More thoughts on the G1 phone: hardware

Having had a few weeks to play around with my new T-Mobile G1 (Android) phone, I feel like I can give a better “review” of this product – both from a software and hardware perspective.

As you ought to know by now, Google has released an open-source OS called “Android”.  Although the first iterations are aimed squarely at the mobile handset market, there is little doubt that Google is attempting to push Android even further.  While still in the ‘infant stages’ as far as operating systems are concerned, Android is surprisingly polished and well-made.  It’s not perfect, mind you, but they never are. 

The very first Android-based phone on the market was released by T-Mobile, which is unusual for a company that tends to have a very not-cutting-edge selection of devices.  With that said, I’m going to focus on the hardware of this device – made by HTC –  for this particular write-up.

Here are my thoughts (thus far) on the T-Mobile G1…

Although I found the G1 to be somewhat ugly initially, it’s grown on me quite a bit these past few weeks.  I really like the matte black finish — which does *not* smudge particularly easily — and the phone feels solid in your hand.  The sliding mechanism, which reveals the physical keyboard, feels sturdy and moves easily.  On the down side, however, I have noticed some very slight movement of the screen while I’m on a call.  Slightly annoying, is probably the best description of it, and life continues without issue. 

The lower call / menu buttons feel good, if a bit too flush.  The camera button (on the right) and the volume up/down buttons (on the left) feel fine.  On the negative side, however, I’m not a fan of the “roller ball” that is nestled between the back and home buttons.  It feels cheap to me, seems overly sensitive, and I really avoid using it as much as possible..  Perhaps the Blackberry Pearl users out there will feel right at home, though.

Accessing the battery/SIM card by removing the rear cover was a bit cumbersome, in my opinion, though I’ve not needed to access either of them since.  The cover for the MicroSD card is located near the ‘call’ button when you slide the screen away.  Adding/removing a MicroSD card can be accomplished “on-the-fly”.

At this point, the Android software does not feature any sort of “virtual” keyboard, so all text entry comes from the physical keyboard that is revealed as you slide the screen to the right (if held vertically; upward, if held horizontally). 

Like the call / menu buttons on the lower portion of the phone, the keyboard keys feel a bit “too flush” for my taste, which make accurate typing a bit of a chore thus far.  I was, of course, expecting a bit of a learning curve with the keyboard as I migrated from my T-Mobile Dash, but it’s taken longer than I had expected.  Also, the lower portion of the phone (call button area) ends up separating your right hand from the right-side of the keyboard ever so slightly.  That has taken some getting used to.

My biggest “peeve” with the keyboard?  My T-Mobile Dash (also made by HTC) allowed you to type the ALT characters via two methods: 1) hit ALT + the key you need, or 2) hold the key for a moment, which would trigger the ALT character automatically.  Strange as it sounds, the second method became second-nature for me!  I was honestly quite surprised to not have this feature on the G1, since it seems so simple to do.  Both my brother and I are really hoping that this might change with a future software update.

I should also note that the keyboard makes a slight “swoosh” sound when you open and close it.  It reminds me a bit of a door from Star Trek 🙂

What can be said about the G1 screen?  It’s big, beautiful, and nice to look at.  The resolution is nice, and the touch interface is fun-to-use… most of the time.  The truth is, the touch doesn’t always register on the device, which can be slightly aggravating.  At this point, though, I’m going to have to chalk this up to a software issue, and not hardware.  Here’s hoping that a fix is coming down the pike.

Although using a touch interface is nice and very natural, having a screen with fingerprints all over it quickly becomes annoying.  Like many iPhone users that I know, I’m constantly wiping my display off on my pants or t-shirt just to remove the smudges.  A “screen protector” of some sort would probably help with this, but they also typically affect the look of the screen negatively too, at least in my experience.

All in all, the screen looks good – for the OS, pictures, web browser, and so on.  It also seems sturdy and somewhat scratch-resistant.  I carry my phone in either my jacket or pants pocket, and I don’t see any scratches thus far.

I’ll keep this short.  The G1 camera looks quite good, and is very easy to use – two areas where the Dash really fell flat.  There is no flash, and the camera suffers from a bit of shutter lag as the auto-focus does its job.  Still, the pictures look decent and it’s a reasonable “always with me” type of camera.

As a bit of a help to others, you can also click the roller-ball to ‘snap’ pictures, which helps reduce moving/blurring while the photo is taken.

The call quality has been very good, in my experience, though I find the phone to be slightly on the quiet side.  I’ve found little reason to use anything but the ‘max’ volume level for either the earpiece or the speakerphone.  Strangely enough, the Dash (again, another HTC device) had the same issue: just a bit too quiet for my taste.  I’ve also noticed that the ringer is much quieter when the phone is set face-up on a desk – certainly because the speaker is on the back of the device.  Whereas my Dash could be heard across the house, I often don’t hear my G1 very well.  Both phones had the ringer turned up, of course.

I can’t speak for the quality of my voice for those receiving a phone call from me, of course, but I’ve had no complaints.  Also, I’ve talked with my brother G1-to-G1, and he sounds fine.  No real discernable difference from the Dash, in this case.

I have NOT used the USB-to-headphone adapter, unfortunately, though I do with they’d stuck with a simple headphone jack.  The necessity of the adapter likely means that I’ll never use headphones with my G1.  Just being honest here.  The including stereo headphones appear painful, and I will NOT be using them.

Pairing the G1 phone with my Motorola H375 Bluetooth headset was very straightforward and has (thus far) worked just fine.  As an aside, the H375 has been a great headset!  Well-priced, comfortable, easy-to-use, good quality, and nice to look at!

On the bottom of the G1 is a (now fairly standard) mini-USB port underneath a flexible door.  I could do without the cheap cover – which I might just remove – but I am ever-thankful for mini-USB ports that are frequently featured with newer devices.  The ability to use a single cord to connect/charge my cell phone, Bluetooth headset, and other devices is really great.

Connecting the G1 to my computer was pretty straight-forward as well.  Plug the USB cord into my computer and then the mini-USB connector to my phone.  The phone notifies you that you’re connected, and then you have the option to “Mount” or “Don’t Mount” the phone on your computer.  Essentially, the default behavior when you connect your phone to your computer is to simply charge the phone *only*, which is nice.  To connect to your phone as a storage device, just hit the “Mount” option and it will show up as a connected drive.  You can access any files, photos, or whatever else you might have on the MicroSD card.  The phone memory itself cannot be accessed, I believe.

Strictly from a hardware perspective, the G1 is a good phone.  It’s really quite sturdy, and the weight – while not slight – feels good in the hands.  I would change a few things, if I could, there’s even more that I wouldn’t change.  HTC did a very good job in designing this phone, and I imagine that it will serve me well long into the future.  In “cell phone speak”, that means 12 – 18 months! 🙂


Coming soon…my G1 “software” thoughts!

4 Responses to “More thoughts on the G1 phone: hardware”

  1. 1 Josh February 12, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks so much for the reviews! I’m a T-Mobile subscriber and I’ve been looking at getting a G1 pretty seriously and I’m now eligible for an upgrade phone! Just have to convince myself to pay for the data plan or figure out where I can trim in the budget. That’s a bummer about the no vibe-to-ring feature. Are you able to lock the keys pretty well so that things don’t get goofed up in your pocket? Though I know with this phone I’m definitely going to have to get a case. I love the feature where you’re able to scan a UPC code with your camera and use it to compare prices at other stores in town. I’ve thought about the iPhone, but I’ve gotta have the full keyboard, no way am I going to try and punch out emails and notes using the on screen kb, and that’s the main thing I’ll want it for. The GPS is pretty sweet as well, how’s that worked for you so far? I love the GPS related apps I’ve seen in the Android Market. Actually, Qualcomm made the chipset for the G1 and they were here at UIUC ECE recruiting and did a tech talk back in November, sounds like they’ve got a lot of great plans for it! The recruiter was back here last week and she told me Qualcomm is also working on a screen technology that will have no glare or reflection and they’re basing the technology on what they’ve learned from butterfly wings! lol Can you believe that? So I guess we’ll see that on future G1’s…or G2’s or…

  2. 2 yipcanjo February 16, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Well, I *really* need to get my G1 “Software” review posted, ’cause it ain’t all roses in that garden! 🙂

  1. 1 More thoughts on the G1 phone: software « Y.I.P.C.A.N.J.O Trackback on February 18, 2009 at 9:43 pm
  2. 2 Back in “Dash-land” « Y.I.P.C.A.N.J.O Trackback on March 12, 2009 at 7:49 pm
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