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Jewish World Review
Nov. 7, 2008
/ 9 Mar-Cheshvan 5769
T-Mobile Offers Google's iPhone Rival
If you're wondering whether you should buy the new T-Mobile G1, the
handheld phone/e-mail device running the "Android" operating system, or pay
$20 more for a basic Apple iPhone, here's a definitive answer: it depends.
The new G1, available for $179 after a massive $220 "instant discount" that
is likely tied to your remaining a T-Mobile customer for a spell, is a
remarkable achievement for T-Mobile, for Google and for HTC, the
Taiwan-based hardware maker. But it's not an iPhone clone or even an iPhone
killer. That doesn't mean you should dismiss the G1, but anyone
contemplating either phone should view each realistically.
The G1 is a boon for T-Mobile because it helps the cellular carrier achieve
a niche in the market. Yes, T-Mobile has Research in Motion's BlackBerry
devices, and yes, they've had a wide range of interesting phones, PDAs and
hybrids, the "Sidekick" being the most notable. But the G1 puts T-Mobile in
a new category, by offering a device that can take pictures, handle e-mail,
browse the Web, make calls and do it all in an integrated fashion.
It's an accomplishment for Google because the "Android" software is
supposed to be open source, and thus adaptable and improvable by many
people, including those outside of Google. In theory, this should mean more
applications for the Android more quickly, and more devices for the
software to use, such as "netbooks," and other "smart" gadgets. This is, I
believe, the first time Google has launched an operating system, and while
there have been some concerns expressed about security vulnerabilities,
overall "Android" is a great achievement.
And, finally, it's a win for HTC. I trashed and, I believe, rightly
the AT&T Tilt, which was also made by HTC, because its "rough edges"
outweighed its plusses. Indeed, two colleagues who had the phones dumped
them, and happily.
But this G1, which has a slide-up screen and keyboard similar to the Tilt,
performs better. Typing is better, the display is clearer and overall, it's
a better product, with one glaring exception that I'll discuss in a moment.
Battery life seems to be good, and the unit includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
connections; there's no jack for a headphone or headphone/microphone combo,
though, and that's a negative. Not everyone wants to use Bluetooth
headsets, after all.
The G1 offers music, via Amazon's MP3 service, but it doesn't seem easy to
load your own music. It offers 3-megapixel photos, but the camera was an
underperformer in low light, despite claims to the contrary. Toe-to-toe
with the iPhone, it was the Apple device that shot a better picture in low
light, and by a wide margin. That's a big problem, in my view.
Where the Android software shines is in its integration with Google. If
your contact list and e-mail are Google-branded, you're going to love this
phone. Enter your user name and password, and you've got your e-mal. It's
possible to add your own e-mail accounts, but apparently not in the
integrated manner in which the iPhone now adapts to Microsoft Exchange,
which is the dominant corporate e-mail system. This is something that needs
to be addressed, and pronto.
I also had a bit of a hard time finding applications for the G1; so far,
there aren't many. Granted, it took Apple a year to add resident
applications to the iPhone, but Google has had enough time in developing
Android: this is another area that needs work.
The iPhone's strengths have long been discussed here, and they make the
device a winner for many, many users. That said, some folks may prefer the
G1's form factor, price structure and network. For them, and perhaps for
the future, the G1 and other Android-based devices bear watching.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2008, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com