Friday, October 17, 2008

Everyones' desire -Google Phone

So I don't know if you've heard, but apparently there's this company named Google. And apparently they've developed some sort of a mobile phone operating system that features tight integration with online services like Gmail, YouTube, and Google Talk. And you can't get one just yet, so we decided to talk to someone who did.

Kevin Tofel of jkOnTheRun has been testing a T-Mobile G1 for the last few days. When it hits the shelves next week, the G1 will be the first device on the market based on the Google Android platform. Tofel says there's a lot to like about the G1, but there are still a few things that annoy him.

And most importantly, the platform will only succeed if Google can do a good job of attracting third party developers. The built in applications work very well, but there are still too many things missing. For example, while you can watch YouTube movies using the YouTube player, there's no video play for watching downloaded movies or videos from other web sites. Fortunately there's already a third party movie player available in the Android Marketplace. But that's one of only a handful of third party apps currently available.

You can see the phone in action and hear more of Kevin's thoughts by clicking the video above. If you're too busy to sit through a ten minute video, you can read some of the highlights after the jump.
The web browser works much like Opera Mini or Safari Mobile, in that you get full desktop views of web pages and you can zoom in on particular areas to make the text more readable. But instead of pinching the screen to zoom in and out as you would with an iPhone, you have to hit on-screen zoom icons.
The phone's home screen is like a cross between the iPhone application launcher and a Windows desktop that you can litter with shortcuts for your favorite apps. You can also flip back and forth between three virtual desktops, giving you the opportunity to create up to three separate sets of shortcuts (for example, one desktop for work, one for personal use).
Integration with Google applications like Gmail, Google Talk, and Google Calendar is excellent. You can also use a few non-Google services like AOL IM.
You sync your data with the web, not with a desktop. So if you want to synchronize your data with Outlook, you'll need to configure Outlook to sync with your Google Calendar. There's no "to do list" application.
There's no support for Exchange, which means the T-Mobile G1, and Android in general isn't likely to be adopted by enterprise users anytime soon.
There's no handwriting recognition software or on-screen keyboard. That means you have to use hardware keyboard to enter anything other than phone numbers.
The smartphone wars are on, with a tusanmi of new touchscreen phones flooding the market to compete against the iPhone.

The latest will go on sale next Wednesday (Oct. 22) when the much anticipated T-Mobile G1 is released… a phone that has been sometimes dubbed the Google phone.

The T-Mobile G1 is the first phone to run on Google’s new Android operating system, a phone that looks and works a lot like the iPhone… and more.

For starters, it’s a touchscreen. You can move stuff around with your fingers… open applications flick from screen to screen. It has a music player and downloads songs from the Amazon MP3 store.

It has a service called Android marketplace that offers games and programs. And it has complete integration with all the Google tools and services, like YouTube.

But it also has a full QWERTY keyboard that sides out… great for two thumbed typing. And besides touchscreen navigation it has a little trackball, which works like the BlackBerry trackwheel as a sort of miniature mouse.

The G1 is one of the most affordable smartphones to date, costing $179 with a two-year contract. It goes on sale Oct. 22.

And judging by the reported 1.5 million that were preordered, would-be buyers may find supplies tight.

I’ve been testing a prerelease model all week and have found it to be surprisingly intuitive and nimble. While it lacks some of the iPhone’s latest features, it also offers some tweaks that the iPhone doesn’t have.

The G1 has a better camera (3 megapixel), a full slideout QWERTY keyboard, a BlackBerry-like trackball for one-handed navigation and voice recognition and voice dialing.

But with that it also has a very slick touchscreen like the iPhone, a full HTML Web browser, POP and IMAP e-mail, instant messaging applications from Google Talk, AOL, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger and downloadable music from the Amazon MP3 store.

Where it falls noticeable short is in its ability to handle Microsoft Exchange e-mail, the most common platform for mobile communications used by businesses and corporations. Unless the user is hooking up to Google’s own Gmail, the G1 also does not deliver push , or instant reception, e-mail.

In that regards, it’s much like the first generation iPhone, which didn’t have those services until this past July when the iPhone 3g and a software update became available.

Another irritation: The G1 can’t mass delete e-mail. But then again, it wasn’t until this summer that the iPhone did that.

And it isn’t called G1 – probably meaning Google version 1 – for nothing. The G1 is very Google-centric, seamlessly tied to Google Maps Street View, Gmail, YouTube and the various Google online programs and documents.

It works on T-Mobile’s EDGE and 3g networks, pretty much the same as the iPhone uses on the AT&T network. By next Wednesday when the G1 goes on sale, T-Mobile says it will have 3G coverage in 23 metropolitan areas around the country.

For those who lcan’t get 3G T=Mobile coverage, being restricted to EDGE is a pretty huge hit against the phone because many of the services and applications on the phone are especially made for that faster 3G network.

The applications are provided, much like the iPhone’s App Store, through something T-Mobile calls Android Market. There’s a handful of them available for instant download right now, though on the EDGE network I found download times to sometimes stretch my patience.

Using the built-in Wi-Fi connections when in range of a wireless network was much better. The Amazon MP3 music store downloads can only be done via Wi-Fi.

T-Mobile notes that Android Market is in beta, however and that the variety of downloadable applications will be growing on a regular basis.

Using the phone is simple and satisfying. It’s a bit on the thick and clunky side compared to other smartphones, but that’s understandable because of the slide out keyboard. The spacing between the keys is very comfortable with two thumbed typing.

On the bottom of the phone when the keyboard is hidden, and on the right when slid out, are the main navigation buttons to make or disconnect a call, open a menu screen and go back a screen. The little grey trackball is right in the center of the controls and works like a miniature mouse.

The G1’s touchscreen, though, can also be used to navigate much like the iPhone and other touchscreen phones by flicking your fingers up and down. Unlike the iPhone, which lets you zoom in and out of pictures and websites, the G1 has no “squeeze” or “pinch” zoom that can be done with the fingers.

On a Webpage, you can zoom in by tapping. But again, unless you’re on a Wi-Fi or 3G connection, that pokey EDGE connection makes Web surfing an agonizingly slow process.

Bottom line: If I was a T-Mobile customer, I’d be standing in line next Wednesday to buy one. Otherwise, I’d wait to see what the BlackBerry Storm looks like. For now, the iPhone remains the touchscreen standard.
While most news outlets have been focusing on the American launch of the first Google Android phone, the United States isn't the only place that you'll find the T-Mobile G1. It's not like you have to wait that long either, because T-Mobile in the UK has announced that it will start selling the G1 on October 30. That's only two weeks away.

Yes, the United States seems to get first dibs on Android, but a couple weeks late for the United Kingdom doesn't sound all that terrible at all. As you recall, the T-Mobile G1 (made by HTC) gets a large touchscreen, full QWERTY keyboard, and high-speed Internet access. T-Mobile UK says that there are already 25,000 people pre-registered for the G1.

The kicker is that while Americans have to fork out some cash to get the T-Mobile G1, UK customers don't. If they opt for a T-Mobile Combi or Flext price plan (starting at 40GBP a month), they can get the G1 for free.