore and judge. But I think within 24 hours it is safe to say that you can do about 75% of an evaluation on its capabilities on that single day. My basis for comparison is the two phones I have used the most: the iPhone and the BlackBerry Pearl. While these phones aren’t exactly positioned the same, it is what I have used and you may have also.
G1 Android Plusses
- Size: I carry a BlackBerry Pearl for business and while the Android G1 larger; it is still in that size range to be carried comfortably in a pocket or even a front shirt pocket. (From R to L, BlackBerry Pearl, Android G1, iPod touch)
- Trackball: This rocks…completely. With one thumb, I could basically control every application. Using the trackball with Google StreetView was absolutely amazing.
- Back button: To the right of the trackball, it enhances one thumb control. Other popular phones require two hands to do most anything.
- QWERTY keyboard: Just slide the display out and you get a complete QWERTY keyboard, just like your computer except you use your two thumbs to type. I have above-average sized fingers and it worked well. I would have preferred higher-rise keys, but they work OK.
- High-quality, touch-screen: If this is what you get into, you have it. It lacks auto-orientation like the iPhone/Touch, but pull out the keyboard and the orientation chances.
- Vision of an open software ecosystem: While not very many apps existed on Day 1 in the Android Market, I think there will be based on the Android Open Source Project , and they will be very cool and useful. I was very impressed that I could directly download and install an application (Twitroid, Twitter for Android), something I cannot do on my iPhone/Touch.
- 3MP camera: The photos I took looked good and comparable to many digital cameras I have owned in the past. More mega-pixels, better headroom if you need to crop, cut or blow up.
- GPS with Street View and Compass View: Unbelievable. Physically walk around and the G1 will show you what you will be seeing, in panoramic view. You turn around and its view turns around.
- Replaceable battery: I get a little grumpy stuck at the Moscow airport at 2AM with no juice. ‘Nuff said.
G1 Android Minuses
- No video player: Many $49 phones (with plan like my daughter’s) offer MP4 or AVI video. I don’t get it with a device priced from $179-$399. The manual talks about storing “video clips” on the microSD memory card, so I am expecting this in the future.
- T-Mobile Austin 3G network: Seemed spotty, even near downtown. Could barely get EDGE in my house located in a highly populated neighborhood.
- Wi-Fi range and speed: Compared to the iPhone/Touch, it seemed much, much slower and with lower range, but I didn’t do any scientific tests.
- 8GB memory limitation: Will be hard to keep multitudes of applications, pictures, music, and (hopefully) video on 8GB. Subsets of subsets of your media collection are a bummer.
- 14-day evaluation period: iPhone offers 30 days through AT&T. A new phone, particularly a new concept phone, should have at least as many days as the de-facto “cool” phone.
Too Early to Determine
- Battery life: Much shorter than my BlackBerry Pearl, but then again it does a lot more.
- Open software implications: A few of the applications I downloaded gave me some errors, but I expected it because I experienced the same with the first iPhone and also because the platform is more “open” than the alternatives.
- Exchange Support: iPhone didn’t have it at launch and neither does Android G1. Can’t imagine that staying the same if Android G1 wants to ever get into medium and large businesses.
I like the Android G1 after 24 hours but as I said, the true test comes after weeks of real use. The exciting part is that I think like a fine wine, it will get better with time as the reported hoard of open source software shows up and the basics like Wi-Fi are improved, just as they were with the iPhone. Then I could love it.