G1 from Google/Android/T-Mobile: first reviews are in

In Thursday's IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches bloggers react to the new Google/Android phone, the T-Mobile G1. Not to mention going west...

Nancy Gohring reports:

The G1, the first phone to run the Android software developed by Google, goes on sale Oct. 22, and many people are getting their first in-depth look at it because T-Mobile has loaned the devices to reporters.

The Android Market is the online store accessible from the phone where users can download applications ... People around the world -- phone users or not -- might also be pleased to learn about this item listed in the Android Market terms of service, in all caps for extra effect: "None of the products are intended for use in the operation of nuclear facilities, life support systems, emergency communications, aircraft navigation or communication systems, air traffic control systems or any other such activities in which case the failure of the products could lead to death, personal injury, or severe physical or environmental damage."

That's not the only bit of levity to be found on the phone. The G1 comes with a text-only scrolling video listing contributors and offering special thanks. After a pause, at the very end, Google assures us that "no robots were harmed in the making of this product."

Brier Dudley offers a critical look:

It's not really fair to constantly compare the first Google-powered phone, the T-Mobile G1, with the Apple iPhone. That's like comparing a PC to a Mac. But that PC-Mac comparison became more obvious during the week or so I tested the G1.


It's a great device. But with Apple having made the big leap ahead with the iPhone, and all sorts of companies now offering Web-enabled devices, the G1 doesn't feel as revolutionary as the hype suggested it would be. In the hand, the G1 feels utilitarian - it's a solid computing and communication device, not a sexy little accessory like the iPhone.

Yet I'd argue that the G1 is a better phone for one reason alone: Its battery lasts for days, in standby at least, and easily makes it through a day of occassional calling and browsing.

Walt Mossberg imagineers the magic:

G1 [is] the first hand-held computer that’s in the same class as Apple’s 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 ... The G1 has a removable battery and uses removable, expandable memory cards. And it’s even a bit cheaper than its Apple rival.


The G1 may be great for dedicated [Gmail] users, but not so good for folks who rely on competing calendar and contacts services from, say, Yahoo or Microsoft. Future Android phones may not be so tightly tied to Google services, but the G1 is. It also can’t synchronize any data at all directly with a PC or Mac.

Josh Pigford is a self-confessed Apple fanboi:

If you look at it, you can very quickly see that G-1 is a Honda to iPhone’s BMW ... People who like the Apple iPhone, will find Google-based G-1 aesthetically lacking.

Jason Chen gets physical:

The body was made by HTC, a Taiwanese company that makes Windows Mobile devices for Motorola, Palm and its own line. This phone is built just like those. The back is classic matted and grip-friendly HTC. The swivel-flip feels almost exactly like earlier HTC phones, only it extends out and then back in again, revealing the keyboard underneath. This motion gives a satisfying snap when opened.


The touchscreen is bright, renders text clearly and is, on the whole, pretty great. It uses capacitive touch, like the iPhone, so you use your fingertip, not a stylus, to poke around.


It's hard to fathom why HTC left out a 3.5mm headphone jack in 2008, same for USB mass storage mode for Windows or Mac. Really? You have to pop out that microSD card and use a card reader every time you want to load a ringtone or a song or a photo or a video? Seriously?.

While Joshua Topolsky goes soft on us:

If we said expectations were high for the introduction of this device, it would be an understatement.


It's difficult to accurately describe how utterly painless it is to set up and use the G1 for the first time: you just enter your Google account's username and password and you're off to the races ... Problem is, most people that use Gmail aren't also actively using and managing Google Contacts. The app ... is truly awful.


The G1's interface skin ... is thoroughly modern and attractive ... a hip-looking, totally approachable UI that doesn't reek one bit of corporate starch. We'd still like to see a ton more configurability here, though.


It might seem like a minor point to make, but you'd be surprised at how quickly this becomes a huge part of your G1 experience: Android's notification system is ... the best we've ever seen on any phone or any platform ... any app can place an icon to indicate that something interesting has happened -- instant messages, emails, voicemails, schedule reminders, and so on -- and optionally scroll a brief message (say, a snippet of a received SMS). Already, you're looking at a system that beats Windows Mobile and the iPhone.

Speaking of WinMo, Om Malik mourns it:

Recently it was revealed that the newest version of Microsoft’s mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 7.0, would be delayed until as late as 2010 ... With competition from a resurgent BlackBerry platform from Research in Motion, Apple’s iPhone and most importantly, the Google Phone platform ... Microsoft’s mobile platform is facing its toughest environment yet.


Microsoft’s grand mobile ambitions might have to come down a few notches. Just like open-source server software made it impossible for Microsoft to extend its stranglehold to servers and the back-end infrastructure business, these newer mobile platforms will act as speed barriers to Microsoft’s mobile ambitions.


Over the weekend, rumors began surfacing that T-Mobile USA had pre-sold nearly 1.5 million units of the Google Phone, the G-1, made by handset maker HTC. After seeing the phone up close and personal, I’m not at all surprised ... It’s Windows Mobile done right. I say this because I have tried dozens of Windows Mobile-based phones and their user interface always leaves me feeling like someone with multiple cuts being submerged in salt water.

[Hat tip: Techmeme]

And finally...

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 23 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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