Review: T-Mobile G1 - A Good First Effort

What you learn when you start your T-Mobile G1 ($179.00 with two-year contract) for the first time is that this smartphone is inexorably tied to Google, maker of its much anticipated operating system. While you eventually get to the good stuff, using the G1 starts with your gmail account. It's a required part of the setup process, and if you don't have one, then you have to create one.

Once you get past the process of setting up the device with your Google account information, you're greeted with a nicely designed device that tries to address some of the limitations of Apple's iPhone, while providing functionality that goes beyond the iPhone in important areas.

The result is that you get a device with a touch screen that superficially resembles what Apple brings to the iPhone. However, the G1 is also very different from the iPhone. Like the iPhone, you can touch icons on the screen to make things happen, whether they involve looking at the address book, playing music, or taking photos.

Unlike the iPhone, you aren't limited to just using the touch screen. There are a few buttons that let you open and close icons and the main menu, and there's a track ball for navigation. But the biggest difference is that there's an actual QWERTY keyboard that's revealed when you slide open the screen.

Aside from the fact that this is far from the best keyboard I've used, it's still vastly better than the iPhone's touch screen keyboard.

The G1 has decent selection of standard features.

In addition to the navigation buttons and the keyboard, the touch screen reveals a good selection of pre-loaded applications ranging from a real Web browser, to an e-mail client, to a music player and a picture viewer. Many features you might like can be downloaded for free from Google, although some of those free downloads are either limited in usage or functionality.

Still, for the things many smartphone users want, it's all there.

Unfortunately, for many other smartphone users, it's not there at all. The G1 is clearly a work in progress, and while it's a good first start, this smart phone leaves a lot to be desired for business users.

For starters, it has no means of communicating with Microsoft Exchange based e-mail except by reaching it through the Web browser. Likewise, reaching Lotus Notes is out of the question.

Push e-mail that you'd expect to see from Blackberry or Good doesn't exist.

In the unlikely event your company uses Google's gmail, you're in luck, but the gmail application will only let you connect to one gmail account. Worse, if you need to change from one account to another, you must completely reset your device, and lose any information that's stored on it. If you have two gmail accounts, say one for personal use and one for business, then you must set the second one up as a POP3 or IMAP account, and access it using the standard e-mail client.

The G1 has support for a wide range of third party e-mail systems, however actually using that feature can prove to be problematic. Getting the G1 to send mail using an Earthlink e-mail account simply didn't work using the G1's default settings.

Using the G1 seems to be a case of an immature device that tries to be too many things to too many people.

For example, the screen of the G1 is clear, easy to read, bright, and you can scroll it sidewise to access more real estate. Unfortunately, the screen remains bright regardless of the ambient lighting. Where its competition (the BlackBerry, for example) will dim the screen for comfortable use in dark surroundings, the G1 does not.


Google, Android, T-Mobile, G1, Open Handset Alliance
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