Monday, 10 November 2008

T-mobile G1 – The first of the Google Android Phones. Part 1.

I swore black and blue that I wouldn’t succumb to the desire to get one of these as I felt that being an early adopter on this was not somewhere where I wanted to be. I was waiting for the release of the HTC Touch HD which hardware wise seemed to be a far superior option however on finding out the initial release pricing of £500 for the hardware alone (no contract), or changing suppliers to Orange for the privileged price of £40 /month and dishing out an extra £80 for the phone, left me cold.

The end result was that I called up my supplier (T-Mobile) which I was at the end of contract with and asked for an upgrade. They came back with a brilliant offer of £20 /month, unlimited Internet access (meaning 3GB before they ask questions) and the hardware for free. Now had they said to me that I would have to pay the £40/month new subscription rate I would’ve told them to take a long walk of a short pier. The question then is after having used the phone for the last week in anger would I change my mind on the initial release pricing? I’ll tell you at the end of this review.

So let’s take a look at the hardware and stats both from what is professed by HTC and also from what T-Mobile state on their website. The reason I have included some specs from both websites is that T-mobile have been a little more realistic in their expectations from the hardware especially in the standby time.

Plenty of good stuff in there and entirely what we would expect from a competing smart phone except perhaps the side - width and height seem fine but when you compare the depth to the current king of touch screen smart phones, the iPhone, we see that the G1 is a full 5mm deeper. This chart shows a direct comparison with some of the other smart phones that are currently on the market and we see that it is not quite the massive beast that it first appears to be.

Physical Features

The front of the G1 is not pretty. Whilst it is dominated by the 3" touch screen the buttons and trackball area really do look like an afterthought kind on tacked on the bottom. The buttons are fairly self explanatory in that starting from the left we have the call/answer button, then the home button, menu over the trackball (which is also a button), back and finally the cancel/hangup button. The configuration works very well and I have not been caught out hunting for buttons.

The Left side has the volume rocker button and also once you open the keyboard slide you have access to the micro SD slot.

The right side has nothing but the camera button on it but it is in the logical place as you would only really use it with the slider closed.

On the back is the speaker and the camera lens.

The bottom has a mini USB port that may look a little odd but works with any mini USB plug.

With the back open you can see the battery and also where you insert your sim so nothing special or surprising in there. Getting into the back is just a matter of levering it off much like some of the old Sony Ericsson phones.

Build wise the hardware has left me somewhat disappointed. The plastic that it has been made from is a bit flimsy and the way it all fits together leaves some odd gaps (as can be seen in the right side view). The feel of the buttons and the keyboard is just fine however I am a long way from touch typing like I could both on my Blackberry and my old Samsung D900.

Ergonomically the keyboard is ok and even with the raised button console on the bottom of the phone the keys are easily reached however my one call would be to make the buttons in slightly higher relief as there are times when you are not entirely sure that you've pressed them properly.

The slide mechanism has a good solid snap to it and doesn't feel like it's going to break. On extension it does look a little wonky which again lends itself to my rather disappointed build quality call.

Access to the Micro SD slot is a bit of a pain but to be fair you're not going to be swapping them over that often and it sure beats other phones that require you to remove the back and the battery for access.

Overall it is a perfectly functional body that isn't over sized and doesn't make me feel like I need to treat it like eggshell. The build could be better and things like the top of the slide and the body of the phone not meeting up and visible cast marks on the chassis that make it feel cheap especially when you compare it to the likes of the HTC Touch HD and the Apple iPhone.

In Part 2 of this review I will go into the functionality of the phone, the responsiveness of the touchscreen and best of all in depth into the brand new OS from Google - Android.

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