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Entries in Canada (1837)

Thursday
Nov132008

Android Invasion - part 3 of 3

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla Google in your pocket Google in your pocket Functionality and Conclusion It has been a week since we popped our SIM card into the T-Mobile G-1 (AKA Google Phone, HTC Dream, Android Phone). We we're able to test it unlocked on our Rogers network in Canada and during a visit to lovely Atlanta, Georgia - we used it on its resident T-Mobile network with a pay-as-you-go refill card. Like with most new things, the G1 takes some getting used to. We initially found the Wi-Fi troublesome but realized during the course of our testing that it was pretty good at finding and connecting to wireless hotspots. Since we were using a pre-paid card (you need a T-Mobile monthly plan to bask in the glorious glow of 3G data, otherwise you're only good for calls and text). Read on for more functionality reviews on the G1 What is most frustrating about the G1 is the touchscreen. We really, really tried to like this device but when it came to dialing on the touchscreen that is where frustration began to fester. This is a serious flaw with the capacitive touch screen, that it is not sensitive enough and sometimes requires numerous button presses to get anything out of it. You can of course use the QWERTY keyboard but that is so counter intuitive. Since this is a phone and since you will need to make calls using the touchscreen is something to consider. We've had touch-based phones other than the iPhone, products from Samsung and from Sony Ericsson which are two years old but which work a lot better. I am not sure if this can be fixed via software, I hope so. It would be a shame for the G1 to get a bad rap because you can't effectively dial on it. Once you do get to call, however, you are rewarded with above average call quality. Clear but not loud, the G1's sound is pretty dependable. We're not too thrilled with the G1's ringtone selection or the ring volume. We missed a number of calls while the G1 was in our shirt pocket. How is that possible? Perhaps we've damaged our ears with too much heavy metal or maybe, just maybe, the G1's speaker is not up to par with what we are used to. So, setting vibrate as an option is a must if you don't want people who are calling you to think you are purposely avoiding them. Applications Free applications are perhaps the strongest feature of the T-Mobile G1 and the few that we have tried were pretty good. Searching the Android Marketplace is not unlike searching on the iPhone's app store. Navigation is straightforward and downloading is quick. We tried a few of the bar code applications, which use the built-in digital camera's autofocus feature and we were delighted to see that they worked well. It is still early days for the Android Marketplace but there are already a number of promising titles. Take for example the iSkoot Skype application, the likes of which you will never see on a jailbroken iPhone. Making it possible for users to make Skype calls via Wi-Fi, specially while traveling away from their home networks, is extremely useful. . Some of the games were a lot of fun and use the trackball as the controller, they aren't as engaging as the iPod Touch or iPhone accelerometer games though although the screen clarity and brightness is excellent. The G1 will not be the next gaming platform, it doesn't have the ease-of-use and three minute learning curve we've seen in other devices and again the screen isn't optimized for gestures or gaming. It must be noted that applications and games seem to continue running in the background even after you have exited them. You see, the G1 has no built-in program manager like Windows Mobile, so you can't go somewhere to quit apps. We find this disconcerting, since if the apps are running in the background they are no doubt sucking battery life. The only way to remedy this, is to shut of and restart the G1- a three minute penalty that most users may have issues with. The apps themselves don't have Quit screens so you just exit them or go to the home screen...its like a complicated relationship. You know, one that doesn't have the proper closure and which lingers at the back of your mind too long. Hopefully, this will be improved in subsequent firmware updates or someone will offer a good hack to manage apps better, save battery life and make everyone happier. Speaking of battery life, after a week of usage we can say that it is manageable but not optimal. With 20 minutes of surfing the web and checking GMail, three or four five minute calls and about 40 minutes of music playback and 30 minutes of YouTube videos--the battery is at 30% capacity. Yes, you need to charge it nightly and the G1 is nowhere near as efficient as an iPhone or a BlackBerry. The good news is, you can swap batteries if you need more juice. No, we're not thrilled with with the G1's battery life and it is one of the big reasons why we wont be making it our regular smartphone. It seems to drain quickly as soon as it is unplugged even if used very lightly. Conclusion In terms of day to day use, the T-Mobile G1, the first Android powered phone, feels like it isn't ready for primetime. Yes, it feels like a prototype in the throes of testing, unfortunately it is the early adopters and users who will need to do the testing. Did Google rush off to market with this device, we think they did- but so did Apple with the Gen 1 iPhone, which now works great with the updated software. We expect great things from Android and from Google, the G1's integration with GMail and assorted Google web apps is seamless but the lack of Microsoft Exchange integration and real push email means that the G1 is not yeat ready to play in the BlackBerry arena. The kludgy touchscreen and the odd app management system plus the poor battery life are deal killers for many business users and those that need to interact with their smartphones. We can't recommend the T-Mobile G1 as a daily driver and in a way, is just as well that it isn't available in Canada, or elsewhere for that matter. We are keeping our fingers crossed that when Android handsets are finally made available to the global markets and not just the USA, that the devices and the software will mature and be more usable. Android has a tough and steep mountain to climb in order to even start to think of doing battle with Apple, Symbian, RIM and Windows Mobile. These more mature mobile operating systems have little to worry about from this upstart....until they get their act together. The open source and free apps are promising but not compelling enough to jump ship and invest in this whole new environment. For now, the T-Mobile G1 will thrill early adopters and developers who need to develop around the system. Casual users are better off investing in the technology that is available today from more established makers.

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