Ok, so it’s time for me to plug a new product. My beloved blackberry recently broke. The scroll ball thingy popped out. At the same time my T-Mobile contract expired. I could have gotten a new blackberry, but to be honest, blackberries don’t fit in my open source world very well. So I took a look at the G1. It’s supposed to be the most open phone on the market. Lets just mix in a review, instead of pretending were not.

Design
Pretty good. It’s a bit thicker then my old blackberry, but that gives it a very solid feel. It’s not much heaver then my blackberry and a bit less then my ipod touch. I actually like the combo usb/headphone port. Keeps the places my pocket fuzz can cause down to one spot, and the extra dongle is not much different then the 2.5 to 3.5 converters most phones have to use. The keyboard feel natural to use to me (some don’t like it) and the “hump” at the end of the phone where the track ball and buttons are, don’t impede me in anyway, it actually gives me something to hold on to. I have yet to drop this phone. They keyboard is great for my big hands. I can type faster on it then I can on my blackberry until I start mixing in special letters, and that just takes time to find where there at now.

OS
Ok, Android is the OS on the phone. It’s pretty nice. Its based (at least on my phone) on 2.6.25 Linux kernel. Theres a Java stack that everything else runs on. Development is pretty easy as most of the OS and stack are open source (certain things aren’t, shame on you Google). The market contains apps for everything and, as far as I can tell, almost every part of the OS can be replaced, that includes the Google apps. Syncing is automatic with your Google account, and Google syncs with every OS out there as far as I can tell.

Problems
Well, battery on the 3g network is awful. Maybe 4–6 hours on a full charge with full usage. Maybe a day with normal usage. Thankfully you can turn that off (use edge for normal usage but if you need something fast just bump it back on). Also theres no on screen keyboard. It makes one handed operation pretty difficult. None of the solutions in the market work for me, though chompSMS has the right idea, I just don’t sms. I haven’t figured out how to make the notifications actually notify me. They make a sound but it’s too quite. I need something loud and annoying. A college of mine used to call my phone the angry cricket. I need that back.

T-Mobile
This is actually funny. If you take a look around the net you tend to get a sense of a careful balance between the open source Android community and the provider. You “may” void your warranty if your upgrade your phone your self, but Google has the git repo right out there where every one can get to it. It looks like T-moblie is trying to push there “buy are phone” mentality using the same old trick of restricting features, but the problem is that we have the source code and we “know” what the hardware can do. If a G2 comes out any time soon, theres no hardware reason why G1 users should not get those features. And we know it. Short version, we are in a wait and see. Google is really on to something with their open source phone, but if T-Mobile pushes too far the entire product line could fail. Android can already be run on a wide variety of hardware. Most people buy the G1 cause it’s easy. If someone were to market their own hardware platform, I don’t see why that would cause any problems for the OS.
To make matters more interesting. T-Mobile isn’t going to make any money from app or ring tone sales. The market provides every application that you could want, including applications for making ring tones from your MP3s right on your phone. We will see how long that lasts. Blackberries had the same openness at the start but over time T-Mobile (and other providers) found ways to narrow that down.

Overall
I’m keeping my G1. But I haven’t built any kind of loyalty to the G1 it’s self. Having a Linux mobile device is extremely nice. I can do whatever I need right from my phone. SSH is already installed along with a file manager, and a VNC client. The only thing I haven’t found yet is a word processor. It won’t replace my laptop on trips out of town, but it already has on trips that won’t keep me away from home over night. Heck, I have already done some emergency rails development on it.

Browser
Just so I can work it back in to this blog. The browser is using WebKit (Safari and Konqueror). With a decent design you can use almost any website from your phone, no changes needed on the side of the site. If your site is a bit lacking in the design department, then it might have issues. But I tried all of my clients’ sites and they all worked 100%. None of they were designed with the G1 in mind, though they all were developed using standards.

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