NOTE THAT THIS WAS ORIGINALLY FOR MY LJ. There are some basics concepts being used that most people on this board already know about that friends on my LJ don't.
OK first off what do I mean when I say walking review? I mean that it will evolve over time. Because lets be honest. The OS is brand new. The app market is brand new. The 3G network is brand new. The newness will play a roll currently, and in the coming months. So take this review with a grain of salt. Today what I’m going to focus is three fold: The out of box experience with the OS and the apps, and one thing that can’t, generally speaking, change: the hardware. So lets get started.
I picked my G1 up Wednesday. Second in line.
I also picked up an 8GB MicroSD card from Amazon for a respectable $23, and a car charger at the store for a less respectable $25. The phone itself is easy to setup. You simply get a prompt to log into your G-Mail account. Once done the syncing begins and your e-mail, calendar, and contacts are all brought down to your phone. No future updates are needed to backup this info in the future since the contents of these apps are synced real time with your accounts online. From here on out I will refer to Google’s servers and accounts using the buzz word The cloud, or Cloud Computing. Once I was done setting up I headed out to work. Battery Life
This is a major concern that I had going into this purchase. I’ve seen issues being referenced online. Everything to having the battery die before lunch to having the battery drop 10% over a 3 hour period without even touching the phone. I believe that those people either have defective units or there is something that is installed on the system that is chowing down on the battery. Overall battery life that first day was not all that great, but nothing like has been reported online. I didn’t keep track of the numbers, but there were a few times during the day where I could see battery life drop 10% in a matter of a half hour or less while I was browsing. Granted this was HEAVY browsing with multiple windows open, with chat going on. However this was difficult to actually tell since every time I get into my car I was plugging it into the car charger.
I did a few things to tweak the system and increase battery life.
First you have screen brightness. To put it bluntly 100% brightness is overkill. Minimal setting at 0% is still perfectly acceptable. I set mine around 30% or so. Next up was WIFI. Off unless I need it. Next up is GPS. This is an odd one, because I’m not certain how much power it uses. The reason for the confusion is that it appears that, currently, when an app is not at the forefront of the screen being used it doesn’t access GPS. I can tell because the GPS sat icon is not being displayed. I’ve yet to determine if the unit is turned off or simply put in a hot standby mode. Also I can’t really tell how this impacts battery life. So for the time being if the phone’s battery gets below 40% I have been turning off the actual GPS radio outright, and relaying on radio tower triangulation, which I will go into depth in a bit. Next up is 3G vs. 2G for battery life. Again put simply 3G eats the battery life like a starving man. Thankfully Android allows forcing the use of 2G/Edge. Which I consider surprisingly snappy for basic browsing, chatting, e-mail, etc. On mapping and such? Forgetaboutit. Slow is an understatement.
So where does this leave battery life? Friday I went throughout the day without charging at all with moderate browsing, chatting, etc. Also there has been some circumstantial evidence that is suggesting that like laptop batteries you need to calibrate this one out of the box. I find that idea questionable, but who knows. I’ll let everyone know next week how that goes. So how do I feel about the battery on this thing? With 3G and heavy use you WILL be charging at least once during the day if not twice. For 3G and moderate use, and the right settings. You can probably eek by with a 9-5PM charge. For 2G/Edge and moderate browsing. No problems at all. So it really depends on your use and settings. Also I believe that the OS and the radio firmware will see tweaking over the next few months to address this as well. Will there be a killer fix? No. the simple fact is that this system is power hungry. But its not as bad as people make it out to be as long as you are mindful of your usage. Rating(1-10): 6?Hardware Quality
First off obviously I’m making assumptions on this hardware. Assumptions that what is a problem on my phone is common on all G1’s. This may or may not be the case, so again take it with a grain of salt. Again this is my first smartphone. Up til now I’ve had cheap o flip phones. Nothing overly fancy. So what do I think of the G1’s hardware? I’ve played with a Wing before. I’ve played with an iPhone as well. I’d place the G1 in the middle of the pack. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s not overly cheap. The screen quality is solid. No dead, or stuck pixels as far as I can tell. Contrast is solid. Brightness is outstanding. I am finding some issues with the touchscreen. Now I don’t know if this is with the OS or with the screen itself. Basically I’m getting touches that are not being recognized. The screen hides a QWERTY keyboard under it. The mechanism used is SOLID. There is a loud click as the screen curves out and up which makes the unit feel like a quality mechanism. It’s a good design. The keyboard itself is also good. Less so on the brown G1 model since from what I hear the letters are more difficult to see on the brown model. But on the black model that I have its keys and characters are easily seen. Plus the system DOES have a backlight on all the buttons.
The only gripe I have with the keyboard is that the keys are a bit too flush to accommodate the screen. Making typing a bit difficult. The spacing helps with this, but not enough. Even a quarter of a MM would help drastically. But that is a catch 22. Doing so would require changes on how the screen sits. Which already is an issue IMHO, that I will address shortly. The system has a trackball built in between the home and the back buttons on the base of the phone while in normal portrait mode. The feeling of the ball when scrolling is solid. There is a bit of a catch to the ball as you move it around as if there is a very slight ridge running around the ball keeping it from over accelerating. Feels very solid and high quality.
The rest of the body is made of plastic. This, IMHO, is a catch 22. On one hand reception is solid, unlike the iPhone that is metal except the bottom 3rd where the radio is you don’t need to worry that you are covering up the radio. However on the other hand the plastic used for the bottom cover makes the device feel cheap. I don’t know if others are having this problem but I’m finding that using the phone one handed with my right hand when I use my thumb there is extensive flex on the bottom cover.
You will see the camera button there on the bottom right of the picture. That is the area where there is flex and where you get an audible creaking. From the looks of it part of the reason is simply the lack of clips to hold the cover in place. IMHO this device’s back cover should have slide off instead of popping it off the clips. Poor design IMHO. Also the screen is already showing a bit of looseness when it’s out in keyboard mode. This is due to how it was designed. The screen doesn’t slide UP but curves OUT and up in an arc. This really is just a symptom of the design, and while not a deal killer it is somewhat annoying. Beyond that is the overall size of the device. Reviews like Engadget portray the device as a brick because of the keyboard. Horsecrap. I’ve seen king sized candy bars that are larger then this phone. The only people who are going to have problems carrying this are those who are skintight pants. And frankly such people are more concerned about looks and will probably go for the iHype anyways. Rating (1-10): 6Camera
Again this is my first smartphone and the first phone I’ve had with a camera. So I don’t know what is par for the course. Overall the camera is OK. There is a focusing mechanism that kicks in when you slightly touch the capture key. It then will take the picture if you press down harder. There is no optical zoom on the thing. Not a big deal for me. However it would have been VERY nice if they had somehow included image stabilization in the thing. Because in anything other then bright situations the image can come out fuzzy due to the low light. Even moderate Florissant light results in iffy image quality for a 3MP camera. However when you do get a good picture the results are solid. Rating (1-10): 6Android
OK. On to the meat of this post. What is the OS and the included apps like. I’m actually going to break this down to android the OS itself and then the included apps and then apps that can be downloaded. The OS itself is a solid piece of code. I’ve had ZERO glitches with the system. No crashes. No freeze ups. Nothing. When an app stops responding. (Usually because of the network.) Android comes back with a prompt to close or continue relatively fast. The desktop, screens, and the GUI are well designed. The Figuring out how to do something is pretty straightforward. With only a few quirks. Nothing overly difficult. Just keep in mind that right clicking, known as long holding on Android, will give you most of the options you are seeking. The way Andoid displays notification is probably the best in breed AFAIC. Windows Mobile, iPhone, Symbian has nothing on the notification window that slides down from the top of the screen. Its probably one of the best UI designs I’ve seen that takes up next to no space, and yet is accessible from just about any window from any app. Well done Google. Its too bad we don’t see such innovative ideas from other companies that CLAIM to be the king of the GUI.
The settings for the phone (Both for the hardware and OS) are generous and allow you to really tweak the system. From ringtones (WAV, any music file, etc.), to alert tones, to WIFI settings, to security settings, to radios used, to data syncing, to GPS settings, to app management, to call forwarding, etc. Google has given a lot. However me being the needy geek I want more. I was disappointed to see that there is no, obvious way to tell the status of your GPS signal. Read: How many sats are locked, signal strength, etc. This is annoying, because when I’m close to a window in a building I can’t tell if I have a lock or not. If not I’d give up trying instead of wasting battery life. Second up is the unlock screen. Innovative design. Basically you have 3 rows of dots. You create an unlock pattern on the dots. See here for an example.
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Its slick and locks out for 30 seconds after 5 attempts. After which you get another attempt every 30 seconds. However I would LOVE to have an option where you can set the thing to scrub everything on the device after say 15 attempts. It may do this, but I haven’t sat around long enough to try it out. That said I wish there were more granular options for security in the settings. Finally there is the backlight on the keyboard. There are no settings for this at all, and the timeout is ridiculously short. I’ve found myself fumbling for the buttons after the backlight turns off. Yes I know this is a drain on the battery. Nonetheless it sucks that I can’t set it to 30 seconds. SPEAKING of time outs. And this is a MAJOR issue IMHO. The screen times out after only a few seconds. Something like 3-5 seconds. I’ve had a hard time setting my voicemail because I need to hit a button to bring back the screen (I can’t just touch the touchscreen.) and then hit #. And before that I had to disable security because the dang system’s timeout brings it back to the login screen. This is a poor design. There needs to be a setting for this. Either a timeout option for calls or a timeout option that determines if security is enabled during a call.
I’m also seeing a speed issue with multitasking. Say I’m rendering a page in the browser, and I hit the home button. It can take 3-5 seconds for the screen to show up and then display the icons. The system does have some issue with multitasking. However this isn’t a laptop. So this may or may not be the norm, and frankly trade-offs had to be made with speed. So this may be the norm in smartphones. Its hardly a deal killer either. Its just somewhat annoying.
Also there is no way to close apps. This is less of a concern then say on windows Mobile that will leave apps open until your memory is hosed. This can be problematic since apps that are system heavy can still bog down the system. Android seeks to find a happy medium between both systems by only keeping 6 apps open at a time. While this is a better setup I still would like to be able to close apps when I’m done with them, or determine how many apps the system keeps open at one time. So say I have maps open. That is going to be a resource draw. Kill it once I’m done. As it stands I can’t do that. None of the above are deal killers and frankly I hope to see them resolved in the future. Rating(1-10): 8
On to part 2 http://forums.tmonews.com/index.php?topic=4534.0
because the forums didn't allow me to double post in a single thread and the text was too long