It's been a little more than a year since Google Android was announced and rumours of a little device called the HTC Dream started to leak onto the Web. The Dream has probably stirred up as much anticipation and hype as the Apple iPhone, not only because it would be the first smart phone to run Google's mobile platform but also because of its potential to overtake Apple's darling.
The T-Mobile G1, formerly known as the HTC Dream, will be available through T-Mobile on 30 October in black or white and will be offered on two tariffs. The Combi tariff offers you a free T-Mobile G1 with 800 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited mobile Internet browsing for a total of £40 a month. On the Flext tariff you get a free T-Mobile G1 with web'n'walk for just £40 per month including unlimited mobile Internet browsing and up to 1,250 minutes or up to 2,500 texts or any mix of the two.
The T-Mobile G1 is manufactured by HTC and has a similar look and feel to the company's other Pocket PC smart phones, such as the HTC TyTN II and the HTC Touch Pro. Measuring 117mm tall by 53mm wide by 15mm deep and weighing 159g, the G1 is definitely not the sleekest device, and we certainly wouldn't call it sexy. Instead, the words 'interesting' and 'weird' come to mind, mostly because the bottom section of the phone juts out at a slight angle. In a battle of pure looks, the iPhone would win hands down.
That said, the G1 has a solid construction and features a soft-touch finish on the back with a rubberlike texture, making it easy to grip and comfortable to hold. Also, there's a good reason for G1's larger size: a full Qwerty keyboard. There are a number of users who are reluctant to switch to a full touchscreen smart phone because of the lack of a tactile keyboard, so the G1 is certainly an attractive option for such customers.
To access it, just push the screen to the right. The sliding mechanism is fairly interesting in that the screen actually swings out slightly to the left before snapping into place. The sliding motion is smooth, but after a few days of use, we started to notice a creaking sound whenever we nudged the screen -- not good.
The keyboard itself is reminiscent of the T-Mobile Sidekick, as many observers pointed out during our review period. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since we like the Sidekick's keyboard. The buttons are small, but overall the keyboard feels roomy enough and shouldn't give too many users problems. If anything, we wish the buttons were raised more -- as is, they're set flush with the phone's surface. The bigger issue is that the bottom section of the G1 makes it awkward to hold the phone when typing messages.
When you slide open the phone, the screen orientation automatically switches from portrait to landscape mode. That's good, but the screen doesn't change when you physically rotate the phone in its closed state even though it has a motion sensor.
The actual display measures 81mm (3.2 inches) diagonally and has a 320x480-pixel resolution. It's vibrant and sharp, and like the iPhone and RIM BlackBerry Storm, the touchscreen is capacitive, so it will only respond to the touch of your finger and not your fingernail or other objects like a stylus. The G1 provides haptic feedback, but only for certain actions and not with every touch. First, you'll feel a slight vibration when performing a long press on an icon. Overall, we thought this was fine, but there were times when the G1 didn't register our actions, so some kind of confirmation would have been nice.
The T-Mobile G1's interface is generally clean, fun and easy to use, and we like that you can customise the Home screen with your favourite apps very easily. We would even say that the touchscreen's responsiveness is on a par with that on the iPhone's. But the phone's overall interface isn't as intuitive. For example, as with most every other phone, dipping into the menu layout every time we wanted to access something can get clunky. Yes, it's possible to drag out your favourite applications as shortcuts, but that means you need to spend quite a bit of time setting it up.