T-Mobile G1 with Google mobile phone - First Look review

The first Android phone is here, but will it challenge the iPhone or BlackBerrys of this world? Pocket-lint was given the new handset while the launch of the new handset was taking place in the US.

Big, geeky, and plenty of potential are the thoughts that first come to mind when we were first presented the new Android powered handset.

Available in black or white, the phone comes with a 3.2-inch touchscreen display with 320 x 480 (HVGA) resolution that is bright and big (but not as big as the iPhone). Beneath the screen are four buttons (call, hang up, back and home) and a nipple that is virtually identical in its use as the BlackBerry nipple or pearl found on the Bold, Curve and Pearl handsets.

Slide that screen out in an arcing movement and you reveal a keyboard that is well spaced out and flat. The keys are easy to type with and it's very Sidekick in its feel (also sold by T-Mobile).

On the tech specs front the phone comes with HSDPA, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There is a 3.2-megapixel camera, although this doesn't offer a flash or a video recording option.

Rather than offer on-board memory like iPhone, the G1 offers a bare minimum 192MB of memory on-board with the main memory allocation coming from a hot swappable microSD card on the side. A Qualcomm MSM7201A, 528MHz processor powers the device.

Of course the big story here is the new operating system. Is it easy to use, what's it like, and do you want it? In short, it is easy to use, it is good and yes, you'll want it if you are geekier than most.

The potential here is the open platform mantra that means there will be plenty of apps come November when it launches that you can use. Like Apple's App Store, Android will have its own offering - Market - which will let you pick and choose the applications you want. Adding them to your phone is easy and you can add them to the homepage as and when you want for quick access.

The platform really breaks down into two areas; the home screen and a menu screen. The menu screen, which appears at the touch of an on-screen button, offers you all your apps via a scrollable menu system that you can access via the nipple or scrolling your finger across the screen (a la iPhone).

Applications we played with were the camera function, the browser, Gmail and of course the phone dialler. While the software is fully touch compatible there isn't an on-screen keyboard. While you'll be able to dial numbers or unlock the phone via the security-heavy matrix unlocker thing (technical name) the lack of a touchscreen keyboard means that you'll have to type URLs into the phone via that keyboard forcing you to use the device in landscape mode.

Thanks to the processor the interface is responsive (as good as the iPhone) to your touch and overall Android is incredibly easy to use.

Surprisingly it does fail at some of the same hurdles as the Apple iPhone. It seems Google can't crack cut and paste on a touchscreen device either, as there isn't any here.

Elsewhere the camera doesn't support video recording, there isn't a camera flash, dedicated headphone socket, or Flash video playback.

Verdict

Our time was brief, but from a hardware perspective you can tell this is first generation. The G1 just doesn't offer the curviness of the Apple iPhone or other smartphone devices on the market.

That said this, like Google the search engine, is going to get the job done with little fuss. Google might not be the prettiest site out there, but it works.

So is this a mainstream consumer device? It wants to be, but my feeling from my time with the handset is that this is going to be for the geek community for the time being. They will use it with pride, boast to their friends that they've got one and enjoy the unlimited data package, but won't be buying one for their uneducated partner.

As for the rest of us, the time for Android isn't just yet. It will be in 2009 as more handsets are released, but as a consumer device, from a handset point of view, Apple doesn't have too much to worry about from the G1. As for the platform, that's a different matter.