Sunday, October 04, 2009

T-Mobile G1 versus iPhone 3G, first impressions

So I'm going to migrate off of iPhone 3G/AT&T (that's a subject for a different blog entry). 2 days ago I purchased a T-Mobile G1 phone and the associated phone and data plans. This entry is going to give my first impressions of the new phone and compare it with the iPhone 3G.

The G1 is definitely a sidegrade; there are better iPhones and Android phones available now. However, the G1 is probably a placeholder until I get a better phone (the Nokia N900 might eventually fill the bill), and many new Android phones are on their way, so I went with a lower priced option (with a physical keyboard).

First off, the G1 has already become a much better phone in the two days since I bought it. That's because, overnight, it upgraded itself from firmware version 1.1 to 1.6, without which it frankly wasn't really on the playing field with the iPhone. It makes a big difference, in mostly small ways; for instance, the camera, nothing to write home about even now, was pretty much unusable before the upgrade, and it can now shoot video. Also, several applications that I tried out in the store (on demo phones with higher firmare versions than mine) were not available before the upgrade. There was no software keyboard until the upgrade. But now, it's a pretty damn good smartphone.

When you look at pictures of the phones the G1 looks much larger, but it really isn't. It's X and Y sizes are about identical to the iPhone and it's Z axis is as much deeper as you'd expect from having a physical keyboard available. With the keyboard the G1 doesn't feel quite as solid as the iPhone, but the keyboard foldout mechanism itself seems about as robust as it could be. It feels damn good, really. All other things being equal, they physical keyboard adds a lot to the phone; using an SSH terminal emulator is a piece of cake now, and typing in notes is much more pleasant than on the iPhone.

The screens are about the same size, and the colors seem good on both. Can't complain about the new one.

The lack of a dedicated analog headphone jack on the G1 is not a problem as long as I have the included dongle. I'm sure I'll feel differently when I misplace it for the first time ;)

Battery life before the upgrade was poor; now it's fair, or actually pretty close to the iPhone. I can deal with it, but a better battery would have been nice on both phones.

The web browser seems similar on both phones, which makes sense since they are both based on Webkit. I don't see much difference between them, although it is very nice to be able to type in URLs with the physical keyboard.

It's very nice to be able mount the G1's formatted smart card on my Mac and copy files to it directly.

This is a very tentative impression, but I think the phone service quality is a little better on the G1. People I talked to long distance sounded better to me than they do on the iPhone, and the people I talked to thought my own voice was very clear.

At this point, there's just not that much difference between the two hardware platforms for me. The difference is mainly in the software. I've been able to find a decent SSH client for the G1, and there's a Facebook client, but it's not nearly as powerful as Facebook on the iPhone (yet). But I haven't been able to find a good book-reading piece of software for the G1 yet, similar to the eReader or Kindle apps. However, I know eReader is working on a client for their ebooks for the G1 which should come out this year. I certainly hope there will be Kindle app on G1; the G1 uses the Amazon MP3 store as their version of iTunes, it makes sense that they might also collaborate on ebook sales, but I haven't even heard any rumors about them doing it.

The point being, the Android App Market is not nearly as well stocked at the iPhone's, but it it is still far more open, and now that Android phones are proliferating I think this will change; I think it may be time for Apple to rethink it's really restrictive app store policies. But I'm not holding my breath.

More later.

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