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What the Google Phone giveth, it also takes away – the G1 review

December 17th, 2008 by James in A/V Devices, Miscellaneous Reviews, Phone Reviews

When I first got the Google Phone (the G1 through T-Mobile) I was rather impressed with it. Fitting in the palm of my hand, it made me think that if the iPhone was “Mac,” then the G1 is definitely PC. A little wider, a tad boxier. Clunky by comparison, but at first glance, it’s just as effective as a phone and even having some advantages over the sleeker iPhone. But as you use it, the picture begins to change.

First off, it comes with a real keyboard. The G1 is made by HTC and as such, you’ll see similarities between this and the T-Mobile Sidekick. And that keyboard initially made me think that the G1 has a definite advantage. But I found that in ambient daylight, it was very difficult to see the keys, so one has to really KNOW a mini keyboard in order not to type by sight. But compared to the virtual keyboard of the iPhone, it can certainly be a benefit.

Next is the touch screen. It doesn’t have multi-touch capability like the iPhone, but it is a touch screen that is vibrant, sharp and is definitely the hallmark of the design. However, over time, I found the tap capability of the touch screen to deteriorate. Often I would tap on an application icon and it would simply kick me back out to the main screen. I would have to hunt back to the icon I wanted and then highlight it using the trackball and pressing it to actually access the application I wanted. Very frustrating. Additionally, the trackball can be over sensitive which means if you push down on the ball to access, it may actually move the cursor to another link or app which will engage thereby forcing you to back out to try again.

The applications aren’t as numerous as the iPhone (last count was over 10,000), but it is growing. There are some fun and useful applications which at this point in the game are free. We like free. There’s a GPSs app, a WordPress app, Facebook and MySpace apps, a sweet app for football fans which updates play by play during gametime, budget apps, the list goes on and on. And it grows daily.

Another benefit that the Google Phone has over the iPhone is that it actually has “cut and paste.” Very good. But that advantage is lost of the fact that the 2MP camera doesn’t have video capture. In addition, the still picture capture is darn near unusable as it uses a hard button which is designed to where if you push it, you end up shaking the camera ruining the image.

But then again, it has a really sweet GPS feature where you can go into Google maps, set street view and actually walk virtually straight to where you want to go. So, when you go there in real life, you know exactly where you are. That’s a very clever feature that’s more wow factor than anything else, but it worked for me.

But again, where the G1 giveth, it also takes away. Though it has a marvelous screen for videos and a direct link to YouTube with a dedicated application, it has NO audio jack to plug in ear buds! Seriously, Google expects users to either pony up for a USB dongle to plug in ear buds, or listen to the barely audible, crappy speaker. A definitely design flaw that seriously needs to be corrected in the second generation.

Internet access is fast, being both WiFi and EVDO capable, and the coverage is vast. So far I have yet to get lose or miss a connection while cruising around town. The quality of phone reception is very nice. So far, I have had no dropped calls on the T-Mobile network.
But again, the drawback is it’s absolute HORRIBLE battery life. Two to three hours is all you will get on a single charge. That means you’ll be plugging this phone in at least 2 or 3 times a day with average use. That is simply untenable and Google should never have let this phone out of the barn unless it could last an entire day of regular use.

Sso, to summarize:

    THE GOOD:

Good first effort in answer to the iPhone. Actual keyboard for IM and email. Gorgeous screen. Good phone reception. Fast Internet access. Growing list of both fun and useful applications with the option of adding non approved ones. Cut and paste.

    THE BAD:

Overly sensitive trackball. Screen becomes insensitive to touch when accessing applications. Keyboard can be hard to read in ambient light. Thicker than the iPhone (due to the keyboard).

    THE UGLY:

Abysmal battery life. No audio jack for headphones. No video capture.

All in all, a good first effort, but it needs a “come to Jesus moment” in it’s second generation. I don’t see anyone dumping their iPhone for it. And with Apple recently cutting prices for the 3G iPhone to $199 – and rumors of a $99 iPhone Nano, I don’t see anyone choosing the G1 over the iPhone unless they REALLY hate AT&T (and we all know there are ways around that). Sure, some will say that the keyboard is it’s strong point and that may be true, but you can get a BlackBerry Bold that does just as well, if not better.

Comes in both Black and White from T-Mobile. More carriers coming in 2009.

One Comment on “What the Google Phone giveth, it also takes away – the G1 review”

Michael Martin Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Recent G1′s come with the USB headphone audio jack for free and there is actually a third color of bronze/brown.

I agree the battery life is atrocious but you can take steps to prolong it by disabling GPS, 3G, Synching, WiFi, and utilization of the a battery optimizer App.

The G2 should leapfrog this device as the kinks get worked out in the open market.

,Michael Martin
Google And Blog

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