Thursday, October 16, 2008

T-Mobile G1: A promising disappointment

Apple's iPhone has nothing to worry about from T-Mobile's new G1. At least not at the moment.

After a week with the T-Mobile G1, the first with Google's new Android operating system, I find myself both elated and disappointed. The G1 offers some nifty features and some of the first Android applications are impressive, but the unit has enough glitches and bugs to make me think twice about using it as my primary phone -- for the moment.

A major irritation was the POP3 e-mail client, the one which allows you to add e-mail services other than Google's own Gmail, which is handled separately -- and smoothly. The e-mail software couldn't open common attachments like Microsoft Word files (the Gmail client can) and it also pulled an irritating disappearing act. 

Three times I carefully entered the details of my Prodigy/Yahoo, AOL and AT&T e-mail accounts and three times the phone ate them all, leaving me with nothing but a friendly invitation to start the e-mail setup wizard again.

Fortunately the phone defaults to a setting in which mail is never actually deleted from the server, thus allowing you to download it again later. Word to the wise: Don't change this setting. At the moment I've entered only two e-mail accounts and the G1's memory seem to be holding for the moment.

Speaking of disappearing acts: While the keyboard on the brown version (white and black are also available) of the G1 is very easy to read in bright light or in low light (thanks to backlighting), in moderate light the letters actually disappear into the silver keys as the backlighting kicks in, forcing you to tilt the phone until you can read the characters.

The contacts list is very clear and readable, but sorts entries on a person's first name. If you have a contact entry with a company name and a phone number, but no person, the entry shows up as a phone number. If your entry just has a company and an e-mail address, it shows up as "unknown." 

To be fair, the phone handles the basics well. Sound quality is good, the touch screen is responsive, the Web browser is nice, and most menus are clear and easy to activate. With Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth wireless adapters built in, the phone could be a very productive tool for a busy traveler. 

For example, the GPS, when combined with the preinstalled Google Maps Web link, makes for a handy companion for walkers. On a recent trip to a New York suburb that I was not familiar with, I was able to map my location and find a local public library -- where I wrote this blog post.

The G1's link to Amazon's digital music site was smooth and the link to YouTube worked well, except that the videos appear blocky and murky at times. The connection to T-Mobile's new 3G high-speed data network worked well when it was available, but the phone frequently reported back with "connection error" when trying to download e-mail.

The good news is that many of the phone's glitches could be resolved with software upgrades; which I hope are forthcoming. History will note that the iPhone endured a number of software updates before all of its functions stabilized.

With both a touch screen and a keyboard, the T-Mobile G1 is an impressive phone with the potential to be a true iPhone competitor. The potential is in the Android software, so keep an eye on new Android-compatible applications and tools and on how swiftly the phone's software issues are addressed with updates.

The G1 will arrive at T-Mobile stores Oct. 22. The phone will be $179 with a two-year T-Mobile contract, and of course the phone is locked to the T-Mobile service for now.

So what do you think? Let me know.

Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features
Photo courtesy of T-Mobile

1 comment:

Bruce said...

You couldn't be more right about the pop email, I haven't lost my account info yet, but I have to manually check to receive my messages and also have received the connection error, both on 3G and wi-fi. It seems like they threw it in at the last minute.