Google Phone (G1) Review

by Lynn Truong on 24 October 2008 21 comments
Photo: T-Mobile

When the iPhone came out, I tried very hard to resist reading too much about it. I knew the hype would get to me, and I'd find myself "needing" one. It was easy to resist at the time, though, since it came with a hefty price tag. But even when the 3G iPhone came out at $200, I wasn't that thrilled. Apple was starting to sound a lot like a company called Microsoft, with buggy software and bundles. Also, there were rumors circulating about a Google phone, using a dazzling new open source operating system. I had to wait it out to see. The result? I'm a happy camper. The G1 is an excellent (and cheaper) alternative to the iPhone.

I read as many reviews as I could get my hands on before heading out on release day to sign up. Most reviewers agree that the OS is great, but it's not as fancy or impressive as the iPhone's interface. Gigaom compared it as "G-1 is a Honda to iPhone’s BMW." Well, I drive a Civic, so it works for me.

It's also a little heavier and thicker, but as engadget points out, it's no dealbreaker. Plus I like my gadgets to feel sturdy and hardy. The iPhone is a little too delicate for my taste.

Additionally, my experience with the G1 isn't colored by any iPhone usage. Even though I've seen it up close and personal, I've never handled one. Some reviewers got frustrated when trying to use iPhone shortcuts out of habit and finding the G1 doesn't work the same way.

For me, I thought everything was fairly intuitive. There aren't a lot of options -- it's clear what you can do and can't do.  There isn't a way for you to sync with the computer. Instead, it syncs automatically with Google's applications -- Gmail, Calender, Contacts, etc.  Since I use these apps, it didn't cause additional hassle, but I can see how non-Gmail users would find this annoying. 

Overall, I'm very happy with the functionality and usability. I love the Qwerty keyboard. That's really what I cinched the deal for me. I didn't like the touch screen keyboard on the iPhone. The trackball is also extremely useful, and the touch screen is responsive. I've already downloaded a few applications from the Marketplace and am kind of addicted to the Memory game which is just like this old game called Simon

The low memory will bother some people, and may indeed be a dealbreaker. But I didn't want a phone that would replace my iPod -- I actually don't mind keeping the iPod around for music, video, and photos. The data plan is also cheaper.  $25/mo compared to AT&T's $30/mo.  The T-Mobile plan also comes with 400 text messages, which AT&T does not.  400 text messages is more than sufficient for me. So really, this saves me $10/month.

I did have a problem last night while on a conference call -- the call dropped 3 times in 1 hour. I called T-Mobile immediately afterward, where I was sent to three different unhelpful but friendly technical support representatives. The first representative actually called the person I had been on a call with and kept him on the line for 10 minutes to see if his phone was dropping calls (I had tried to explain that I was on a conference call, and I was the only one dropping out of the call). The second person (level two technical support) told me he was sending me over to a "G1 specialist." This G1 specialist asked me to turn off and then turn on my phone. Wow. I couldn't have done it without her.  

Today my boyfriend called me and kept me on the line during his commute to work (about 40 min) and no dropped call. Not sure if it's because he's on T-Mobile too or the off/on trick really did work.

Ultimately, I'm not sure if the G1 is taking away any market share. Would I have bought an iPhone eventually? I doubt it. But I picked up the G1 on the day it came out. I'm just happy that the Honda crowd has a chance to own a phone that reflects their interests instead of settling for a less attractive option. Go Google.

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Guest's picture
Bri

Having working in the cell phone industry before...it honestly was probably the powercycling (cell ling for turn off and back on) that fixed the problem. Most phones were made to be turned off at least once a day...even the brand new ones. It allows the phone to sync with the network and get important updates.

Guest's picture
Guest

i found all the specs and links to buy one now at g1phonecenter.com i still waiting for mine to arrive... i cant wait!!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

If you don't want to give it an actual cost-analysis comparison to the iphone, then why include commentary criticizing the iphone?

I read wisebread for tips that relate to real-world savings and efficiency, not reviews that recommend a product because it appeals to the "Honda crowd."

Some of the claims are unsubstantiated, like the implication that the G1 is somehow more durable. How does it compare in drop tests?

I think it's worth noting that the $179 G1 comes with 1GB of storage. The $199 iphone comes with 8GB of storage.

Also, for ultimate frugality, you can run a used older iphone on tmobile using the $5.99/month internet plan. Doing that, one can save about $250 a year in service fees for internet usage.

Philip Brewer's picture

The cell phone company I used to work for actually had a specific test to make sure that phones could stay up and working for extended periods.  I think the test period was 10 days without a failure.  I know I go for weeks without powercycling my phone.

Having said that, when I was working with early, buggy software, I was often continually powercycling the phone, so it's quite possible that cleared something up.

Similarly, there are all kinds of things that can make a difference, such as network conditions where you were.  It might even have been a problem with the conference calling center and not your phone or network at all.  Pretty tough to diagnose after-the-fact.

Enjoy your new phone!

Lynn Truong's picture

Guest,
You're right, I could have made this more informative. I've added a few details regarding the cost of the plans. I also didn't mean to come off criticizing the iPhone. I was just ecstatic that there was a new competitor and it had everything I thought was missing from the iPhone (of course the iPhone does have things the G1 doesn't have). And my "sturdy" I just meant by how it felt. The iPhone felt to me like I was holding fine jewelry. The G1 is just less "shiny." Thanks for comments.

Guest's picture

Lynn,

Thanks for this great "unbiased" review. I may have to check the G1 out as a cheaper alternative to the hefty price of the iPhone. Plus I can't stand the other options that are out right now. I think Verizon's "dare" is a piece of crap. Verizon's browser is horrible.

Thanks again.

Guest's picture

I'm so glad to hear that your new phone. Even though I'm partial to the iPhone, I've heard nothing but good things about the G1. The usability and functionality seem far superior to that of the Blackberry. Enjoy it! Thanks for posting this review!

Guest's picture
jay

The G1 is a pretty cool phone however I have had some problems that tech support cannot help me with. First, the G1 cannot connect to a WEP wifi connection. It only works with the newer WPA wifi. The people at Tmobile do not know why. Secondly, the G1 will not interface with a Mac computer. You plug it in and nothing. So you cant use your already purchased itunes songs unless you transfer them to a PC first, what a hassle. Someone please fix this problem!!!! Once they do the G1 will rule the smart phone world.

Guest's picture

i'm a current t-mobile customer, which is why i haven't gotten the iphone -- don't want to pay the fees to switch (and don't like apple...) -- so the g1 will cost me near $400... i'd be curious to know if it's worth that (i feel like it isn't from what i've seen so far)... or if i should wait for the next model... the name suggests there will be improvements. i'm a google-addict, but i also would like to be able to sync to my computer for backup purposes...

also, i'd LOVE to hear more about using an iphone with tmobile... how tech-intensive would doing that be?

thanks!

Lynn Truong's picture

Sara,

If you're a current T-Mobile customer, you should be able to "upgrade" your phone to the G1 for $179. That's how I did it. But you're right that there will be many more Google phones coming out. Motorola already announced one coming out early next year. Since Google's Android OS is open source, there will be many companies using it to build their next phones.

Guest's picture

After a long search in the market and the web, i came to know that the usability and functionality seem to be more superior to that of the Blackberry. So a good option availble.

Guest's picture

I bought mine on Thursday and I'm still discovering new things, but I'm ecstatic about it. The GPS hasn't worked consistently and the 3G has just been OK. But overall I'm jazzed.

Guest's picture
Guest

I just bought the g1 for 350 $. im still waiting for my service plan to kick in bullshit 25 dollers extra a month this thing better come with a brick of gold for that monthly service feelol im really trying to avoid it didnt think i woulda had to have it when i bought it cuz i had the iphone b4 nd i didnt need it..

Guest's picture
Guest

I am sending this from my g1 in the u.k , my phone was free through t-mobile , its great.

Downsides,, are no flash on camera, voice only bluetooth so won't pick up other phones or send pics to laptop via bluetooth. I can't find a way to send a phone number from my contacts to another contact . BUT I still love it, if anyone can help with the contact thing let me know pls

K

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm still awaiting the g1, i havent been convinced this is going to be the new generation phone yet since it comes out with alot of basic phone parts missing. For example no flash for the camera, no camcorder, no hefty blue tooth connection. I understand there will be apps out for these problems in due time but what if someone doesnt make an app for them? will there be up grades like the iphone? 1.1 firmware up to 2.2 firmware. will the small buggs be corrected thru upgrades for the g1? or is everything depending on this app market?...this makes me a bit hesitant to get this phone.

Guest's picture
Darksider

im ordering mine tomorrow.
bluetooth issue aside,
its still an amazing phone. and as open-source, really is limitless. so really theres no viable reason that it can't connect to a WEP encrypted network (or even be used to CRACK a WEP encrypted network ;) maybe you just havnt found the correct apps yet? i use linux and well..open source is just the dogs you-know-whats so i shalt buy it on these 3 points:

1. its google. and google is king.
2. its open source, and open source r00lz
3. its super cool looking and comes in black, just like my heart >:)

as for the flaws, theres no reason firmware cannot be flashed. it IS open-source remember, meaning it wont be encrypted like the 2nd gen nanos and such (i used to put Ipod Linux on my 1st gen nano but the 2nd gen's code was encrypted)

so open-source + GOOGLE = excellent

hope my credit check goes alright lol

Guest's picture
Darksider

I got my g1 and it connects to wep encrypted networks just fine so no prob there, plus I've managed to send & receive files via bluetooth. Basicly this is just to say screw the iphone, this is the ultimate geek tool hehehe

Oh, and android is supreme!!

Guest's picture

I'm going to get the G1 but certainly not buy. It seems to me that the whole thing with the battery still is not completely thought through.

Guest's picture
Helene

Regarding Lynn Truong's article on the G1. I too have had MANY issues with calls dropping out but i can assure you it is not just using a different carrier issue. I purchased 2 phones, one for my boyfriend and one for myself we both use T Mobile. I must have 30% of my calls drop out everyday from all different land lines and carriers so I know it is my phone and he has the same issues that I do. I too have spoken to tech support on numerous occasions and have been told to switch off the phone, take the battery out yadda yadda with out any improvement. Does anyone have any advice please?

Guest's picture
Thomas

I got a G1 a few months ago. MY co worker has an iphone. I honestly think that the G1 is a pretty close comparison. I don't have too many issues with it. I left sprint to get one. The prices are way better and customer service is a lot better. The signal isn't as good, but the main reason I got the phone was for web and e-mail, which work pretty great. I'm not much of a phone talker so I really don't care all that much that calls get dropped sometimes. The new digital keyboard could be better, but I was never into the iphone's either. That is a big reason why I like the G1, because of the actual keyboard. I'm really happy with the phone.

Guest's picture
Guest from Kenya

My cousin brought me the t Mobile g1 from the UK and I live in Kenya, my first problem was unlocking the net work code. I paid about 50$ and soon they sent me the code. But since I don't use t mobile I can't enjoy its service fully, on internet, it first put a smile on my face but only to realise my airtime consumed in minutes. What can I do to lower the cost of browsing. Please email me vasco786@gmail.com