Wednesday, April 08, 2009

G1 Likes and Dislikes

Based on the last thing I wrote I thought it would be good to share two more things. First, what I like and dislike about the G1. Second, what applications or interesting things I use on the phone. I will do the second one later. This one will be about likes and dislikes.

Right off the bat a big disclaimer. Most people primarily use their phones to call people and to send text messages. My phone works great for that. These comments are more about the things that phone nerds do with phones.

So let's start with the dislikes and end on a positive note with the likes.


Total Google Buy In - I knew coming in this was going to be the Google phone. It even says so on the back. I use a lot of Google services and have no problem with Google but setting the phone up brought the integration front and center immediately. The key piece that highlighted this was the use of Google contacts. I have somewhere near 1400 contacts in my cell phone and contact database and their is no easy way to get them into the G1. Well, except importing all your contacts to Google Contacts. Given that Google knows what web sites I surf and a bunch of other stuff, I am a bit hesitant to just hand that over. Ultimately I did, but I have to say that it was with a lot of reservations.

Out of the box email - A closely related issue to the first problem is email support. Out of the box mail support was buggy when I first used the phone (my first phone was stolen but that is another story). If you want to use email, users were pushed to use a program called K9, which is ok, but certainly not all that in my opinion, especially when compared to what I had on my old Sony phones. There is one exception. Gmail is wired in hard and has awesome integration. The problem with that for me is that I use Gmail as a spam catcher and I can't really use it as my primary email.

IM - As a devoted Sidekick users, I was pumped to be using a device that is a spiritual descendant of the Sidekick. One real big win with the G1 was the addition of Google Talk along with the standard services, AIM, MSN and Yahoo. The problem with this device though is that Google Talk works in an awesome way and the other ones are lacking. The way the Sidekick would hold IM sessions doesn't seem to be implemented here and it may be because of some proprietary Danger IP. Given they way IM works, with the exception of Google Talk, it really isn't a good always on IM device, at least with the default IM software. I haven't tried some of the other 3rd party services like Meebo but the net net of this was that I felt like in this area the device misses the mark.

Battery - This has been covered widely elsewhere. The battery, at least the first version, drained in no time at all. The firmware upgraded improved things significantly but the underlying power issue remains in my opinion. What I mean by that is that if I am using services other than call standby, for example wifi or gps, I have to keep an eye on the battery. With those services suspended the battery is ok, but the hope of a device like this is that you can take advantage of those advanced services without constantly looking for a power supply. This isn't unique to the G1 but it is something that is hopefully solved over time.

App store - I have a love hate opinion of the initial application store. I love the ratings and comments. I love some of the really cool G1 applications that are unique to the device like Wikitude and Locale. I dislike how hard it is to find useful applications. I think the merchandising job that Apple does is way better although I suspect that over time either Google or some specific operators will make something compelling.

Some problems aren't obvious - When things go bad with the G1, it isn't always clear what is wrong or how to fix it. Two cases in point. First Tmobile hotspot access. On my old phone, I had to reboot the phone to get my phone to login to a hotspot for free wifi surfing. Hack. On my new phone, I can never connect to Tmobile hotspots. Not sure why. Haven't been able to find an answer online. Seems buggy.

The second one was an issue around contacts. My contacts disappeared one day. I synced and they came back but when I tried to do subsequent sync's I got an error message saying sync was down and would come back later. Except it never did. I broke down and searched extensively and while I found multiple suggestions n how to fix this, ultimately I had to go To My Faves, delete all my contacts and re-sync. That worked. Very intuitive, especially since I don't use My Faves. I don't get that linkage.

Camera - I find the camera on the G1 to be slow and cumbersome. It is certainly fine enough but by comparison the Nokia cameras are literally good enough to be a stand alone camera.

Tethering - Can't do that. I could always do that with my other phones on Tmobile's network. Frown.


Keyboard and Trackball - Bad ass. The keyboard is better than just about every QWERTY device I have used (although I still like the rubber buttons from the Sidekick II). That trackball is AWESOME. So not only do I get touch, which appears to be the interface dujour for a lot of consumers, I get some of the things that are important to me, a keyboard, as well as a trackball, which you may not realize, but is something you will use frequently with this device and certainly long for it on others once you have tried it.

Background Processes - One of the coolest things about the G1 is that applications can run in the background. Examples of this are primarily GPS, but it extends to other things. I will hit the GPS application use cases in my next post but suffice it to say, unlike the iPhone, this phone can do more than one thing at a time. If you are looking to take advantage of advanced features, this is a must.

Best Browser on Mobile - The default browser on the G1 is amazing. It has full Javascript support so while I am booking a flight on Virgin America, I can actually get through the process where Shawn on his iPhone has to pull out the laptop. Again the trackball is a good compliment to the browser especially when the website is involved. I haven't seen any other browser with the same sort of support on mobile.

Google integration - While I cited Google buy in as a dislike, the depth of the integration is amazing, and if you are bought into the various Google services, they are here in spades. Maps, Gmail, Google Talk, etc. All the handoffs are nice and it is an amazing extension of a web software platform to a hardware device.

Compass and Accelerometer - It has both. It is especially cool with apps like Sky Map and wikitude. More on those two later.

Full package - In general, the G1 is the best blend of a computer and a cell phone I have seen. I can do many of the things one can do on a laptop (mountable storage drives via SD, web surf, email, IM) but also have a first class phone experience. I have not commented on the media capabilities which I think are sufficient but I prefer to have my media devices independent of the phone, ergo I have a Touch. I know others feel differently but for me this is a good blend.

So that is it in a nutshell. On balance, I am really pleased with the phone. I think there will be some interesting upgrades in future versions and you can count me as someone who plans on following future updates. Next up, applications I use.

1 comment:

Michael Martin said...

You can tether your G1 to your laptop for Internet use without root access by using this program I posted about at

,Michael Martin
Google And Blog