Three Weeks with the Google G1 Phone

Posted: 17th February 2009 by admin in Technology

Three Weeks with the Google G1

This week, my blog is taking a small diversion off the outdoors path, and into a branch of your local electrical chain of choice!

I’ve been looking for a replacement to my aged and battered Orange M700, and when Orange refused to give me a decent upgrade, I jumped over to T-Mobile and took up the Google G1 on Flext 35 (1000 minutes a month, 3GB data allowance), and in summary I’m very happy with it, the only issues being the relatively poor battery life (solved by usb cable at work, charger at home and car charger for on the move), the lack of Flash 10 for Android (can’t watch BBC iPlayer) and the lack of a DivX video player so far.

First impression were very impressive out of the box, great 3 panel main screen (now set up as left : contacts, middle : main apps right : other apps), quick responsive touch screen, nice clean interface all operated by swipes and long clicks. The keyboard is small, by quite usable and more responsive than other people have reported it as being. Also picks up Wifi connections quickly and all the access points I have used so far seem to connect without a hitch. The phone prompts you to mount as a USB drive when plugged into a PC.

I love the slide and drag interface both for using the 3 “panels”, bringing up programs menu and dropping the status bar. It works as well as any phone interface for scrolling around web pages and other applications. Its a massive step up from Windows Mobile 6.

All core data for the phone syncs up through your google account, which is needed to use this phone. Contacts, Email, Calendar all grab data from the Google servers, the Google Mail application presents emails as threads as per Google Mail on the web, and is very easy to use, which means making this your main emailing client is very practical. The same ease can be said of the Calendar application. I would recommend routing other email accounts into Google Mail so the phone become a mail hub through one application however. The messaging application is very similar to the mail application in its threaded views.

Google Map is a damn good application as well, with fast pick up from the GPS unit / Cell Location, and very accurate positioning once you have a fix (other people report more patchy results). Directions are clear, with “push screen when reaching the edge” scrolling when on the move, although prefer the “Focus Current Position in Centre” approach personally. Locality search is good as well when trying to find a business or nearby facility.

The browser is quick, and supports most websites out there, with my only issue being the Flash issue mentioned at the top of this article. The music player is easy to use, and although the speaker distorts at too low a level for me, I found listening through my own headphones (via supplied usb to 3.5mm jack), that the output is good, with decent bass and seperation for a phone.

The camera is adequete for a phone, I’m in the “phones are used for quick snapshots” school of thought. I carry a 7 MP camera in my bag most of the time, so will use that if I want any detail. However the performance of the camera in low light conditions is pretty unusable.

However the out of the box installation is lacking a bit, but with the free apps at G1 Marketplace, that is soon fixed.  The main applications installed by me to make the phone do what I need it to are:

Twitroid (good twitter client)
Skype Beta (for skype text chats, no free Skype to Skype chat, however)
AndFTP (ftp client for uploading to my web server)
Power Meter (set up custom power usage profiles, disable wifi / gps etc, set screen timeouts)
OI File Manager (file system manager)
Download Crutch (allows files to be downloaded by the browser rather than just an error being reported)
Rings Extended (allows you to use mp3 files as ring tones)

The only applications I cannot find to replace those on my old Windows Mobile unit, are a decent word processor / spreadsheet with open office / ms office compatibility, and a decent terminal emulator that can connect to my database server at work.

However, I do think that we need to be able to save applications to the SD card in a future firmware update, as some people are running very low on space already for applications.

Build quality is good, and the screen is bright and clear. In fact, its the best phone I have owned, and if the flaws at the top are fixed it would get 9.5 / 10, however until these are fixed, its an 8/10.

  1. Jon says:

    I love the G1, it is my first modern phone. I had the Nokia 3410 before. But i am disappointed with it also. I bought the phonely solely for internet use, and have really awful 3G connection, and this is in a “very good” area – central London. T-mobile advised that the time I use my phone, lunchtime, the 3G network gets congested. I bought the phone to blog at lunchtime, and this is almost impossible to do. Hopefully bandwidth will increase to meet demand, but at the moment it is letting me down badly. Almost 500 quid invested over an 18 month contract, and I feel a little ripped off.

    But still love the phone. IM is so useful (I have friends overseas, so now do not need to pay for international texts). Also enjoy using the GPS with CardioTrainer.

    AK Notepad is good too.

  2. sean says:

    I get a standard “G” signal at home (on top of a hill overlooking halifax), but proper 3G when at work (Bradford). I also get decent reception on most motorways as well. It down to where you are and the roll out of 3G transmitters.

    Got AK Notepad, it works ok for taking notes, but want something a bit more full featured for writing on the move.

    I’ve had the HTC S550 / S600 / M700 before this, so on my 4th Smartphone now.