Smartphones

Review: HTC T-Mobile G1 smartphone

The HTC T-Mobile G1 smartphone is not an iPhone killer but is a very nice phone for the avid Google application user that wants their Gmail and calendar synced on a smartphone.

The T-Mobile G1 smartphone is not an iPhone killer but is a very nice phone for the avid Google application user that wants their Gmail and calendar synced on a smartphone. The robust Web browser and maps application round out the feature set that make this phone an enticing prototype for the Android platform.

Specifications

  • Qualcomm® MSM7201ATM, 528 MHz processor
  • AndroidTM OS (version 1.5 of reviewed unit)
  • 256MB ROM, 192MB RAM
  • microSDTM memory card (SD 2.0 compatible)
  • WCDMA, Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
  • Weighs 5.60 ounces with battery
  • Dimensions (LxWxT): 4.60 x 2.16 x 0.62 inches
  • 3.2-inch TFT-LCD flat touch-sensitive screen with 320 x 480 (HVGA) resolution
  • Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery (1150 mAh capacity)
  • Talk time: 350 minutes for WCDMA, 406 minutes for GSM
  • Standby time: 402 hours for WCDMA, 319 hours for GSM
  • Trackball with Enter button
  • Slide-out 5-row QWERTY keyboard
  • 3.2 megapixel color camera with auto focus
  • GPS navigation capability with Google MapsTM
  • Bluetooth® 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate
  • Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11b/g
  • HTC ExtUSBTM (11-pin mini-USB 2.0 and audio jack in one)
  • Built-in microphone and speaker
  • Price: $149 with 2 year contract, $399 without
  • More information: HTC, T-Mobile
  • For a closer look, check out the TechRepublic Spotlight Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

The G1 offered by T-Mobile is geared towards the avid Gmail/Google calendar user and text messengers. The G1 is not necessarily for use in the enterprise, however, small businesses could use the G1 with professional messaging from Google to provide a seamless mail/calendaring smart phone. Most of the G1 features are aimed at the younger, social-network-minded consumer.

What problem does it solve?

The G1 brings the power of many of the most popular Google applications to a smartphone (Gmail, Calendar, GTalk, Maps, YouTube, etc.). It automatically syncs with your Gmail and Google Calendar. The GPS with Google maps can act as a personal navigator with the familiar street view and directions features. In addition to the Google applications on the phone, it provides a very robust browser and the ability to add up to five other email accounts.

Standout features

  • Google Integration: The Google integration with the G1 allows you to hit the ground running. The first time you power on the phone, it will ask you for your Google login credentials, syncing Gmail and Calendar right away. The mobile version of Gmail has most if not all of the features available on the desktop version. The YouTube application allows you to watch videos available from the different feeds (most popular, most viewed, etc.). Maps and Google Talk are installed and work as expected.
  • Touch Screen: The touch screen is very bright and clear. The G1 doesn't use a stylus and responds to touches just like the iPhone. Navigation is fairly intuitive with most applications on the G1. The only problems encountered were attempting to click small links on the browser, but that is solved by using the track ball to navigate.
  • Keyboard: The slide out keyboard is rather large and easy to use. The spacing prevents most "fat finger" typing errors. Exposing the keyboard puts the screen in landscape mode (note: the G1 doesn't switch to portrait vs. landscape like the iPhone by simply tilting). The recent Android 1.5 update introduced an on screen keyboard that automatically displays when text input is required and the keyboard is not exposed. The onscreen keyboard is tight, but very useful for one handed operation in a pinch (which is difficult if not impossible with the slide out keyboard).
  • Browser: The browser on the G1 is outstanding. It has very little trouble rendering pages not designed for mobile devices. The zoom in/out feature makes touch navigation easier or the track ball can be used to highlight and click through small links.
  • Market: Market is an application on the G1 where you go to download applications written by the development community (similar to the iPhone app store). There are numerous apps available with an overwhelming majority being free to download. The apps are categorized as Applications or Games at the top level with several sub categories. The apps are searchable and can be organized by popularity or date.
  • Android: The G1 runs on the Android OS. Android has proven to be a stable OS and rarely crashes or locks up the phone.

What's wrong?

  • Form Factor: The G1 is a bit large and a tad bulkier than other smartphones. The phone will fit in your pocket but is definitely noticeable. The design is not as sleek and sexy as the iPhone. The screen slides out to expose the keyboard and snaps into place easily but doesn't have a sturdy feel to it.
  • Battery Life: The battery life on the G1 is somewhat poor. Under moderate usage (Gmail, browser and normal talk time), the battery lasted for about 12-18 hours. The longest time between charges was two days with light usage. Future Android updates promise to improve battery life.
  • Application Management: The Android OS does an excellent job of managing multiple tasks running on the G1, but there doesn't seem to be any option to stop applications (as with Windows Mobile). Once you start an application, it remains running. After prolonged usage of the phone with multiple apps running, there is a noticeable slowness in response time.
  • One handed operation: If you primarily want to operate the phone with one hand (like a Blackberry Pearl/Flip), this proves to be difficult with the tight on screen keyboard.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

The HTC T-Mobile G1 smartphone is not slated to be a business phone. It's targeted for the younger, social-minded consumer. It could have a niche with small businesses using professional Google services for mail and calendaring. There may be a market for Android developers to create applications that sync with Microsoft Exchange or other enterprise business software to make this useful as a business class phone.

User rating

Have you encountered the HTC T-Mobile G1 smartphone? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of the G1 in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

Read our field-tested reviews of hardware and software in TechRepublic's Product Spotlight newsletter, delivered each Thursday. We explain who would use the product and describe what problem the product is designed to solve. Automatically sign up today!

16 comments
beth
beth

The current version of Android allows you to orient the screen (landscape vs. portrait) by tilting. It's configurable in settings. A nice feature, although I tend to leave it disabled. Many of the apps I use work better without the tilt feature enabled.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

To open the entie article with: The T-Mobile G1 smartphone is not an iPhone killer Shows the thoughts that would follow so... I Stoped reading there...

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Is there anyone that can testify to the benefits of the T-Mobile G1 as a business-class smartphone?

senator29
senator29

This goes with my other post to this article. It says the iphone tilts automatically but G1 does not. If this was android 1.0 review I would understand but it is the 1.5 Biased

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I'm not sure what you mean. Do you use the G1 and like it?

Maarek
Maarek

you can have google sync with exchange and obtain your emails that way. Google docs works on Android, so you're all set with an office suite.

Tom.O
Tom.O

senator29 & beth@..., I totally missed the tilt setting in android 1.5. Only had it for a few days before writing the piece. Like beth@... I turned it off after trying it this week.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

I wanted to read about: Product Spotlight: HTC T-Mobile G1 smartphone But the first line says it no iPhone killer, eh? I don't care. I just want to know about the G1 not how it compares to others, it said product spotlight not comparision. For things comparision I will judge myself or read comparision articles. It just seems that everywhere on this site is obsessed with the iPhone, as if there is some motive behind it.

simon.child
simon.child

I recently upgraded to the G1 and im so glad i did i was gonna wait for another phone to come out on the android platform but nothing was out when my contract was up so i made the plunge. Got to say i love it. Email with my presonal gmail is a doddle and just this morning i tied it into my works imap system with no problems. As stated above there is no way to manage running apps but a quick look on the android market and you will be managing running apps in no time. I am very impressed with the apps available on the market and look forward to maybe even developing my own. G1 might not be an iphone killer but the android os is deffinatley gunning for apple and has the firepower to blow it out of the water. Once the hardware manufaturers bring out some extra sexy handsets every manufacturer and his dog will have an iphone killer on their hands.

Tom.O
Tom.O

The bias that some read into this was totally not intended. I was actually trying not to seem biased towards the G1. Truth be known, I got a G1 for my wife about 6 months ago and just picked up one for myself about six weeks ago. I still stand by my opening blurb that the G1 isn't an iPhone killer. Technically, it could be, but it's not sexy enough and doesn't have the same marketing/must have frenzy that the iPhone has generated. The next batch of android handsets will probably better compete with the iPhone. Just like Mark, I don't own an iPhone and have no intention of owning an iPhone. Unlike Mark, I had a dash before the G1 and will never go back to the dash unless I need a back up while my G1 is down :P My wife is also running a small business. I wanted to get the G1 because the business uses google hosted email. I think the G1 has a place in a small business using the google hosted mail and calendaring and we intend to use it for this instead of Exchange. So I am outing myself as a G1 fan boy, Tom Osborne

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

If you are ready to use Google for your business email, docs, etc., then you may indeed find the G1 useful. I am not there yet, but I can see the potential.

senator29
senator29

I can see where you are coming from... But keep in mind Google provides a vast set of tools to provide for business both small and large. So I would say the phone is business ready for a Google adopted business. Thus it would be business ready. It always revolves around Microsoft support. Ya a lot of companies use Microsoft but there is a large share that do not. Although that doesn't automatically mean they use Google apps. The misinformed notion that tilt support is only in the iPhone is not true. As well as the statement that the G1 is geared to a younger social crowd. That statement could be said about almost any phone. I just started a company and can easily see the need to buy a G1 except for the fact my business hasn't taken off the floor just yet.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

You took time to explain your standpoint an I respect that.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

It is only natural to make some comparison to the "hot" smartphone as part of a total review. The iPhone is mentioned a few times as is Blackberry - the other products form a point of reference. The iPhone is hot right now, but if it makes you feel any better - I don't like the iPhone at all and wouldn't use one if it was given to me free of charge by Steve Jobs himself. Of course, I don't particularly care for the G1 either - my Dash does just fine for me. I've re-read the review and I don't think you are giving a fair chance. The bias is toward whether it makes a good business-use phone. Neither the G1 nor the iPhone are good in that space in my opinion and I think Tom's Product Spotlight backs that up.

senator29
senator29

This article among most are totally biased. Apple gets something right for once and Google is going to take it over. No one ever talks about the G1 memory card slot. No one mentions the iphone fixed storage space. And this huge crap talk about enterprise environment and Microcrap Excuse. You don't need that over priced crap for a large business. Google is very capable among many other solutions both cheap and free. Not to mention a decently sized business could produce or outsource an app for the G1 to work with any communication setup they have. Using the G1 would be cheaper than the iphone. Cheaper up front as well as continued use down the road till 4G or 5G networks come out. Heck the whole operating system could be reworked to a companies liking. This is coming from a person who doesn't own a G1. My brother does and I can't stop asking to use it. I have several friends who owned the iphone since day 1. They have flipped phones more than once for bigger size and the new design. I have yet to see any thorough review of the G1 covering all of it's aspects.

Tom.O
Tom.O

Agree that android OS is great, just need some sexier handsets for it to gain market share and overtake the iPhone.

Editor's Picks