Between the Youtube videos, fan sites, and ever-cranking rumormills, it’s like we knew all about the first phone running Google's Android OS before we ever got our mitts on one: a boatload of apps available through the Market, built-in Amazon music store, 3G, Wi-Fi, Google Maps with Street View, that crazy shape-driven lock code, and so on. Sure enough, all those message board stars are present and accounted for on the G1, but don’t worry: There are still plenty of surprises to keep you entertained.
Surprise #1: Android is pretty freaking on-point for a first-gen software release. Sure, it has bugs—Web pages don’t automatically re-size and the zoom feature blows—but it’s also remarkably polished, bristling with nifty tricks. Take the long touch: Not unlike the windows-born right-click, it brings up useful contextual menus. Long touch a field of text, for example, and you get the option to select it, copy it, or paste something in (take that, Jobs!). And though Android’s first home is a touchscreen phone, you can tell that the OS was designed to work with hard-buttons as well.
In fact, if you can’t abide fingerprints, you can get around the G1 quite well without ever smearing the glass. There’s a BlackBerry Pearl-esque trackball in the center of the button bank that lets you cruise menus, websites, or any other screen you can bring up. Five other buttons flank the trackball: the ubiquitous green and red phones, “back,” “home,” and “menu.” The keys are useful, but their physical location is a problem that ties into the most noticeable G1 bugaboo: its size. This is a big bitch for us—nearly a half-inch thick—and its problematic girth is made worse by an annoyingly curved-up section that makes the phone frustrating to pocket: that button bank. If you want to rock a G1, be prepared to bust out the manpurse or multi-pocketed raver jeans (sorry, Hipsters).
The phone’s main interface is a 3.2-inch touchscreen that swivels out of the way along an arced path to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard is fine, but that frakking curved button bank (which also houses the mechanics of the arced hinge) makes typing uncomfortable. Also, since the screen swings to the right, non-lefties will have to reach across the phone to flip it open with their thumbs—and no amount of soft-touch plastic is going to keep them from dropping the G1 from time to time.
The capacitive touchscreen is fine—neither the best nor the worst we’ve seen in terms of appearance or sensitivity. G-Mobile uses a half-assed haptic feedback mechanism (the phone vibrates) to confirm touches, but you can (and should) turn it off. —Joe Brown
WIRED Android is legit, and future iterations should get even more impressive. 3G on a T-Mobile phone. Tons of apps that will keep you entertained for the duration of your 2-year contract—and all of them are free until Google decides on a way to charge. Relatively cheap, and data plans include T-Mobile hotspot subscriptions. Snappy processor never seems to get bogged down, even with multiple apps running. Decent battery life: a day of heavy use or three if you have no friends. Mounts on both Mac and PC as an external drive, allowing you to drag-and-drop music or videos.
TIRED Fugly. Bulky. No 3.5mm headphone jack and no adapter that lets you plug your own buds into the HTC mini USB multi-port. T-Mobile’s 3G network not as quick as AT&T’s, and nowhere near as pervasive. We don’t mean to whine about free stuff, but the included 1GB MicroSD card seems a little dinky compared to the 8-gig iPhone you can get for $20 more. Camera is slower than a three-toed sloth to respond.