The T-Mobile G1 'Google phone' is a tweaker's delight
- — 17 October, 2008 08:30
The G1, the first phone to run Google's Android software, includes a touch screen and a slide-out Qwerty keyboard.
The roomy backlit keyboard made typing easy, though the buttons felt a bit too flat for my comfort (because the flat buttons butt up against the rim of the phone, pressing the bottom row of buttons was sometimes difficult; the same issue arose with the buttons at the far right). My right thumb had to work harder than my left because, in effect, the keyboard was deeply inset (my thumb had to reach around and over the bottom fifth of the phone to reach it).
The only other physical buttons on the phone are a volume rocker switch on the upper left side, and a dedicated camera shutter button on the right side. A microSD Card slot is hidden on the left of the phone; to access it, you open the screen and press a subtle tab; the card then pops out of the side (warning: you'll need fingernails to get it to pop out easily). T-Mobile includes a 1GB card; the device has been tested with up to 8GB microSD Cards, and should support 16GB cards when available.
The rear cover pops off to reveal the unit's battery and SIM card. Because (like other HTC-designed handsets) the phone lacks a standard dedicated headphone jack, you have to use the included wired stereo headset, which plugs into the proprietary jack at the phone's base--the same jack that the charger plugs into. T-Mobile plans to offer a converter at extra cost, but the dongle approach seems as bothersome and inelegant as the original Apple iPhone's nonstandard headphone jack was. It's too bad, because the phone is certainly a capable media player.
The phone feels good in the hand, and it sounded great when I tested it. I received both 3G and EDGE network coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area; audio was clear, with no background noise or hiss.
In the PC World Test Center, the battery lasted for 5 hours, 51 minutes of continuous talk time--23 minutes longer than the iPhone 3G. In my hands-on use, the battery drained a bit faster than I had expected, though: After an hour of use (including phone calls, and music and application downloads), the battery had drained by 31 percent.
The Dialer application is simple to use. The on-screen buttons are well-spaced, and I had no difficulty using the app one-handed. Unlike with the iPhone 3G, I didn't accidentally trigger buttons by running my finger over the screen. I particularly liked the streamlined process for entering contact data, and the freedom I had to customize a contact's info to match the fields I wanted to fill. The Voice Dialer worked well when I tried it in a quiet environment.