A few days with AndroidTue, Feb 24, 2009
Last week I finally got round to ordering a T-Mobile G1 and I got accepted, and to be honest I was expecting my contract application to bounce like a rubber ball. I guess I left T-Mobile on good terms last time so they’re one of the last networks in the UK that will actually accept me for a new account. I’m quite a aficionado of mobile phones and I do like “smart phones”, so I’ve decided to write this brief overview of the handset and of Android in general.
Out of Box Experience
I ordered my handset online so I had the joy’s of Royal Mail to contend with, that alone is a separate post and UK followers will know the usual pain everyone goes through in regards to getting anything shipped by them. The first issue that tripped me up was that the SIM card was loose in the packaging and not even slid into the handset box. In a rush I nearly binned the SIM and scupper my chances of actually using the device for another week.
The G1 is very nicely boxed, almost in the same way Apple devices are usually done. Since the release of the iPod and it’s over the top fancy packaging a lot of device developers have been scrabbling to match that “Out of Box” experience, the joy of opening the packaging and having your device presented to you in soft black foam padding. The first major gripe was struck at this early stage, while unpacking the device and it’s related accessories I noted that my white phone has some very nasty black accessories. While the contrast of black and white may work well in some peoples minds, I’d personally like the accessories to be a matching colour.
The box included the standard extras, a quick start guide, a small manual, USB cable, charger and a wired headset. Nothing really to write home about. The manual is the usual introduction spiel, which I refuse to read. I decided to get the phone up and working and to have a play around.
What surprised me next is my first battle with the phone, trying to get the SIM card in the actual device. Turns out you have to use the little pull tab at the top of the phone to remove the back, of course the device or documentation didn’t have any mention of how to do this. Jo can vouch that I spent a frustrated five minutes trying to tear the back off without destroying the phone. A simple plastic pull tab would of sorted this, but I guess it’s the last thing on the manufactures’ mind.
Next came the activation, I thought being a non-tied phone that I wouldn’t have to jump through so many hoops like the iPhone, while this is true the actual procedure can be a little frustrating. Anyone who has visited my house can attest to the near Faraday Cage properties that it has for some networks, unfortunately T-Mobile is one of them, the signal levels in the local area are great, just not in my house. This presented a major issue when I was asked to login to my Google account to sync over various details, the phone then spent the next ten minutes trying to establish a GPRS connection to the outside world. After the tenth or so try it managed to get all the details it needs. I understand that the activation sequence can also do WiFi connection but I didn’t see any mention of this during the set-up, and I think it’s reserved for the people who have “rooted” their phones already, something I’ll want to avoid wherever possible.
So after much hissing, cursing, and a few cups of tea, I was ready to roll.
Almost everything on Android is wrote in Java, and I’m quite amazed that it runs as well as it does. While Google/OHA are still polishing the edges the OS seems very stable and easy to use, once you’ve worked out the basics of navigating around you’ll be flying through the applications in no time. The standard “tool set” included with Android will cover the 90% of users, the usual host of tools are included; SMS, Email, Web Browser, Call Manager, along with a few others you might not usually see, like IM.
As this is the “Google Phone” the standard software includes the usual Google mobile applications, Gmail, Maps, and Youtube. I’ve recently moved away from using Gmail, so I can’t really comment on how the application works, and the rest of them operate just as you would expect on the N95 or any other Series 60 handset. I’m not going to spend all day digging into specifics as anyone who has had a go of these apps will know what to expect.
The biggest seller is the Market, the Android team broke away from the strict market that you see on the iPhone and went with a more open process.This has allowed developers to create a wide range of apps in a very short period of time, including replacement applications for the built in-clients. One great example is K9Mail, which expands on the existing Email client to enable better interaction with IMAP servers and a few added features. I’m sure over time the market will grow, and with the introduction of the paid market we’ll see some of the big players start developing apps for it.
Ok, I’ve warbled on for a while about my usage of the phone, it’s still early days and I’m still not 100% up to speed with the handset. It’ll take time and I’m sure i’ll have more posts in the future. I’m starting to get my feet wet in the SDK and I’ve got my first “Hello World” application currently installed on my handset. So, Would I recommend the handset to anyone else? A resounding yes, it’s got a lot of potential and anyone slightly technically inclined will love using it.