Review roundup: T-Mobile G1

Mark Lennihan/AP
The T-Mobile G1 is the first phone to use Google's Android operating system. The phone will hit stores Oct. 22.

'Tis the season for attractive smartphones. The Instinct and iPhone are racking up sales. The Blackberry Storm rumbles toward us. And, one week before the T-Mobile G1 goes on sale, the reviews have finally rolled out. This first "Google phone" boasts the new Android operating system, a web browser, QWERTY keyboard, touch screen, online store, GPS – oh yeah, and it makes calls, too.

So, is this new all-in-one phone worth the hype? Here are the pros and cons:

The inevitable comparison

"I have been testing the G1 extensively, in multiple cities and in multiple scenarios. In general, I like it and consider it a worthy competitor to the iPhone. Both devices run on fast 3G phone networks and include Wi-Fi. Both have smart-touch interfaces and robust Web browsers. Both have the ability to easily download third-party apps, or programs. But the two devices have different strengths and weaknesses, and are likely to attract different types of users. If you've been lusting after the iPhone's functionality, but didn't like its virtual keyboard or its user interface or its U.S. carrier, AT&T, the G1 may be just the ticket for you." [via The Wall Street Journal]

The software

"The Android software looks, feels and works a lot like the iPhone’s. Not as consistent or as attractive, but smartly designed and, for version 1.0, surprisingly complete. In any case, it’s polished enough to give Windows Mobile an inferiority complex the size of Australia.... The Home button opens a miniature computer desktop, with a background photo of your choice. A sliding on-screen “drawer” contains the icons of all of your programs; you can drag your favorites onto the desktop for easier access, or even into little folders." [via The New York Times]

The keyboard and screen

"With its awkward slide-out keyboard, the phone is difficult to type on. It also lacks features we are coming to regard as standard on contemporary smartphones. Unlike other big-display, touchscreen phones, the screen orientation does not change when you rotate the handset, and the display can only be used horizontally when the keyboard has been slid out. You can use a BlackBerry-like trackball instead of touch to navigate the screen, but I found this hard to use with precision." [via Business Week]

The Google connection

"You must set up the phone with your Gmail account or create one. After that, your contacts, calendar events and e-mail are synced between your phone and computer. Google insists your privacy is protected. But Roger Entner, senior vice president at Nielsen IAG, says, 'It's potentially quite worrisome.' You can use alternative e-mail accounts and instant-messaging programs, not just Gmail and Google Talk. And Google Maps (which relies on GPS) offers a very cool feature I only wish were available in more places: a street-level photograph of your whereabouts. You can get a 360-degree view of the street as you move your hand. It's all synchronized with a built-in compass." [via USA Today]

The Android Market

"The G1's ready from day one with Android Market, a program that lets you choose from a couple dozen miniprograms. It's quite a mixed bag, ranging from useless to marvelous. Does anyone really need a program that turns the phone into a miniature seismograph? If the ground's shaking enough to matter, you'll probably notice. On the other hand, you've got to love ShopSavvy, which uses the phone's camera to take a picture of the bar codes on products. It then uses the phone's data connection to look up the product and search for Internet retailers that may sell it for less. And it uses the phone's GPS location system to see where you are, and try to find nearby retailers that might offer a lower price." [via Boston Globe]

The 3G cities

The G1 can hook up to nearby Wi-Fi networks or use speedy 3G service. While 3G is great for surfing the web while on the go, T-Mobile has only set up the mobile network in certain cities.
"The T-Mobile G1 is the carrier's first 3G-capable smartphone.... As of this writing, T-Mobile has rolled out 3G to 20 markets: Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Fla., Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. The carrier plans to expand coverage to a total of 27 markets by the end of 2008, including Birmingham, Ala., Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, Tenn., Sacramento, Calif., and Tampa, Fla. And as we know, T-Mobile has now backed off its initial 1GB data usage cap, after numerous complaints." [via CNET]

The final words

The New York Times: "So there’s your G1 report card: software, A-. Phone, B-. Network, C. But get psyched. Although the ungainly T-Mobile G1 is the first Android phone, it won’t be the last; Android phones will soon come in all shapes and sizes, and on all kinds of networks. With so many cooks, it’s unlikely that any of them will achieve the beauty, simplicity and design purity of the iPhone.... Even so, Android itself is very successful. Clearly, there’s a sizable audience for phones that have the touchy, easy-to-navigate fun of an iPhone, without such an extreme philosophy of feature minimalism. If that’s you, then you should welcome the Android era with open eyes and ears.
CrunchGear: "If you’ve been waiting for Android then I suggest you keep waiting. The overall OS seems to be held together by duct tape and needs a lot of work.... The hardware design is dated and while the touch-screen and keyboard are great you can’t just forget about the wretched battery life, horrible GPS and the overall ergonomics of it. I wish the G1 were better in every respect because I don’t think the iPhone is that great, but I find myself wishing it were more like it. It’s the best alternative to the iPhone, but it’s just not there yet."
Engadget: "The G1 isn't going to blow anyone's mind right out of the gate. Looking only at the hardware, there's nothing here that's particularly impressive, yet nothing that's particularly bad (though the GPS needs some work). It's a fine, solidly designed device that has enough style to please most users -- but it won't win a ton of beauty pageants. Think of it this way: if it were running Windows Mobile, it'd be a footnote in HTC's history. At the end of the day, however, this isn't about the hardware, and really never was. The story here is Android and what it promises... though doesn't necessarily deliver on at first. Like any paradigm shift, it's going to take time."
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