Hands on with the Android G1 phone

The applications on board are the coolest part

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I can't say I was wild about the handset's overall design. It's a bit thick and industrial, especially compared to HTC's last major release, the Touch Diamond, which is beautifully crafted. But unlike the Touch Diamond, which is made of a clear plastic that's a bit slippery, the G1 has a rubberized feel for easier handling.

The face of the G1, when the QWERTY keypad isn't showing, is mainly the touch screen, which looks like it's about 3 inches, with five navigation controls at the bottom, including the trackball in the middle.

Navigation on the touch screen was smooth, and the software responded quickly to tap commands. The trackball also worked well but took a bit of getting used to.

The keypad was easy to use, even with my big thumbs, but I didn't have a chance to actually type out a message. I did make a phone call, which was easy to do, and the voice quality was clear.

T-Mobile G1 keyboard and screen

The keypad is easy to type on.

Click to view larger image.

Fine print

One warning to anyone interested in the G1 (Dream) handset: The only service provider today is T-Mobile, and some fine print on the company's Web site betrays a stingy allowance on data services: "If your total data usage in any billing cycle is more than 1GB, your data throughput for the remainder of that cycle may be reduced to [50Kbit/sec.] or less."

A handset designed for the Internet, coupled with so many downloadable applications from Android's Web site that are heavy on data usage, as well as music downloads from Amazon and online videos from YouTube, makes it seem likely that users will need more than the 1GB allotment.

More likely than not, other service providers will launch their own versions of HTC's Dream. They may offer better terms.

T-Mobile's G1 will first be available in the U.S. on Oct. 22 for $179 with a two-year contract and subscription to a limited data plan for $25 a month or $35 for unlimited data access.

T-Mobile will release the G1 in the U.K. in early November and other European markets in the first quarter of next year.

The G1 is currently available only in English, but translation into other languages is already underway, an HTC representative said. It will take six months for the handset to be made available in nearly all languages.

See the G1 in action, including a demo of Google Maps Street View.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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