Review: HTC G1 Android Phone - InformationWeek

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10/28/2008
04:23 PM
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Review: HTC G1 Android Phone

T-Mobile is expected to sell nearly half a million Google phones by year end. Does the first Android smartphone live up to the hype?

The User Experience

The Android graphical user interface is a breeze to use. When you first boot the phone you have to sign up with Google. A Google/Gmail account is required, there's no skirting that issue. Once you enter your username and password, the phone sets itself up and automatically configures your Gmail account and populates your contacts list. Nice.

The home screen has a clock and several menu options for accessing the phone's main applications. Swiping up from the bottom of the touch screen opens the full menu. The full menu holds about 20 different applications. This is as far as you have to dig to get to most of the G1's features. Believe me when I say this is nice. Other mobile platforms (ahem, Windows Mobile, S60) make you drill through layers and layers of menus to reach certain tasks or settings. You'll do no such digging with Android.

The home screen of Android can be fully customized by the end user. Feel free to drag and drop any application, folder, or shortcut to the phonetop and place it wherever you wish. There are three panels to the home screen; simply swipe left or right to access more real estate for your applications. There is a built-in Google search bar on one of the pages. This makes it very easy to fire off a quick search right from the phonetop without opening the browser.

Incoming messages and other alerts are almost always accessible via a notifier that rests at the top of the screen. Swiping the notification bar down opens it up and you can see a full list of unread messages, missed calls, etc. This notifier is available from most applications on the G1.

Android is so simple that pretty much anyone can figure it out quickly.

Features... Or Lack Thereof

The G1 has many features that you come to expect on most handsets these days, especially devices which claim to call themselves smartphones. A camera is on board, as is a music player, browser, messaging clients, and so on.

The camera is a bit maddening to use. It has an autofocus lens, but focusing takes forever. The G1 does not match the speed of many other cameraphones that have autofocus. While the resulting images are a bit sharper than a fixed-focus camera would produce, the fact that it takes so long to take the pictures means you're likely going to miss that Kodak moment. You can, however, bypass the autofocus if you wish. The time savings you get are minimal.

The camera software doesn't allow you to do much. It is a bare-bones affair. No fancy shooting modes or effects are on board. The G1 also doesn't record video, which is a major detractor against it. In fact, the G1 doesn't even have video-playing software at all. You have to go to the Android Market to download a video player. Thankfully the software is free.

The music player is capable, but HTC goofed by failing to include a 3.5-mm headset jack on the device. If you want to listen to music, you can use the included stereo headphones that attach via the G1's USB port or you can buy an adapter and use your own headphones. The included headphones are not of the best quality. Personally, if I am going to carry around a device as large and heavy as the G1, I want it to be fully converged and cover all the bases. Music playback is one base not handled so well.

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