I’ve been playing with the T-Mobile G1for a few days now and I’d say it’s definitely a mixed bag. The form factor is interesting and the screen is gorgeous. As noted last week, the initial user experience is hands down the ultimate experience I’ve seen yet on any platform. With a simple login to Google, you have access to all your data – awesome! Actually using the G1 though afterwards is considerably less awesome…
The first thing I noticed using the G1 is that you have to constantly use both the touch screen and the hardware keys. There’s no way to do it all from one or the other and that’s both frustrating and confusing. There’s NO text entry in portrait mode which means this is a two-hander in almost every use case and something I hate. No easy way to tap back a tweet, sms or any form of text. You can dial in portrait mode, but there’s no T9 mapped to the keys – or a virtual keyboard. I know this is coming in Cupcake, but this is a huge miss.
Typing on the keyboard takes getting used to like on all devices. Because of the hump on the right side, I actually find typing to be less comfortable than on other devices because I’m always moving my hand to get comfortable and this is slowing me down – way too much.
The trackball is both a strength and a weakness. Cruising through a web page or a list it’s great, but when you are actually trying to click on a small link it’s way too sensitive. I’ve honestly not looked to see if this can be adjusted yet, but imagine your mouse is operating at hyper-speed on a tiny screen and you ‘ll get the idea of what it can be like to use.
In general the UI is nice to look at but harder to use than you’d expect. There are a lot of ways to access things from the on-screen buttons to the menu key as well as the back and home buttons and unfortunately you need to know when to invoke what option. The only truly simple thing is that the green button calls up your dialer and the red key turns the screen off.
The Camera is pretty average. No flash, 3MP = poor indoor shooting. The shutter is mushy and I found the lag to be considerable. Typical for a phone actually though even the iPhone’s on-screen button snaps faster than this. Neither can compare to a several year old Nokia NSeries though …
The browser is very solid. Much faster on wifi than anything else – which brings up a related point on TMO here. The coverage in NYC is pretty good though not stellar but you lose ALL signal on the train platform’s at Grand Central and there’s little to no signal on Metro North making any T-Mobile device useless for the commute. Anyway the browser is as good as the iPhone in my book. There’s no flash support, but you can easily manage multiple tabs and moving between them is quite nice given the tile management system in Android. There’s no sync for bookmarks though so you’ll be adding what you want as you go here which is a definite hole that should be filled.
Playing with the Market / App Store (whatever the actual name is) has been pretty positive and I’ve seen how well integrated people are able to write applications. The store itself is nowhere as simple as the iPhone store, but certainly not hard to figure out and there’s a nice diversity of applications in each category. I can’t speak to the quality of things in general but the apps I’ve tried are all quite good. So far, I’ve tried and am using Accuweather (killer GPS integration), Truphone, Bonsai Blast, Compare Everywhere, Connect 4 and Tic Tac Toe (for Hannah who’s 5), fBook, Last.fm, My Maps Editor, PixelPipe, Pac-Man, Shazam, TuneWiki, and Twitdroid
I love how the notification system coordinates throughout the system! New apps installed, emails, tweets, sms messages … all come through the menu bar and you are able to switch modes to engage with the latest info that’s poured in. I cannot state how powerful this concept is enough. Looks like Palm is actually doing something similar in WebOS for the Pre though on the bottom… should be interesting to compare in a few months.
All of the potential power within the G1 is rendered useless within a few short hours of light use by it’s absolute crap battery. T-Mobile and Google should be ashamed for releasing such a power hog! I found that just be leaving email and Twitdroid on, the phone was dead by around 3pm – taken off power at 7 am when I left for work. In that time, I did some light browsing over cellular and perhaps 30 minutes of wi-fi use at the office. That’s awfully quick and I’m guessing I could actually kill the battery before lunch with heavy (more normal for me) use.
The G1 is a solid first effort but I would not recommend it to anyone other than a mobile geek looking to explore. I think the average person would have a lot to get used to which is certainly true of most devices, but the mass market simplicity you should expect to find today is just not there yet … and of course the battery issue.