To evaluate T-Mobile's new G1 wonderphone is inevitably a review of two halves: the handset hardware and its operating system software. (SEE ALSO: Google Android review). FULL UK REVIEW, UPDATED 18 NOVEMBER 2008.

Both were unknowns as the final anticipated product was unveiled, a phone billed somewhat predictably as yet another iPhone killer. As it turns out, the T-Mobile G1 may be the closest yet to fit that tall order but there remains the unavoidable issue of mismatch between hardware/software from disparate companies, an area where Apple capitalises with both its world-beating smartphone and its PCs.

While T-Mobile is the network provider who will sell you the phone (‘give' you, after signing up for its £720 18-month contract) in the UK, the T-Mobile G1 handset is from HTC in Taiwan and the touchy-feely interface is courtesy of US search-engine behemoth Google.

See also:

Apple iPhone 3G review

Apple iPhone review

T-Mobile G1 video

Click here for PC Advisor's exclusive T-Mobile G1 video review


Turning first to the T-Mobile G1 handset, we have a rather clunky looking slab with upbent talking end, at 17mm-thick rather stouter than is de rigeur these days. If the extra girth had gone into fitting a battery that enables standby for more than two days, we wouldn't mind so much, but we did find its longevity – before taking on long calls or browsing the web – was around 48 hours. At least it meets the iPhone head-on in this respect.

The T-Mobile G1's build quality, while not bad, is far from luxurious. Agricultural may be a better word. Holding it closed as a normal phone, you still feel the screen wobble slightly on its scissor hinge, and when it is fully open, that screen does not sit true to the rest of the phone, but at a slight angle that cheapens the overall efect.

For some functions within the T-Mobile G1 you can get by with the touchscreen interface, which oftens mimics the iPhone's, for example in the way you can finger ‘glide' around full-size web pages through a limited screen window; but where the iPhone experience is like gliding on oil over ice, the T-Mobile G1 was often closer to pumice over sandpaper.

There was a sense of both virtual stickiness, where the screen graphics were slow to respond to finger gestures; and sensual friction embued by the plastic screen, where Apple has chosen real polished glass.

To get on with the business of browsing, you must flip the T-Mobile G1's entire screen out by sliding it sideways, revealing a real-button qwerty keyboard beneath. This is manadatory for web work, as there's no virtual keyboard interface available through the screen.

As it slides out, the T-Mobile G1's display gets flipped into landscape mode. We found surfing over a 3G connection about as quick as an iPhone, with pages loading in impressively quick order.

Once you get to a site, though, navigation within the page is somewhat clumsier with the T-Mobile G1. Gone is the killer multitouch zoom gesture familiar to iPhone converts, replaced with a combination of scrolling around using the mini-trackball, à la Blackberry, gliding by (sticky) finger swipes, and using the magnifying plus and minus icons transparently overlayed at the bottom of the screen.

You kind-of get used to it all, but the T-Mobile G1 still made us crave the elegeant simplicity of the iPhone OS.

NEXT PAGE: link clicking and where the T-Mobile G1 beats the iPhone

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To evaluate T-Mobile's new G1 wonderphone is inevitably a review of two halves: the handset hardware and its operating system software. (SEE ALSO: Google Android review).

Link clicking is not terribly precise, such that we found a finger click of closely spaced links would send a command to go to the wrong page – and here we must raise the question of whether this is a deficiency in the T-Mobile G1's screen hardware sensing, or the system software's intelligence.

See also:

Apple iPhone 3G review

Apple iPhone

The T-Mobile G1's 320x480-pixel screen may be only 9mm smaller on the diagonal than the 89mm iPhone, but we did miss the extra space, and the crisp richness found on the Apple phone.

A test of any modern mobile should start with its usability with one hand. Here the T-Mobile G1 almost passes muster, although double-jointed thumbs would certainly help an overly awkward process. While it's easy enough to make a call using the onscreen touch keyboard, most other functions mandate sliding the screen out to access the real keyboard. We certainly wouldn't want to try texting while walking, let alone punching in a web address via the diminuitive buttons with their low-visibility function-shifted extra characters.

So where then does this Googlephone present a challenge to the iPhone? Its memory is expandable with micro SD cards; and music sound quality is better, once you get past the absence of a proper headphone socket, which means you're reliant on HTC's supplied USB earphones. These are actually quite usable, and include an in-line mic for hands-free chatting.

Telephone speech and reception is also better than the iPhone's passable voice reproduction. And then there's the issue of ‘openness' for the Andoid platform as a whole.

Where new programs for the apple iPhone are strictly controlled through Apple's app store, there may be a more liberal distribution model via the Google Android Market. We're already quite jealous of such fripperies as Barcode Scanner, which found just about every book and CD we looked up by scanning their unique black and white badges with the T-Mobile G1's camera.

NEXT PAGE: our first look at the T-Mobile G1, from 24 September 2008

CLICK HERE FOR OUR EXPERT VERDICT ON THE T-MOBILE G1 >

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T-Mobile, Google and High Tech Computer (HTC) unveiled the highly anticipated first Google Android phone in New York on Tuesday. PC Advisor got a chance to try out the HTC Dream, sold as the T-Mobile G1, at HTC's office in Taipei. Here's our review. (SEE ALSO: Google Android review). FIRST LOOK; Dan Nystedt

The Google Android applications on board the T-Mobile G1 are by far the coolest feature of the handset, especially Google Maps Street View, which on the T-Mobile G1, allows a person to view a snapshot of an entire street scene at any of several US cities.

We chose 42nd street in New York City at the Avenue of the Americas from Google Maps, and once the information downloaded from Chunghwa Telecom's mobile network, we were able to view the street on the T-Mobile G1's screen. It's cool.

There are three ways to navigate a street scene using Google Android on T-Mobile's G1, or the 'Dream' as HTC calls it. (See also: T-Mobile G1 is first Google Android phone.)

The funnest is to hit the "compass" function on the T-Mobile G1 and move it around by hand. You pan the G1 up and view the screen as if it's the LCD viewfinder on a digital camera, and you're looking at building tops or into trees. Pan down and you can see if anyone dropped some coins on the street. Pan around for an entire 360 degree view of the street from where you are, including taxis, buildings, or a guy walking down the street eating a sandwich.

We can't think of any useful reasons to use the T-Mobile G1's Street View - Google Maps is enough to get you where you want to go - but it sure is fun.

The other two ways to navigate on Street View are by using the T-Mobile G1's touchscreen to look around or the trackball at the bottom of the phone.

Google is still expanding the Street View database to include more cities.

The Google Android applications aspect of the T-Mobile G1 may make it one of the most expandable handsets around. You can already find fun and useful programs from Android, many of them free. And applications are easy to find and download.

An icon on the desktop of the T-Mobile G1 sends you right to a Google Android apps page, where applications roll across a panel at the top of the screen. You can use your thumb on the touchscreen to make the panel move left or right for more choices and then tap an app's icon to choose it.

We picked ShopSavvy because the demonstration of it looked fun and we wanted to see it in actual use. Bargain hunters will love this program.

ShopSavvy turns the T-Mobile G1's on-board 3Mp camera into a price tag scanner. It starts to scan immediately when ShopSavvy is on, no need to snap a photo or anything. Just run a red line in the middle of the viewfinder over a barcode and it scans the information.

It took us a few tries to scan the barcode of the book, 'Execution' by Larry Bossidy, which was one of the few things at HTC's office with a barcode. But once we got it, it only took several seconds to navigate to a site with a book review and other information, as well as suggestions on where to buy.

The ShopSavvy application only took about 40 seconds to download. We also downloaded Pac-Man, which took about 33 seconds.

T-Mobile G1

NEXT PAGE: HTC's first Google Android phone - the build quality, and more pictures

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T-Mobile, Google and High Tech Computer (HTC) unveiled the highly anticipated first Google Android phone in New York on Tuesday. PC Advisor got a chance to try out the HTC Dream, sold as the T-Mobile G1, at HTC's office in Taipei. Here's our review. (SEE ALSO: Google Android review)

Build quality

The T-Mobile G1 itself feels good, solidly built and with beautiful screen quality. Even when you flip up the screen to reveal the qwerty keyboard below, it's quick and smooth in a way you can tell it won't break easily.

Flipping up the screen, by the way, is the only way to turn the view on the T-Mobile G1's screen sideways. Unlike other handsets that turn the screen view sideways when the handset is held sideways, the G1 only turns the screen view sideways when the qwerty keyboard is showing.

We can't say we are wild about the T-Mobile G1's overall design. It's a bit thick and industrial, especially compared to HTC's last major release, the HTC Touch Diamond, which is beautifully crafted.

But unlike the HTC Touch Diamond, which is made of a clear plastic that's a bit slippery, the T-Mobile G1 has more of a rubberised feel for easier handling.

The face of the T-Mobile G1, when the qwerty keypad isn't showing, is mainly the touchscreen, which looks like it's about 3in, with five navigation controls at the bottom, including the trackball in the middle.

Navigation on the T-Mobile G1's touchscreen is smooth and the software responds quickly to tap commands. The trackball, also works well, but took a bit of getting used to.

The keypad is easy to use (even with big thumbs), but we didn't have a chance to actually type out a message. We did make a phone call, which is easy to do and the voice quality is clear.

T-Mobile G1

NEXT PAGE: some caveats about HTC's first Google Android phone, and more snaps

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T-Mobile, Google and High Tech Computer (HTC) unveiled the highly anticipated first Google Android phone in New York on Tuesday. PC Advisor got a chance to try out the HTC Dream, sold as the T-Mobile G1, at HTC's office in Taipei. Here's our review. (SEE ALSO: Google Android review)

T-Mobile G1: caveats

One warning to sound out to anyone interested in the T-Mobile G1 (Dream) handset is to take care on your choice of mobile phone service providers.

The only service provider today is T-Mobile and some fine print on their website betrays a stingy allowance on data services: "If your total data usage in any billing cycle is more than 1GB, your data throughput for the remainder of that cycle may be reduced to 50Kbps or less".

For a Google Android handset designed for the internet, with so much downloadable software applications from Android's website that are heavy on data usage, as well as music downloads from Amazon and online videos from YouTube, it seems likely users will need more than the 1GB allotment.

More likely than not, other service providers will launch a version of HTC's Dream as well. They may offer better terms.

T-Mobile's G1 will first be available in the US on October 22 for $179 with a two-year contract and subscription to a limited data plan for $25 a month or $35 for unlimited data access. T-Mobile will release the G1 in the UK in early November and other European markets in the first quarter next year.

The T-Mobile G1 is currently only available in English, but translation into other languages is already underway, an HTC representative said. It will take six months for the handset to be made available in nearly all languages.

T-Mobile G1

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T-Mobile G1: Specs

  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • HSDPA/WCDMA: 2100MHz, up to 7.2Mb/s down-link (HSDPA) and 2Mb/s up-link (HSUPA) speeds
  • Qualcomm MSM7201A, 528MHz processor
  • Google Android operating system
  • 256MB ROM
  • 192MB RAM
  • 3.2in TFT-LCD plastic touch-sensitive screen with 320x480 (HVGA) resolution
  • trackball with Enter button
  • slide-out 5-row QWERTY keyboard
  • GPS navigation capability with built-in GPS receiver and map software
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
  • 11-pin mini-USB 2.0 and audio jack in one
  • 3.2Mp camera with fixed focus
  • built-in mic and speaker
  • ringtone formats: AAC, AAC+, AMR-NB, MIDI, MP3, WMA, WMV, 40 polyphonic and standard MIDI format
  • rechargeable lithium-ion battery, 1150mAh
  • 2GB microSD memory card included (SD 2.0 compatible)
  • 117x55x17mm
  • 158g with battery
  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • HSDPA/WCDMA: 2100MHz, up to 7.2Mb/s down-link (HSDPA) and 2Mb/s up-link (HSUPA) speeds
  • Qualcomm MSM7201A, 528MHz processor
  • Google Android operating system
  • 256MB ROM
  • 192MB RAM
  • 3.2in TFT-LCD plastic touch-sensitive screen with 320x480 (HVGA) resolution
  • trackball with Enter button
  • slide-out 5-row QWERTY keyboard
  • GPS navigation capability with built-in GPS receiver and map software
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
  • 11-pin mini-USB 2.0 and audio jack in one
  • 3.2Mp camera with fixed focus
  • built-in mic and speaker
  • ringtone formats: AAC, AAC+, AMR-NB, MIDI, MP3, WMA, WMV, 40 polyphonic and standard MIDI format
  • rechargeable lithium-ion battery, 1150mAh
  • 2GB microSD memory card included (SD 2.0 compatible)
  • 117x55x17mm
  • 158g with battery

OUR VERDICT

While showing plenty of promise, the overall user experience of the T-Mobile G1 is a little wanting in some key areas, especially when compared to the current reference. Many of the foibles may be credited to the hardware rather than user interface. Crucially, the first Google Android phone is already a more user-centric system than Windows Mobile and arguably the BlackBerry OS. It should provide healthy competition to Apple’s iPhone OS, leading to even better smartphones for everyone.

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