G1 Phone ReviewJan 21st, 2009 | By D. Granoff, Technology Editor | Category: Technology
Since the release of the iPhone, people have been keen to find smart phones with a range of features – given there are several competitors, does the G1 have what it takes to take on the iPhone? Here are the results of 3 weeks of field testing by our staff:
Yes, and no. There are some areas that the iPhone does better than other smart phones on the market and some things that the G1 does very well.
G1 – The Software and the Hardware
Google has developed an open operating system named Android for phones that not only manages basic phone operations, but is a framework that is extendable using software developed by independent programmers.
The phone that the software runs on is also important because it needs to be able to support all the features available through that software. In this case, T-Mobile’s G1 phone runs on a specially designed phone made by HTC. There will be a series of phones coming out in the near future that will be Android compatible, but the G1 is the first to be widely available in the US and, more importantly, to be supported by a major cellular carrier.
You can find the specifications here, but here are some of the obvious differences between the G1 and the iPhone:
- The G1 has a touch screen AND a keyboard – making it much easier to enter emails or text messages
- The G1 has a built in electronic compass along with its GPS, so when you are using the navigation functions, the maps can be lined up properly with the way you are facing.
- The iPhone battery can only be changed by Apple, but the G1, like most phones, lets you change the battery yourself – good news if you are a heavy user and enjoy the idea of being able to carry a spare battery so you can swap batteries if yours runs out of juice.
- The G1 is better at running more than one program at a time than the iPhone.
- The iPhone has a multitouch screen, which lets you do fancy things like zoom in and out using finger gestures – you’ll have to wait for a firmware upgrade for the G1 before this is available.
- The iPhone supports videos out of the box, but the G1 lets you choose your own video player.
The Android Operating System by Google
The basic phone functions work fine “out of the box”, and in three weeks of heavy testing, the phone was remarkably stable, and needed to be powered down and up only once, coming back up quickly without any complications.
The phone comes with some basic apps including built-in support for Gmail and other Google applications like Google Maps (integrated with the built-in GPS and compass). Gmail access is as natural as texting, and the phone constantly downloads your email – so if your main Gmail account is hugely busy, you might want to set up a ‘phone’ Gmail account.
Calendar sync, texting, MMS are all seamless – and the notifications bar is a nifty feature – allowing you to come back to your phone and find a summary of what you’ve missed.
Lots of Software Available
There is a ‘software marketplace’ where you can download and add software to customize your G1 and make it your own.
There some must-have apps – one is Power Management – a system app from the marketplace, that allows you to change some options in your power management, as the battery life on the phone isn’t anywhere near as good as the iPhone. An average charge lasts a day – if you’re willing to sacrifice the 3g features and ‘dial down’ to 2g. With 3g, you’re looking at between seven and 14 hours, with moderate use.
Even on 2g, the web is fairly responsive – the average web page takes around a minute to load, and renders similarly to a computer – its orientation, for the most part, is based on whether the keyboard is open or not – so doesn’t ‘flip’ the screen from one orientation to another as readily as the iPhone.
The G1 is an amazing 1st generation Android phone, and with the Open Handset allowance, there will be more smart phones designed for the Android operating system coming in the near future – and each step will bring a better phone. The G1 is well worth it if you’re looking for a smart phone and are looking for an alternative to the iPhone.