An Objective, hands-on, look at the T-Mobile G1

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by the local T-Mobile store to get some information about the T-Mobile G1. Sure, I’ve seen pictures online, and I’ve read the specs and all of that – but I was hoping to actually get a chance to use the phone. Much to my surprise, they not only had one on hand, but they handed it to me and let me play around with it for as long as I wanted. It wasn’t tethered to a wall or weighed down with any type of “don’t steal me” security – so I got a good, honest, idea of what using the phone would be like.

Thus far I have been fairly critical about the phone. No multi-touch, no headphone jack, and a market place with no rules – seems like it could spell useless disaster to me. So I obviously approached the G1 with a critical eye.

The first thing that I noticed was the size of the phone. Compared to the iPhone it looks like a brick. It’s very thick, but not much longer than an iPhone. At first that seemed like a big deal, but honestly, the phone feels very good in your hand, and the added weight of it makes up for the “cheapness” of the plastic casing. It’s certainly not as elegant as the iPhone, but it didn’t feel like a cumbersome brick either.

The screen on it is big and beautiful. It doesn’t feel cheap like the LG Dare. It is a touch screen, but not a multi-touch device – and that’s a hard thing to get reacquainted with. A certain amount of the intuitiveness of the iPhone comes from its multi-touch capabilities and not having them almost feels like you have one hand tied behind your back. Non-iPhone users are not going to have this problem – but it’s definitely an issue for me. Still, navigating the screen was easy enough to do. Android has a slightly different way of organizing your applications, and I love the use of folders, and how there is a “drawer” to pull your apps from and create shortcuts on your desktop.

It feels slightly Windows-like — but Windows if it was done correctly. I think the draw may draw some inspiration from the Dock in OS X, but it’s a different delivery method of the concept, and it works very well.

There are some features that I would very much like to see on my iPhone. Wallpapers, for example. That’s certainly not a feature that would make me choose this phone over an iPhone – but it’s something I would like to see on the iPhone in the future.

The web browser is nice. It’s not quite as smooth as the iPhone, but T-Mobile’s 3G network as actually substantially faster than AT&Ts (at least in my area). I was impressed with the speed.

I also tried out the trackball for playing Pac-Man on the device and it was a nice experience. The trackball also looks like it could be very useful if you need to navigate the phone with one hand. That was something I hadn’t thought of until I actually tried the device out.

I went from a flip-phone to an iPhone – so I never had the “real” qwerty keyboard experience on a mobile device, so using the “real” keyboard on the G1 was actually kind of difficult for me. The buttons seemed really small…but I would imagine that’s only because I’m not used to that. I think fans of “real” keyboards are going to be very happy with this…and I’m sure I could get used to it if I had to.

To me the phone has looked kind of flimsy in pics online, and I almost expected the pop-out screen to be loose, or to not feel like it was snapped in properly, but it doesn’t. Overall, the phone is mostly impressive. The OS seems intuitive and well thought out – the device itself is missing a few key things to make it truly great…like a headphone jack. I’m also not partial to the choice of SD card storage – but I see where it could be a benefit for people who want to expand their storage further…and it certainly helps keep the cost down.

Cost is another very important factor. The phone is $179 vs. $199.9 for the iPhone – and while the iPhone gives you more in style and storage for just a few bucks more, the G1 has a $20 a month unlimited internet plan, versus the iPhone’s $30 a month plan. That makes the G1 substantially cheaper over time – and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some people who are on the fence about which one to purchase heading toward the G1 based solely on price (storage and style be damned).

All in all, I have to say I was impressed with the G1. I think it’s an interesting phone, and it will truly be a contender for top dog in the mobile market. I wouldn’t trade in my iPhone for it, but if I lived in a place where AT&T simply had no coverage, or if I was already locked into a T-Mobile contract – I think I’d be happy with what the G1 has to offer.

Comments

  1. my biggest problem with this phone is that it looks so cheap and plastic on the pictures, like some really bad plastic toy..of course i cant judge without seeing it in person, but the pcitures stop me from wanting to see it

  2. Walt Mossberg chimed in on the Wall Street Journal today.

  3. T-Mobile only has 3G coverage in 20 cities where ATT has 320 or so.

    The gPhone looks cheap and bulky, no multi-touch, no headphone jack, an analog clock on the home screen(very windows-y).

    It needs some serious streamlining to compete.

    The Blackberry Storm on the other hand will woo all those business Blackberry users who have been told by their IT department that the iPhone is a no go(despite their inroads into the business sector, ala Outlook)

    I have an iPhone, but the Storm looks awesome.

    Blackerry’s motto should be, “Look out !(Apple) a Storm is coming!”

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