Hands on with the T-Mobile G1


When it goes on sale tomorrow, the T-Mobile G1 will be the very first mobile device to utilize Google's open source operating system, Android. I've been using a G1 for the last couple of weeks and am really impressed—a relief because since the iPhone there really hasn't been a mobile that I've been excited about.

While the G1 comes in a nice form-factor with a slide-out keyboard and a beautiful screen all designed by HTC, the hero is Android. Out of the box you're prompted for your Google username and password (or given the option to create a new account). Once entered, all of your Google data is downloaded to the device in the background over EDGE, 3G or WiFi and pretty quickly your contact list, Gmail inbox and calendars are readily available. These applications are always in sync; changes made on the device are reflected online or wherever you experience Google data.

Android is an incredibly fast operating system. I have yet to see a pinwheel, spinny beach ball or delay of any sort. The use of animation is modest but effective and layers are easily accessed for the main application menu and the notifications panel. There aren't multi-touch features, though other touch screen innovations, like gesture unlocking, are a nice addition. Unlike the iPhone, Android does offer basic copy and paste functionality, however there's plenty of room for improvement for that feature.

Today the Android Market only has a handful of applications available for download directly form the device, but that's sure to change very shortly after launch. The best thing about Market apps is that they can integrate very deeply in to the Android operating system. I downloaded one application that let me adjust animation speeds (Spare Parts) and another that turned the camera button in to an application switcher (Task Switcher). The best in this category is Locale, an application that lets you associate ringtone and alert settings to specific geographic locations (the G1 has both GPS and cel triangulation).

Because all of your personal data syncs over-the-air there really isn't a need to connect your G1 to a computer. If you do, however, it just shows up as a storage device and you'll see folders in place for music and pictures. These folders are on the removable SD card; you can use the folders or not because whenever an application loads it looks to the card to find files it can read regardless of where they're located.

So yeah, I'm excited about the G1 and Android. I'm not quite ready to ditch my iPhone for it, but have willingly carried both devices for a couple weeks and intend to do so for as long as T-Mobile lets me keep the review unit.