I have been playing with a Google phone (yeah I know I should say G1 or Android) for about 24 hours and I really like it, with some serious disappointments too.
Gmail, calendar and contacts integration changed my mobile life
I am a gmail junkie, for both my personal and professional email (unsure there is much difference anyway). Using Gmail on the G1 is fast and feels really good, I can sort my mail as fast as on a blackberry but I also have access to all the Gmail specific features such as “starred”, conversation threads, labels, archive etc. The G1 automatically fills in the name and email of a person like in Gmail even when it is out of network and that saves tons of time. Yes you could already do this on Nokia phones and blackberries with the Gmail application but the Android version feels totally faster and much better integrated (on my Nokia phone Gmail kept asking me which data network to use for example, annoying, and the just released version still does this).
The best is that it works offline, I sorted all my Gmail in a plane yesterday, added contacts, archived and the G1 synched beautifully my gmail when I landed. Same with contacts and calendar, it all works anytime and offline. What I see as the most important is that you do not need to sync your phone anymore with your Mac or PC, it is just constantly synced with Gmail. No more plug it in with USB or sync via bluetooth headache.
The G1 currently only supports one Gmail account though, I guess they will add the multiple Gmail accounts quickly as they just did on other Gmail app supported phones. It is not such a big deal as of course accessing your other Gmail account with the browser is also a very nice experience. It is fast and optimized for chrome. Google docs are fully accessible and I opened a big 10 pager PDF that was totally readable. I feel I have full access to my online like all the time and that makes me feel relaxed.
The G1 keyboard is horrible
I type faster on my blackberry but given the Gmail integration, I will switch to the G1 as my main phone, maybe after a few weeks I will again be able to type almost as fast as on my Mac without having to look at the keys but unsure I can get to that point. This is what always got me back to my blackberry. The G1 keyboard is totally flat, you cannot feel the keys and there isn’t that little thingie in plastic that is on all Nokia phones to remind you in the dark just as you touch the keyboard roughly on which key your fingers are. It does not make any noise or really feel like you are pressing a key and I do not like that. The Nokia E71 or the blackberries have great keyboards that help you find the letters and type fast. Not the G1, but I am getting In fact, I cannot believe they have let the phone go with such a bad keyboard. As bad as it is, I type much faster on it than on the iPhone where I try to avoid typing anything.
The browser experience is good but not as good as the iPhone
From Google I had very high browser expectations of course. It accesses most of the pages I tried but some did not show very well. I tried to change a flight on United and the login and password area would not even show up. The iPhone browser displays the entire page in a unique way then using your fingers to zoom in and out is super easy. You can zoom in and out on the G1 with your fingers but instead of zooming in and out it shows you zoom in and out buttons… It is fast though and not a show stopper, I trust Google will improve it fast.
Streetview is WOW
As you would expect, launching Google Maps on the G1 is a wonderful experience but you have seen nothing until you switch to the streetview mode. Yeah it shows you the street and building pictures but what is amazing is its compass that makes the street rotate around you as you turn the phone, it knows your heading and the feels as strange as interesting. I do not think I am going to use it much though, but that is the feature which impressed all my friends who played with it.
The design is horrible but feels solid
Put a G1 next to an iPhone and it feels like a poorly designed cheap Huyndai next to the latest BMW coupe. I mean really the G1 is awful, it feels like a brick in your pocket but is not that heavy let’s be honest. All the women I have seen touch it hated it compared to a Nokia E71 or a Pearl. There will be other Android phones that are better designed but this one, the htc G1 is more a utility. That is where it actually beats the iPhone, you feel it is rocksolid while I have alwasy been scared to scratch or break my iPhone.
No applications yet, but that will change
Do not expect to be blown away by the applications marketplace, there isn’t much yet, not even a note taking app or a to do list app. I would love remember the milk on the G1 I will have to try the browser version but it will not be available offline, maybe with Google gear we will see. Anyway, there is not much there the iPhone is a clear winner in terms of number of applications and developer community. I do not see how this won’t change though with Android being a Google product, tons of developers are building applications right now. I am surprised there is not more at launch though. Can’t wait.
I do not know how it is as a phone, I rarely call anyone
I have made three phone calls with the G1, it felt OK with better sound/reception than the iPhone but I have not enough experience to tell you how good it is and in fact, I rarely call anyone so I do not care that much. Oh and I forgot, IM, which is much more important is well integrated and supports the most popular platforms. I miss skype though, the IM and voice client I use the most but I guess this will be fixed quickly.
The camera is not good and the G1 does not do video
The few pictures I took were disappointing even though its resolution is supposed to be higher than the iPhone. A software problem maybe, but so far quite slow and not very good quality, horrible in low light conditions. There is no video recording capability yet, such as on the iPhone, so no Seesmic-ing from there yet but I do not see a reason why that would not change soon. YouTube videos play well obvisouly and our next iteration of m.seesmic.com will play fine on the G1.
Battery time is as bad as the iPhone, if not worst
I have not been able to have the G1 up all day long and had to charge it around 4PM (it was full around 8AM) and that really sucks. I have to be honest though, I have been taking notes in sessions on it (and it worked quite well for this even though I had to take notes on Gmail as there is no “Word” or even “Text” application yet) and browsing actively. With a high level of browsing / emailing expect the G1 to die in the middle of the afternoon, barely stay up one full day if you use it less. That is very bad of course, but the iPhone is not much better, even the latest OS update. I regret the charger is twice the size of the iPhone’s brilliant new small charger, as I will have to carry it with me everywhere…
The main reason why I have been always coming back my blackberry is the fast email experience but I will switch to the G1 as a main phone just because it is so well integrated with Gmail and the Google Apps suite. I will keep my Nokia n96 to record videos and take good mobile pictures. My 13 years old is dying to get an iPhone so he will get my 3G iPhone as I failed to switch to the iPhone on a reliable and permanent way, I cannot type an email fast on it, and I do not expect this to change. I am likely to upgrade to the next Android phone with a better keyboard than the htc, I hear the sidekick has the best keyboard.
update: here is my video review, sorry for the poor quality I posted using my EVDO card in mobile