This first generation Google Android phone is an interesting mish-mash of brilliant software and so-so hardware. The touch screen is fantastic and the UI is almost perfect. Whilst it can’t compete with the N95-8GB on multimedia capabilities, for our business it kicks its ass.
The G1 is not available in Ireland and may never be. So far it has been released in the USA and the UK. Calls to CPW in Enniskillen drew a blank as they had no idea what I was talking about. So I bit the bullet and paid full whack for an unlocked phone on eBay. The vendor in San Francisco shipped it the day before Thanksgiving and it arrived on the Monday. I was very impressed (and relieved). I immediately replaced the 1GB microSD card with a 4GB one.
First impressions of the hardware are not great. The screen looks good, the buttons cheap, the kink at the bottom weird, the full qwerty keyboard better than expected, the scroll-ball surprisingly usable , the lack of a standard audio jack bizarre, the wobble between the upper and lower halves of the phone terribly annoying and the camera crap.
The phone can’t be used until it is activated with Google. This took me a while as the Irish mobile network APNs are obviously not known to the phone and it won’t activate over wifi. A bit of Googling got me the settings I needed (see last post). Then a big sigh of relief as I realised it fully supports Google Apps for Your Domain so I could register with my loudervoice.com address.
Then you see the UI and the software and the touch screen in action. You forget about the crappy build quality and the squeaking back cover because that UI totally rocks. Many compare it to the iPhone but I actually think it looks better. The single iPhone feature which I prefer is the “Back” as a button on the screen rather than a real button. The main thing about the Android UI if you are coming (like me) from a Symbian Series 60 phone, is speed. It screams along. The browser is amazingly fast, GMail is scorching, GCal is great, GMaps is instant. Compare this to the “wait wait wait” of an N95-8GB and you wonder how you put up with it for so long.
You may have noticed a theme above. Yes you have to live in the Google world for Android to make sense for you. In my case it’s a no-brainer. Apart from Zoho CRM, Netvibes and some technical online tools like Unfuddle, I spend most of my day on a variety of Google Apps. Between GMail, Google Reader, GTalk and Google Docs, that accounts for many many hours.
The phone doesn’t come with a huge number of other applications. All the basic things you expect are there. The Google Marketplace is their equivalent to the iPhone App Store. There are a few big differences. The first is that Google doesn’t try to compete with its own developers by blocking “competing” apps. As long as the app doesn’t kill the phone, it’ll probably be approved on the Marketplace. The downside of this is plenty of silly pointless apps so you need to use user ratings/reviews to guide you.
The second difference with Android is that you are not limited to the Marketplace. Sergey Brin doesn’t decide for you what apps you are allowed to run on your phone. You can install whatever you like. This is even more open than Nokia who have dropped the ball completely in 2008 with the app-signing fiasco.