The G1: First Impressions

You may have noticed I’ve been looking for a smartphone for a while, and looking at the T-Mobile G1 more or less since it was announced. Well, I finally went for it. I was going through piles of papers on my desk and realized I had almost enough cashback bonus on one of my credit cards to cover the upgrade cost. And I was already seriously considering adding a data plan in order to put Opera Mini on my RAZR.

So I went down to the nearest T-Mobile store, asked about a couple of issues that hadn’t turned up in my previous research, and got the last one in stock. There was a couple there before me looking at them, but they said they weren’t ready to buy, just researching.

It took me about an hour to activate the phone, mainly because I didn’t have a data plan beforehand and it can take that long for a new plan to take effect. Once I did, I started playing around experimenting with it. (Unfortunately this meant a lot of the things I was going to do this afternoon…didn’t get done. Oh, well.)

Good Stuff:

  • I really like the keyboard. Even though I’m using my thumbs, just knowing where the keys are (and not having to do any kind of combos for letters & numbers) means that I can type much faster than I could on the RAZR. I’m already starting to get used to some of the secondary characters, like dashes and such.
  • Real web access! The web rendering is very nice. But then it’s WebKit, so it’s basically the same as Chrome or Safari, so that’s not a huge surprise.
  • Twitdroid (a Twitter app) and Quickpedia (an optimized front-end for Wikipedia) have impressed me so far.
  • There’s a tip calculator app called BistroMath. I had to pick it up or the name alone. (Sadly, it doesn’t seem to work as an FTL drive.)
  • I absolutely love being able to look things up online instantly!
  • Wi-Fi was easy to set up, including WPA2 security, so I can use our wireless network at home.
  • Wallpaper selection is very nice, with a built-in crop & resize function.
  • Plain old USB charging, which means I can still use the car charger I got for my last phone.
  • The WPhone alternate interface for the WordPress admin area, originally developed for the iPhone, is fantastic on the G1! (Too bad they aren’t developing it much anymore.)
  • The built-in calculator app includes limited scientific capabilities (trig, logs, roots, etc.)
  • My bank has an app that will look up the nearest ATMs or branches to where I am.
  • Scrolling by dragging the actual content instead of the scroll bar is surprisingly easy to get used to. Actually a lot of stuff about the UI is like that: awkward at first, but in just a few hours it becomes second nature.

Minor Issues:

  • Our apartment is right on the edge of a cell coverage area, so I haven’t had a chance to try it out on the 3G network yet. But that’s not the phone’s fault.
  • It took me a while to figure out how to sync transfer data via the USB cable, since they’ve changed the way it’s handled since the manual was printed. The manual lists it as a system setting, but it’s now an option that pops up in the notification area when you connect it to a computer.

Not So Good

  • The touch screen isn’t always responsive, but that may be because I haven’t removed the screen protector that ships with it. I wanted to pick one up that’s actually designed to be used before I pulled this one off. Update: After replacing the screen protector, it’s much more responsive.
  • The covers on the USB port and memory card feel really flimsy.
  • Battery life doesn’t seem to be terribly great. In fact, the clerk at the store suggested I charge it nightly.
  • I’ve only played with the camera a little but seems slow and isn’t great with artificial lighting.
  • Playing around with WordPress and Wikipedia shows how valuable it is to have a layout optimized for the small screen. The Android browser seems to rely entirely on zoom to handle large-screen layouts, and it would be nice to have something like Opera’s fit-to-width option. Update: It seems to ignore handheld stylesheets, which IIRC is true of the iPhone as well. When website providers try to help you with the small screen, maybe you should let them? *sigh* Need to see if it handles media queries, at least for screen size. Update 2: It does have a fit-to-width option, but I’m not entirely sure what it does, given that I keep running into layouts that end up scrolling horizontally.

Stuff I Have Not Tried But Intend To

  • Anything involving GPS. I’m inside right now and it can’t get a signal.
  • I don’t know how fast the download speed is over 3G. (Wifi is quite nice!) Update: 3G speed seems pretty decent, actually!
  • Map directions. But it’s Google Maps, and those are generally quite good.
  • I haven’t hooked up my Bluetooth earpiece yet. Update: Pretty simple. I just needed to remember how to put the headset in pairing mode.
  • I haven’t tried connecting to an open WiFi network/hotspot.
  • I need to do some more testing with the camera, see how it handles daylight, check out image quality, etc.
  • I haven’t really messed with voice dialing.
  • Email. It automatically links to your Gmail account, and has the ability to access POP and IMAP accounts, but I haven’t tried out any of the above yet.

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6 thoughts on “The G1: First Impressions

  1. brion

    The iPhone browser ignores ‘handheld’ stylesheets, but allows you to specify a custom stylesheet through CSS3 media queries on the screen size. We don’t currently use one of those for Wikipedia because there’s no way in the browser to turn it *off* and switch to the regular styles, and right now we’re note quite confident enough of our mobile stylesheet. 🙂

    The general problem is that “handheld” stylesheets where they exist are often going to be extreme, or downright untested…

    I have the impression the Android browser allows the same or similar CSS3 media queries, but I’m not 100% sure.

    Reply
  2. Kelson Post author

    I’ve checked it against this media query page, and the G1 does handle media queries for viewport & screen size. I figured it would be comparable to the iPhone, given that they’re both WebKit, but I couldn’t remember when WebKit added support.

    For the record, the current UA is:

    Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 1.0; en-us; dream) AppleWebKit/525.10+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0.4 Mobile Safari/523.12.2

    Now to figure out the best way to nest the conditions…

    The general problem is that “handheld” stylesheets where they exist are often going to be extreme, or downright untested

    Good point. It occurs to me that even though I’ve made handheld stylesheets for various sites, it’s been quite a while since I tested them.

    Reply
  3. West

    Grr. Can’t beLIEVE I missed this bit of techery while I was away.

    Congrats, though.

    Btw, I’m surprised there’s anything to sync with a computer. I thought the G1 lacked PIM apps and worked with “the cloud.”

    Reply
  4. Kelson Post author

    The syncing I was doing via USB was just transferring images. I had one on my PC that I wanted to use as my wallpaper on the phone.

    That said, most stuff is done online. Contacts are synced with Gmail, for instance, but stored locally so you can still get at them if you’ve got a weak signal. Calendar, also. Of course the apps run locally, but have the ability to pull & push data to/from the cloud.

    Reply
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