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T-Mobile G1


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The T-Mobile G1 is the smart phone equivalent of a Google beta application: innovative and mostly satisfying, but it also feels like a work in progress. Key among the G1’s strengths is the new Google Android operating system, which, unlike the iPhone, is completely open to third-party applications (even if the number of apps is limited for now). The $179 G1 also sports a full keyboard and comes with many of Google’s services for on-the-go access, including search, e-mail, instant messaging, and maps. Plus, the G1 boasts a touchscreen interface and browser that are second only to the iPhone, and the Android platform is better at multitasking.

On the other hand, the G1 is missing several features that are considered standard on other devices in its class, including stereo Bluetooth, turn-by-turn GPS navigation, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Assuming this smart phone improves with age, along with the footprint of T-Mobile’s fledgling 3G network, the G1 is a good choice for consumers but not necessarily for business users.


How much more phone are you willing to carry if it has a full QWERTY keyboard? That’s the question we kept asking ourselves as we carried the blocky black G1 in our front pocket. The G1 weighs 5.6 ounces, versus the iPhone 3G’s 4.7 ounces, but it’s not much thicker (0.6 inches vs. 0.5 inches). However, the build quality of this HTC-made device is certainly solid, and the upward, arc-sliding action of the screen is smooth. The subtle banana-like arc at the bottom of the device is a nice touch, even if it doesn’t serve much of a purpose.


The left side of the G1 houses the two volume keys, and the right side is where you’ll find the camera button. We’re not sure why, but the G1 lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, you’re forced to use the included earbuds/microphone, which plugs into the mini-USB plug on the bottom of the device. We’re also not fans of the microSD Card slot placement; it’s to the right of the keyboard when the screen is flipped open. The battery is user replaceable but the back cover is difficult to remove.


Below the display are four circular buttons: Send and End keys for calls, a Home button for returning to the main menu, and a Back key. The Menu key right below the display shows you which options are available to you when you’re within an application, and it’s also used to unlock the G1. Last but not least is the small trackball between the Home and Back buttons, which was accurate but a bit too fast for our tastes.

One thing we noticed was just how warm the bottom of the G1 became during testing. We measured temperatures ranging from 95 to 102 degrees, making the phone a bit uncomfortable to hold at times.

android_g1_sf02Touchscreen and Interface

The 480 x 320-pixel capacitive touchscreen dominates the front of the G1. While it’s not as colorful as the iPhone’s display, it was quite responsive and almost always accurate, with the occasional exception of activating the wrong Web page link. No, you don’t get multi-touch gestures as you do with the iPhone, but this Android device has some pretty cool tricks up its sleeve.

Touching the tab on the main screen with your finger and sliding it up reveals the list of applications in a drawer-like fashion. If you want quicker access to any of these apps, just press and hold it, and you’ll be able to place that icon on the main screen along with the four default icons (Dialer, Contacts, Browser, and Maps). Or if you want to keep the main screen uncluttered, you can move that icon to a secondary screen. Sliding your finger from the top of the screen downward reveals any recent notifications, including unread e-mail and instant messages. We love that you can access this option from within any app.

The G1’s interface is perfectly functional but lacks the polish and consistency of the iPhone’s. The white-text-on-black-background aesthetic used in some apps and even the app icon themselves look a bit dated and boring. Google also missed an opportunity by not including more widgets that are updated with information in the background. And while we appreciate the ability to cut and paste text, it works only in text fields, not within e-mails or Web page articles.

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