12. 16. 2008
The G1- The mythical Google Phone
For well over a year, the rumors of a Google phone have been running rampant. After the iPhone made its debut a year and a half ago, hopeful Google-lovers have been fantasizing that the Google phone would address all the shortcomings of the beautiful, but in some ways, limited, Apple smartphone.
I've been using the iPhone since it arrived in June 2007. Then I happily upgraded to the 3G model this past July. I love it and couldn't live without it, but I too was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the first Google phone. After side by side usage for a while, I've decided that the iPhone and the Google G1 are very different, and made for very different users. The iPhone is beautiful, simple, and a great media player, but the Google phone is a super-fast, highly customizable extra-smart smartphone.
When you turn on your G1 for the first time, it asks you for your Gmail account information or prompts you to set up a new account. Assuming you already have a Gmail account, your email is set up automatically and all your contacts are transferred as well. You're ready to start making calls and sending emails and texts within 30 seconds. Very easy.
Like the iPhone, the G1 has a touch screen and so the numeric keypad is on the screen, rather than being hardware buttons. From the home screen, you hit "dialer" and you get nice big number buttons and tabs for your contact list, call history, and favorite numbers. The setup of the actual dialing and phone screen is much more intuitive and easy than the iPhone's. There are far less clicks necessary to make your call. And the call quality? Crisp and loud and clear. As a phone, I think the G1 is better than the iPhone.
The browser is quite similar to the iPhone's Safari, but instead of being able to pinch and move your fingers to zoom in on pages, there's an on-screen magnifier you need to click to zoom either in or out. Also, you can't just click on the address bar to enter in a new URL- you need to click on the small hardware "menu" button on the bottom of the phone to open up the menus for new addresses, bookmarks, search, and refresh. Like the iPhone, the G1 doesn't yet support Flash, so any Flash sites just show you a big "X", leaving you to wonder what the Flash treasures are held within that will be out of your reach until you get to a computer. G1's browser is good- far, far superior to anything on a Windows Mobile phone, or a Blackberry, or Palm phone- but the iPhone makes surfing a whole lot easier.
The Google phone has its own version of the App Store- the Market. Right now, there are far fewer choices than the Apple version, but there are some great apps. "Compare Everywhere" lets you take a photo of a barcode, and then searches the web to find the best prices. Very fast and handy when you're shopping for any big-ticket items. The Facebook app isn't yet as polished as the iPhone's, but works well.
The iPhone is slim and stylish and the G1 is what would euphemistically be called "curvy". While it's not actually that much bigger or heavier, the G1 just feels and looks a bit bulky compared to the clean lines of the iPhone. This is, of course, though, due to the real hardware keyboard, which is revealed when you slide up the screen. It's a really well-designed keyboard, responsive and nicely sized, and there is a full row for numbers so you don't have to hold down a "shift" button to get numbers. The one thing I wasn't crazy about is that once the keyboard is uncovered, and you're in landscape mode, the bottom of the phone which has the hardware buttons (for home, menu, back, forward, call, and end call) is now to the right of the keyboard which makes for a big bump that takes some maneuvering around to get used to. Still... I've so missed having a real keyboard since I've had the iPhone, that I'd happily tack on a few ounces and lose a little bit of the streamlined beauty for added functionality.
Another great hardware touch: the trackball, which along with the touchscreen and the hardware buttons, and keyboard, lets you pick your favorite way of navigating. The trackball is my favorite for scrolling through long pages or lists quickly.
IM and texting, no question- the G1 tops the iPhone in my mind. The keyboard just makes it so much easier. I've gotten fast on the iPhone, but it just doesn't feel as natural as a real keyboard.
My decision? I think I need to use both phones, honestly. The iPhone for web browsing and media (the Google phone does, of course, work as a media player, but I'm just used to iTunes) and the Google phone for calling and texting and IMing. If simplicity and ease is your aim, then the iPhone is a clear choice, but for flexibility, speed, and function- the G1 may be your phone.
The G1 is available from T-Mobile for $179.99, and comes in black, white, and bronze (which actually looks like a dark metallic grey to me).