T-Mobile Google G1 Phone review Part 2
Adequate basic functionality, but very
limited advanced capabilities
A full four row keyboard,
same as on a computer, is much better than the three row
keyboards on the iPhone and Blackberry phones.
But this is the only
advantage the G1 scores over its rivals, and in many
respects, it has important failings.
Part two of a three part
series on the Google/T-mobile G1 - please
G1 in General
Using the G1
Sample images, the future,
and should you buy one
As a phone, the G1 works well,
but so too do just about all other cell phones these days.
It has a good web browser if
you want to browse the internet, but a very limited and
disappointing email client that massively detracts from the
phone's appeal to users seeking a convenient way to remotely
manage their email.
A very short battery life is
another weakness of this phone.
Using the Phone as a Phone
The phone is relatively easy
to use as a phone, with good sensitivity to the signal, and
clear quality audio.
It is easy to answer and
place calls, and it has a nifty feature that enables you to
conference in five people into a call simultaneously - well,
yes, this is a nifty feature, but you'll probably go from one
year to the next without ever needing to use it.
It has a speaker phone
option that gives a clear sound too as a speaker phone.
One disappointment was the
terrible and limited range of ringtones offered for you to
choose from on the phone. Apart from a couple of generic
tones that were plain and ordinary, the other ones were ugly and
offensive, and it almost seemed that one was being forced into
buying a decent ringtone.
Other phones (eg Blackberry
and iPhone) have a much better range of pre-loaded ringtones to
You can create a phone book
of almost unlimited size with as many names and phone numbers as
you might wish, and you can do most of the things with each
person's entry as you can with other sophisticated phones - you
can have personal ring tones, and you can have pictures pop up
on the screen when they call.
Unfortunately, you can't
synchronize or import your contacts from other programs.
You can only get contacts from the Gmail account you link your
phone to - this is okay if you use Gmail as your mail email
service and have contact and other information set up in Gmail
already, but if you use another program, like Outlook, you're
completely out of luck.
The phone has a voice dialer
function that uses speech recognition to understand you when you
say something like 'Call David Rowell at home'. But it
completely did not work with my testing (even when I only had
one contact - me - in the phone directory). A completely
So - as a simple phone, the
G1 is good, but if you try and integrate it into existing
software and data on your pc, you're probably going to be
Some sources suggest the G1
has a battery life, on stand-by, of 'up to' 406 hours, which
would be an incredible 17 days between battery charges.
This of course assumes perfect signal and no actual phone usage.
T-mobile itself is now claiming 'up to five days' of standby
T-mobile also claims up to 5
hours of talk time.
The reality of battery life
is completely different and very disappointing.
Although some people have
reported getting about 5 hours of continuous talking from the
phone, which is closely in line with T-mobile's claim, the
actual battery life for typical operation - ie - using the phone for
email, browsing, a few phone calls, a bit of GPS usage, and
whatever else - is such that you'll struggle to get a single day of life from the
I reduced the screen
brightness, and set it to switch off automatically after 30
seconds rather than a minute (the screen is a major power user)
but even with these settings, I just couldn't get any useful
amount of battery life out of the phone. For the first
time in many years, I found myself having to interrupt phone
calls with the old fashioned excuse 'I'm sorry, I need to end
the call, my battery is about to die' and rush off in search of
Just having the phone on
standby with extra services switched on such as Bluetooth and
Wi-Fi, and receiving a few emails during the standby period,
suggested that its standby life is massively less than claimed. After 10 hours of standby, the
battery charge reduced from 100% to 75% (implying 40 hours to go
all the way down to zero) and after an extra four hours, the
calculation suggested 36 hours to take the battery down to zero.
Of course, none of us want
to have a phone with just a few percent of battery charge
remaining, so its practical life, on standby only, is close to
24 hours - this is definitely a phone you must charge every
As soon as you start
using the phone - whether for phone calls or for email or web
browsing or GPS/mapping - you'll start chewing through that
battery life in double-quick time.
The very short battery life
is a major weakness of this phone and a problem for people who
wish to be able to make full use of the phone's features without
needing to recharge the phone during the day.
It takes an hour and a
half or slightly longer to recharge the phone.
This is, for me, the most
important feature of the G1 or any other similar phone.
The main reason for choosing one of these smart-phone units is
to have email wherever I am; and secondarily, to access the
If it wasn't for these two
features, I'd stick with a regular cell phone.
So, I was very interested to
see how the email worked. Unfortunately, the email is
terribly under-featured, and this is the main reason I'm
putting my G1 on the shelf for now and going back to using my
The G1's lack of email
smarts is inexplicable. If you were launching a new device
that you wanted to compete directly with the Blackberry and
iPhone, surely part of your research and development process
would be to buy the competing phones and identify their clever features
and then ensure that your new device had the same capabilities
and hopefully more.
So how to understand the
major omissions on the G1? For example, it won't open
attachments with messages. So if someone sends you any
sort of attached file, it will show you in the email that there
is an attachment, but there's no easy way you can open it (there
is a strange workaround - send the email to the phone's linked
gmail account, and Google will process the attachment on its
email server and apparently you may then be able to view it
through the gmail account).
You can't zoom in or out
when viewing emails, and if you're viewing a formatted html
style email, perhaps with a text image, you might sometimes find
the image is too small to read, but you have no way of
magnifying the image so as to be able to read it.
Some emails with embedded
web links in them don't allow you to click on the links to go to
the websites, which is a frustration, made worse because you
can't cut and paste a link (or anything else) from an email to
the web browser (or anywhere else).
A key feature of the
Blackberry email service is you can send bcc copies of every
email you send to your own account, which allows you to
synchronize the email you send from your Blackberry with your
main email file on your computer. This feature isn't
possible on the G1, so there's no way of telling, other than
the phone, if you ever replied to an email or what you said if
you did reply.
Another very useful feature
of the Blackberry is the ability to easily program 'scripts' -
stored blocks of text that you can add to emails. If you
find yourself regularly repeating certain things in emails, you
can create these 'scripts' or 'canned responses' and add them to
your emails without having to type them individually each time.
For example, instead of something like this lengthy note 'Thanks
for your email and query about our new widget product on sale.
The widgets are normally priced at $9.95 each, but for this week
only can be purchased for $7.95. You can take advantage of
this special offer on our website at
www.widgets.com/sale.htm, and if you need any more
information, don't hesitate to contact us at (800)555-1212' you
might set up a script so that you just type in 'widsale' and
that causes the entire text to appear. Unfortunately, this
is not possible on the G1 at all, so you'll be doomed to
Oh - if the preceding isn't
enough of a series of deal breakers, there's one other problem
with email, too. It, ummm, doesn't work. There's a
'known issue' with POP3 email that means most of the time, it
simply won't connect to your server and get your messages.
The G1 has a good web
browser, and when it is connected to the internet either through
Wi-Fi or 3G data service, web pages load quickly.
Most web pages seem to
display correctly on the browser, and there's a moderately
convenient way of zooming in to more conveniently read the text
- not as elegant as on the iPhone, but better than nothing.
The web browser is better
than on a Blackberry, but not as good as on a 3G iPhone.
Contact Information, Calendar,
To Do List
The G1 will only allow you
to synchronize and share this type of information with your
linked Gmail account.
If you use any other sort of
personal organizer software - in my case, I use Outlook - you
are completely out of luck.
This is another deal breaker
for me. I've hundreds of contacts, and want to be able to
add or edit contacts on either my phone or computer and have the
changes reflected at both places. I want to be able to
look at my calendar, and to add or change appointments, on either my
phone or computer and have that information updated too. I
can do such things easily with my Blackberry, and with my
iPhone too. But it is impossible with the G1.
Google is copying the worst
of the 'bad old ways' of other software companies by trying to
force you into a totally closed system whereby the only way you
can get any of these functionalities is if you convert your
entire work practices to their Google platform of applications.
What makes this particularly upsetting is that they are doing
this while promoting their Android software as 'open' software.
Hopefully the 'open' Android
software will allow an enterprising developer to create the
necessary synchronization routines for the 'closed' phone to
work with Outlook and other third party personal organizer,
mail, scheduler and contact type managers. But until that
should ever appear, your choices are unappealing - either
convert your entire computerized information management system
to the Google service, or copy stuff over by hand.
The Cost of Using a G1
The G1 itself currently
sells for $179, and we understand that Walmart is about to start
selling them for $149. You need to commit to a hefty two
year contract when buying the phone - otherwise, the phone by
itself lists for $399.
When you buy a G1 from
T-mobile you need to first choose a calling plan for your phone
service, and then you choose a plan for the data service for the
T-mobile has already made
some changes to its data service plans, and as of 29 October
2008, there are two options to choose from - one gives you
'unlimited' data and the other restricts your data.
The 'unlimited' data is not
really unlimited either, and T-mobile may restrict your access
to high speed data services if you use what they deem to be too
much data a month.
The restricted data usage
allows you web browsing, but a maximum of 400 messages a month,
which can be any mix of text messages, instant messages,
pictures, and also emails. The chances are you probably
won't have a lot of text messages, IMs, or picture messages, but
you're also having every email counted in that limit as well, so
you may quickly exceed that limit.
The two data plans cost
either $25 or $35 a month, and most of us will need to choose
the $35/month plan.
By comparison, an unlimited
dataplan for a Blackberry costs $20/month, so you're paying a
$15/month premium for the high speed data and G1 interface.
Comparing these rates
with AT&T's rates for the iPhone 3G shows the T-mobile rates for the
G1 to be probably about $10/month cheaper.
Be very careful if taking
your phone overseas. If you start using any of its data
services internationally, you'll be paying massively - $15/MB in
most countries. Just about everything other than phone
calls uses the data service, too, and 1MB of data is very
To put this data cost in perspective,
a single picture is probably about 600kB - it will cost you
about $9 to send one picture from your phone to one person.
By comparison, if you're
traveling internationally with your Blackberry, you can get a
$20/month unlimited international data plan. The same
price as sending perhaps two pictures with your G1 buys you
unlimited data service on your Blackberry.
Don't T-mobile actually want
to sell G1 phones? They're sure making the pricing about
as unappealing as possible.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
The G1 will preferentially
first connect to the internet through a Wi-Fi connection if one
is available. The reason it gives priority to Wi-Fi isn't
necessarily because Wi-Fi is 'better' or faster (depending on
the network the Wi-Fi router is connected to, it may actually be
appreciably slower), but rather
because if the phone is using Wi-Fi, it is not using the T-mobile
network! So Wi-fi connections are 'free' as far as
T-mobile is concerned and place less stress on their network
bandwidth, so the phone is configured to give preference to
The Wi-fi receiver in the
phone doesn't seem to be as sensitive as the ones in either my
iPhone or laptop, and will often drop signal in places where my
laptop and iPhone are still reliably connected.
More seriously, it is in
some strange way incompatible with the Actiontec router that was
provided with my FIOS data line by Verizon, and it would
sometimes fail to connect to it and at the same time scramble
the settings in the router, so that the router wouldn't work
with any other wireless devices either. I'd have to reset
the router and the phone to restore functionality.
The Bluetooth also works
imperfectly. It paired to the Bluetooth built in to my
Landrover, but doesn't automatically connect to it when I get
into the car. It works well with a
Cardo S-800 however.
The big disappointment with
the Bluetooth is how limited its connection
capabilities are. Again, remember that the Google Android
operating system is being billed as an 'open' operating system,
but here's one more example of how the open system concept
actually results in closed and restrictive feature sets.
The Bluetooth connection
will support headsets and handsfree profiles. But is has
none of the other profiles you'd hope for - for example, it
won't broadcast stereo music to BT equipped headsets, and it
doesn't have any type of file access/transfer or modem
capabilities. This is very regrettable.
Part two of a three part
series on the Google/T-mobile G1 - please
G1 in General
Using the G1
Sample images, the future,
and should you buy one
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31 Oct 2008, last update
21 Jul 2020
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