T-Mobile G1 Android: First Impressions

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 ViewUnbelievable. 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.