I’m one of those people who really hates paying for a cell-phone since I don’t like talking on the phone and rarely use it. I pay almost $100 a month for my current phone. That’s $2,400 for a two-year contract to use an average of 200 minutes a month (no music, ringtones, texting, internet, nothing) on a family share plan. That’s pretty disgusting. Most people are so hung up on the initial cost of a phone $200, egads! But don’t really think about the total cost of ownership and I think cell phone companies like it this way. So lately with all the iPhone hype, I’ve been thinking, “If I’m going to pay this ridiculous amount of money, I at least want to be able to check my email and get some smart phone goodness for my trouble.” I purchased an iPod Touch because I can’t stand AT&T (but Wi-Fi sucks and isn’t reliable), Sprint’s been on my hit list for 10 years and I probably won’t re-up with crummy Verizon when my contract expires in a few months, so I looked around and said, hmmm… T-Mobile has never screwed me and they have this brand new phone called the T-Mobile G1, the first phone in the US to feature Google’s brand new Android Open Source Operating System.
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I don’t understand why T-Mobile doesn’t get as much love as Verizon or AT&T. This has been my first experience with them and I loved it. For starters it actually works in my home. Neither AT&T nor Verizon works at my house. Everyone I talked to asked if I was using a land line, that’s how clear everything was. T-Mobile’s pricing plans are reasonable and straight forward they have pay as you go options, unlimited broadband Internet (although in the small print it says they’ll throttle your service if you go over 10Gigs), rollover minutes (which Verizon doesn’t have), and they don’t nickel and dime you over everything. I also like their 5 Family call thing, which lets you program up to five phone numbers that will be free regardless of what network they are on. There’s no visual voicemail on T-Mobile, which is disappointing.
If I purchased a Blackberry Storm from Verizon, I would have to pay my current minimum family plan amount, plus $30 for the Blackberry Data Plan, $30 to tether (with a measly 5 Gig cap), and $15 for Rhapsody (which isn’t connected to the Online Rhapsody service that I already pay $15 a month for). Plus, I don’t even get rollover minutes. So for all of these reasons and the most important one – T-Mobile actually works in my house, I will most likely switch to T-Mobile this summer. I’m just not convinced it’s going to be to the G1.
The G1 Hardware
The G1 is one weirdly designed phone. When you see photos of it, it looks big, bulky and ugly as sin, but when you see it in person it’s surprisingly sort of slick looking. It’s smaller and lighter than you would think it would be. It’s a pretty feature packed phone that includes: full slide out Qwerty keyboard, expandable micro SD card slot (which took me days to find), replaceable battery (again that’s hard to find and get to, you have to pull a small tab at the front of the phone and the bottom to pull apart the back), a decent 3.2 megapixel camera with auto zoom, Bluetooth, and some other standard phone features.
I’m not really an instant message person, but found the keyboard really easy and straightforward to use. I liked using it to search the web, it felt normal and I didn’t feel like I had to be careful when typing. The little track ball was a nice touch that made it even easier to navigate around. I didn’t like being forced to use the keyboard only in landscaped mode and always having to slide it out. That got old pretty quick.
Who is this phone for? Everything feels off and sort of half-assed, especially when it comes to the multimedia capabilities of the phone. It takes a pretty decent picture in normal light. There is a very basic audio player built in, but I could never get the phone to sync to my Mac, Dell, or Bootcamp PC. The phone is compatible with most computers, but my demo unit wouldn’t connect, so that was frustrating. It already had some tunes on it, so I played with those, the audio quality was nice and the built in speakers are quite loud. You can create MP3 ring tones of any of your music by clicking a button.
So far the Android Market only has two music apps – Last FM and Imeem, both of which pretty much suck. I couldn’t figure out how to create a radio station on Last FM and Imeem only seems to play 3 or 4 songs at a time before it just stops. It would be nice when Slacker, Pandora, or AOL radio comes to the G1. But then what’s the point since the G1 doesn’t have, you know, a standard headphone jack?! And yes, I’m aware you can purchase an USB adapter from Radio Shack, but why should I have to? This is a multimedia phone that makes you jump through hoops to use headphones.
The video on this phone is just, no. It’s awful and unwatchable. The included YouTube application is beautifully laid out, but when you actually try and watch something it automatically scales down to ½ the size and doesn’t fill the already too small screen and it’s a pixilated mess. T-Mobile’s network either can’t handle video streaming or it’s the phone, I don’t know which it is, but it’s totally unacceptable.
This brings us to the applications. Included on the phone is the YouTube app, a music app and a suit of Google tools including Google Maps, Calendar, Gmail, Contact List and Browser. I use Gmail religiously but I don’t like it, I hate the threaded discussion thing and on mobile platforms it works well, but I hate the fact that when I delete messages on my phone it’s still on my regular account and there’s no select all function. So frequently I’ll have manually delete 100 or 200 spam messages on my phone, then do it again when I’m on my computer (mobile webmail is like this on the iPhone as well).
I also despise Google’s contact function at some point in the past it willy-nilly decided to just include every email address as a contact, so now I have over 1,000 useless contacts in my contact database and it shows up on the phone and I haven’t figured out how to drill down to my actual contacts easily and quickly. The phone doesn’t play nice with my car audio system. It connects and I’m able to dial out but it doesn’t recognize the contacts. Browsing the web is as smooth as on the iPhone, but I still find it to be slow. Also there’s no easy way to close the browser, even though you press the back button the web page you just visited is still open in the background. This is the case with a lot of applications where it just seems like they won’t close. Several times I had to shut the phone down to completely end one.
The notifications system on the phone is pretty slick and nice. You just click the top of the screen and drag it down, all activity on the phone is right there. I love the feel of the touch it feels natural. When I test the Omnia or Storm at Verizon stores, I can never get it to do anything or drag around apps. That’s not an issue with the G1. Updating apps is a painful process since the phone does not have an “update all” function. Yesterday, I received a notification that 18 apps needed to be updated, which requires going through each and every one. No thanks.
The Android Market is the wild west of applications. While Apple regulates everything that goes into it’s App store. Android Market let’s anything in and that’s a problem. I tested about 40 different apps and for the most part none of them were ready for prime time. A lot of them were poorly thought out, most didn’t work or properly connect to the Internet and there were an alarming number of Spam Apps and Apps that took you to malicious websites. Until Google puts some sort of controls on the store, it’s not a place I would be comfortable spending time exploring. It’s nice that they’re free; here you get what you pay for.
The G1 is the definition of a Version 1 product that was rushed to the market. It’s a frustrating phone because I can clearly see the potential of it and it did eventually start to grow on me, I could learn to love the phone and all of it’s quirks, but there are too many times when I thought “man this is a cool concept, but it’s so frustrating that they didn’t do this obvious thing, or god yet another Market app doesn’t work correctly…” I really liked T-Mobile’s service, but I would wait until a G2 is released.
Final Grade C
EM Tech Review
By Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 2.16.09