Okay, I said I would wait a week before I give my review of my new Google G1 Android phone, but I now decided to wait 2 weeks since next week is the election. So this post will be a 3 day review of the phone thus far.
First conclusion, if you use Gmail, then this phone is for you!
Integration with Google
This phone is tight, I mean tight, with Google services. I use Google apps for my Domain, which means Email sent to mandato.com is actually handled by Gmail. The phone worked right out of the box with my mandato.com Gmail address. This tight integration with my Email and calendar alone will save me a lot of time and help me better manage my communication via both Email, IM and phone. If you use Gmail for your business and/or to communicate with family and friends, you will appreciate this phone.
So how tight is Android with Gmail? Well, all my contacts in Gmail are contacts in my phone. My calendar events are now synchronized between my phone, Google calendar on the web and my desktop Sunbird calendar application. Sure other applications and services (Act, Lotus Notes and Outlook come to mind) integrate with Software phones on computer desktops, etc.., but this does the job for new kinds of customers like myself, those who have mobile and/or virtual business environments.
So, this is why I got the phone and I must say it does everything I expected.
The Good, The Interface
The Interface for the phone is intuitive, though I would have to say this phone is not for everyone. As far as a phone is concerned, it works pretty well. In normal mode (keyboard closed), you can do a lot of basic stuff with the phone, access your calendar, dial, Google maps, web browser, email, etc… As soon as you need more computer like functionality, just put your thumb on the left side of the screen and push it to the right, and you got yourself a nice functioning keyboard. I never understood why someone would design a phone like this, but now I have it I know why, to keep things simple when possible. For example, I don’t think my parents will have a problem answering a phone call with this phone, but they certainly would have problems using the keyboard. I still have a phone that my mom could make a phone call with without getting completely confused.
There are some items about using the phone, that I’ll call techniques, that someone will need to learn to appreciate how to use and navigate a G1 phone.
First is the menu button. At any point, you can click the menu button to do essentially the same as clicking the ‘File’ pull down menu in any Windows application. For example, in an IM chat, click the menu button to do things such as close the IM chat window or toggle to another ongoing chat window. You’re going to need to learn this fast as there is no touch screen option to get to these options or settings screens.
Touch and hold, in some instances, will achieve the same as a right click when in a Windows application. For example, when viewing email messages, touch and hold the message in question to see options such as delete and mark as read/unread.
Back button is very important, as it does as it implies. Anytime your in a screen and you want to cancel what you’re doing or go back to the last screen, just click the back arrow button and you’re good.
The most tricky but coolest of features is the “closing the blinds” like feature to see the current list of notifications. It is hard to describe, but basically at the top of the screen is a bar that tells you what’s going on with the phone, date/time, battery life, etc… The top left corner will have icons for different types of notifications such as email, gmail, calendar, IM, txt, missed calls, voice mail etc…. All of these incoming messages or notifications are all listed in these blinds. This feature is definitely pretty sweet.
The Bad, The Hardware
I do have a couple items with the phone that I don’t like. Fortunately, they are issues with the hardware, not the software.
First problem is the lack of port options. The only way to plug anything into this phone is through its one proprietary USB port. The phone does come with stereo headphones, though if you want to keep the phone plugged in to charge, then listening to some music or making a hands free call isn’t an option. I did order an adapter off Ebay, but you would think it would just make sense to solder on a 2.5mm jack, as it is the most common hands free jack size.
Using the keyboard while something is plugged into the USB port is no walk in the park. My right index finger wants to surround the sides of the phone when typing, the cable just gets into the way. See photo. When nothing is plugged into the USB port, I’m just peachy keen. When a cable is plugged in, my finger constantly has to decide if it should wrap above or below the cable. Very very annoying. What would be ideal is either a second USB port on the right side of the phone (top side when in keyboard mode) or if the USB port was at a corner and could rotate from corner to corner or bottom. My vote is for either a second port or headphone jack centered on the right side (top side when in keyboard mode).
The built-in camera is not so hot. Part of the problem may simply be with the button location though. When I take pictures holding it vertically, it is hard to press the camera button. When turned sideways, the button is a little easier to push but you still need to hold the camera with both hands to keep it as still as possible to prevent blurring. I have yet to take a clear photo with the camera.
This phone is awesome. It is definitely going to save me time allowing me to keep up with work when I otherwise would not be able to as well as keep everything tightly together so I can access all my data from any computer and my phone.