After a week of playing with Google and HTC’s new Android phone, I can say that there’s a huge promise with the platform. See unboxing photos here and specs here.
Let’s break it down to two main components and focus there — hardware and operating system.
Hardware Construction and Design. Off the bat, the G1 phone is hideous — period. We’ve seen a lot of phones coming out of HTC but the HTC Dream is a really odd one. I think this model was conceptualized way back in 2003. And despite the plastic body, it still feels heavy and bulky to the hands.
A number of people asked me why the phone is angled at the bottom end. I realized the slight protrusion was done to give a better grip when handled horizontally and positioned to take pictures.
The well-spaced qwerty keyboard benefited from the wide body of the G1. Since the keypads are hidden from the slider, the individual keys are buried into the pad you don’t get much feedback when typing on them. The keyboard is also oriented heavily on the left side that your right thumb will have a hard time reaching the middle keys.
In the front panel, there are 5 buttons and a trackball that serves as main navigation and shortcuts for phone use. The trackball at they middle is very easy to use especially when running thru long lists like your Contacts or Playlist and crawling thru objects and links when browsing. It also serves as an Ok button.
At first glance, the lever that supports the slider looks like it’s made of plastic and could be a problem when it breaks off. However, the spring mechanism is constructed in metal so it may last prolonged usage. The phone makes some squeaking noise when applied with pressure or when flipped — sounds like walking over a bamboo floor.
The UI and Operating System. This is the first time I’ve used a new OS on a mobile phone. We’re already pretty familiar with the Symbian OS, Windows Mobile, Palm OS and iPhone OS. The Google Android platform performs better for a first generation OS. It’s fast, it’s responsive and integrates really well with Google Apps.
The main interfaces works like a desktop with icons scattered across 3 panes. It’s like an extended desktop you can flick across (similar to the iPhone but only limited to 3). There’s also a sidebar that extends across the screen which contains shortcuts to a lot functions or installed apps. What’s really nice is that alerts are non-intrusive — there’s a small one-liner ticker that slides at the top of the screen to indicate SMS and other notifications (along with a vibrate and buzzing sound).
The iPhone OS of Apple works seemlessly with the iPhone because the plaform was tailor-made for it. Likewise, Android was also tailor-made for the G1 and thus, you get an optimized UI and performance. The menus are intuitive and responds very well. There are some minor quirks here and there but overall, the OS performs in top shape.
Imagine having this platform on your favorite phone? The T-Mobile G1 is just a test model. Once we see more and more models go out with Android in it, the clearer it becomes to us that the platform is truly a solid contender against the iPhone OS.