Probably the most anticipated handset
since the iPhone
3G, the T-Mobile G1 is the first smartphone to
use the Android
platform announced last year by Google and a number
of other partners.
Android is based on Linux and is in
part an open-source initiative that has hundreds (perhaps
thousands) of developers working on different applications
that an Android phone can use. But what Google have
done with the T-Mobile G1 is to come up with a handset
that tightly integrates into Google's online services..
and perhaps pose a direct challenge to Microsoft's Windows
Mobile and the Apple iPhone experience.
T-Mobile G1: Hardware
Before we look at the software, a quick
tour of the hardware. The T-Mobile G1 is made by HTC
who have a long history of making Windows Mobile devices,
often in partnership with T-Mobile and other carriers.
The G1 is very similar to a typical
Windows smartphone in terms of specification - there's
a large 3.2" 320 x 480 pixel touchscreen display,
a 3.2 megapixel fixed-focus camera, 3G and 3.5G support,
WiFi, GPS (plus a digital compass), microSD expandable
memory, Bluetooth 2.0 and USB 2.0 connectivity. The
main functions are controlled with a trackball (a little
like modern BlackBerry devices), plus there's a slide-out
QWERTY keyboard. Annoyingly, the T-Mobile G1 has one
of HTC's combined USB/audio sockets which means that
you cannot use a standard headset without an adaptor.
It's quite a heavy device at 158 grams.
processor is a 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A with 192 MB
of RAM which is very similar to HTC's Windows devices.
Underneath, this is a quad-band GSM phone with UMTS,
HSDPA and HSUPA for high-speed downloads and uploads.
The European version has 2100 MHz UMTS/WCDMA, the US
version is 700 and 2100 MHz. The G1 also supports GPRS
and EDGE data, plus 802.11 b and g WiFi. Maximum talktime
on 3G is just under 6 hours with up to 16 days standby
time, in part due to the large 1150 mAh battery.
T-Mobile G1: Software
Officially this handset is called the
"T-Mobile G1 by HTC", but unofficially
it may well end up being called the gPhone or
GooglePhone simply because of the way that Google
have integrated their applications into the device.
As you would expect, the T-Mobile G1
has one-touch access to Google Search. The T-Mobile
G1 has built-in support for Gmail (Google Mail), YouTube
(owned by Google), Google Talk (instant messaging) and
Google Maps and Google Street View. The mapping support
looks particularly clever because it can use the compass
to orientate the map depending on where the user is
standing. Oddly, this also works with Street View, so
you can use the G1 to get a picture of the street you're
standing in.. which you could just look at presumably?
not all Google though, the G1 also supports Amazon's
new MP3 download store and in the US will have support
for AOL and Windows Live instant messaging. There should
be a whole load of other applications available from
the Android Market.. which sounds like something
out of Star Wars, but it is simply a collection
of applications and mashups for Android users to play
The Android interface is designed to
be used with a finger, and is meant to be a simple and
fun way of interacting with the device. It looks a little
like Windows Vista, and it's certainly different from
the look on the iPhone and HTC's TouchFLO smartphones.
Quite how polished it will be is a question, as there
are indications that the T-Mobile G1 has been a little
rushed to market. Still, it should be possible to download
updates and enhancements as needed. A couple of demonstration
videos have been provided by T-Mobile that you can see
at the bottom of the story.
It's worth pointing out that the media
player supports AAC, AAC+, AMR-NB, MIDI, MP3, WMA and
WMV audio formats, although what video formats the G1
supports is unclear. As we mentioned before,
YouTube is supported. There's also a web browser, standard
email client and a bunch of other applications built
into the phone.
T-Mobile G1: Pros and Cons
When it comes to looks, the G1 lacks
the "wow factor" of other handsets, although
it looks quite smart and minimalistic. Although the
320 x 480 pixel display is better than most of the competition,
we really feel that proper web browsing requires more
pixels. There's no mention of geotagging for the camera,
nor what sort of video capture resolution it might have.
It's a heavy device to carry around, although it's certainly
lighter than the massive Nokia
E90. And we really don't know how buggy this new
operating system is going to be.
On the other hand, it's a refreshingly
different approach from the rest of the field, and this
is a very high-spec device which should suit most power
users. And if you use Google's services a lot, then
this "GooglePhone" looks ideal.
T-Mobile G1: Availability
We understand that the T-Mobile G1 will
be available in the US from October 22nd for $179 when
taken out with a two-year contract. The UK will follow
in November, with other T-Mobile regions following during
If the T-Mobile G1 can keep the bugs
to a minimum, then this could well be a really desirable
handset. It stops short of being a great handset
because it's outclassed by the HTC
Touch HD and other recent releases in hardware terms.
T-Mobile's pricing looks good too.
However, there's a rumour going around
that the next Nokia "Internet Tablet" might
also be a phone.. and that will pitch Nokia directly
against Android in the smartphone market. And then there's
whatever Microsoft has up its sleeve with Windows Mobile
7. Whatever you feel about Android and the T-Mobile
G1, it's worth remembering that this sort of competition
is very, very good for consumers.