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T-Mobile G1 Review

Initial Impressions I have been interested in getting a 3G phone on T- Mo since they started rolling it out and ...

  1. #1
    Battery mgmt is my life SteveW's Avatar
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    Default T-Mobile G1 Review

    Initial Impressions

    I have been interested in getting a 3G phone on T-Mo since they started rolling it out and I've followed the G1 since release. I finally took the plunge. I have only had the G1 for 3 days, so these are just some initial impressions.

    What's in the box:
    • G1
    • Getting Started guide
    • Wall/travel charger
    • Slip case
    • USB cable
    • Hands free headset/microphone


    What you will probably need to buy that doesn't come in the box:
    • Car charger
    • Higher capacity micro-SD card (1 GB card comes in the phone)
    • Better case
    • Screen protectors (one comes on the phone)


    Great things about the G1

    - The Screen, of course. It makes browsing and Google Maps a pleasurable experience.

    - The Browser. Google has taken a somewhat different approach than the Opera folks did with Opera Mini, formerly my favorite mobile browser. For example, the G1 browser zooms in and out smoothly on complex pages, rather than jumping. But I haven't found anything that it couldn't render, and that's saying something.

    - Texting. This phone was made for texting. It has a cool but unobtrusive notification mechanism, so you can see if a message has come in, while you are doing something else. You can get to the message when it's convenient for you. It gives you threaded conversations, so you can easily see the history of messages between you and the other person while you are editing the current message. Perhaps other phones have this feature, but I haven't owned one.

    - 3G browsing speeds. At least in the Boston area, 3G on T-Mo does not seem noticeably slower than EVDO on Verizonicon. Full pages of CNN or BBC news load fast and panning around in Google maps is smooth. I measured my connection speed with a cool utility called "Xtremelabs Speedtest". I'm getting 400 - 500 Kbits/sec down and around 100 Kbits/sec up. This doesn't seem that great, given what I've read about 3G's potential, but in practice, it's fine.

    Things that are Just OK

    - Battery life. There's been a lot of griping about the battery life on this phone. I try to keep in mind that it is much more like a laptop than a phone in terms of functionality, so in a way it's not surprising that its battery life is more laptop-like than phone-like. With a properly conditioned battery, the Power Manager application installed, and if I'm not using GPS or Wi-Fi continuously, I can definitely get around 4 1//2 hours of use over a 12 hour period. We have 3G in my area and I browse the Web and use Google Maps a lot, so I feel I am getting the major benefits of the G1. Aside from the fact that GPS and Wi-Fi need to be used sparingly when on battery power, I have no major complaints with the battery life on this phone. If I could get a battery with 50% more capacity (say 1,600 or 1,800 mAh, as opposed to the stock 1,150 mAh) and that didn't require a new phone back, like some replacement batteries I have seen, I'd be a happy guy.

    - Keyboard. The keyboard was one of the reasons I wanted this phone over the iPhone. I still think it was the right choice for me, and the keyboard is usable, but its flat keys don't really help you feel where your fingers should be and don't give as much tactile feedback as I would like. Many have complained about the "chin" on the right side of the phone, when it's held sideways for typing. I am getting used to letting my left thumb reach over more of the keyboard than my right thumb. This isn't too bad. After all, doesn't the Sidekick have lots of plastic on both sides of the keyboard? It doesn't seem that people complain about that.

    Not Ready for Prime Time

    - 3rd party software/Android Market. There basically isn't any must-have 3rd party software for this phone, as far as I can tell, except for a few utilities. Actually there's only one essential utility - Power Manager - and a few things that are cool to have. Perhaps it's because I'm old and crabby and not part of the Twitter generation, but I'm surprised that 3 months after release there's no decent notepad program, no database managers, no spreadsheets, no PDF, Word or Excel viewers. Maybe we have to wait until the paid part of the Android Market comes online for vendors to release the good stuff they have in the works. But the handheld software site Handango, doesn't have any paid apps that make me want to buy them, either. I assume this will change with time.

    Next up

    I haven't spent a lot of time talking on this phone yet, so I'm not going to evaluate its voice quality without more experience. I also haven't traveled with it, but that's going to change this week when I take it on a business trip. So far though, I think it's a keeper.


    SW
    Last edited by SteveW; 01-18-2009 at 5:48 PM.
    Charlyee likes this.
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  2. #2
    Tomorrow is another day. josephd's Avatar
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    Default Re: T-Mobile G1 Review

    I heard you got the G1 Steve, thanks for the review and keep us posted and good luck!
    Last edited by Charlyee; 01-18-2009 at 6:22 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: T-Mobile G1 Review

    Unlocking the G1

    We've discussed unlocking the G1 in a few threads but I thought I would collect my experiences here. As tmobileman and WumpusVA indicated, T-Mobileicon tech support was helpful when I requested my unlock code. I was eligible already, even though I had just gotten the phone, and it was no problem. They explained that they needed to request it from "the manufacturer" and this might take up to 2 weeks. It actually took only a few days. I got a couple of status emails and then the code itself.

    The process requires that you have a "foreign" SIM. This means any SIM that isn't from T-Mobileicon USA. I used a defunct Cingular SIM that I had lying around.

    The instructions provided:

    1. Insert the foreign SIM card
    2. Power on the device and the display should read "Please input unlock code"
    3. Enter the unlock code and the device should display "Phone is unlocked."
    4. Allow the phone to scan the network (or manually click on the antenna icon to do this)

    This all went as expected, except the final message was "Network unlock successful". Of course since the Cingular SIM couldn't register with the AT&Ticon network, I didn't actually make a call, but I believe this will work when the time comes.

    Then I put the T-Mo SIM back in. At some point during this process, the G1 became unhappy that it had lost its connection with the Google mother ship . As readers may know, a Google gmail account is required to activate the phone, and this may be constant requirement, I don't know. I got a message stating:

    "The password isn't valid please sign in."

    When I did, all was well.

    It would be interesting to see if a G1 with a foreign SIM could still connect to a home Wi-Fi, but I haven't tried this yet. Then, if you didn't want to use it as a phone any more, you could still use it as a handheld Internet device around the house. That could be useful, I think.


    SW
    Last edited by SteveW; 01-28-2009 at 5:42 PM.
    "Oh I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused."
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: T-Mobile G1 Review

    OTA update!

    I got my first OTA update for the G1 yesterday. It involved a firmware update and it was cool. A message popped up saying it was available and warning that the phone would need to reboot. It allowed you to choose "Update later". I needed my phone at that moment, so I postponed. A few hours later it offered to update again and I let it go. Cool graphics showed the download and the ROM update. I think it rebooted twice.

    I was at: Firmware 1.0, Build 1.0 TC4-RC30

    I am now at: Firmware 1.1, Build 1.1 PLAT-RC33

    This is a relatively minor update and is not the famous Cupcake update, according to most people. More information on exactly what's in it can be found on the T-Mobileicon forums:

    RC33 - Firmware 1.1 - What is included?

    Although this is a minor update, to me, it's the principle of the thing. If Google is going to continually improve the OS and if T-Mo is eventually going to support what Google does and send it to me, that's what I want.


    SW
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  5. #5
    Mobile RF Advisor viewfly's Avatar
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    Default Re: T-Mobile G1 Review

    Very nice review of the G1! Keep us abreast of how the phone is working for you. I've been curious about this one ever since I held it in my hand.

    VF

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    Mobile RF Advisor viewfly's Avatar
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    Default Re: T-Mobile G1 Review

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveW View Post
    Initial Impressions


    - Battery life. There's been a lot of griping about the battery life on this phone. I try to keep in mind that it is much more like a laptop than a phone in terms of functionality, so in a way it's not surprising that its battery life is more laptop-like than phone-like. With a properly conditioned battery, the Power Manager application installed, and if I'm not using GPS or Wi-Fi continuously, I can definitely get around 4 1//2 hours of use over a 12 hour period.

    SW
    I think that you make a good analogy. These smartphones really are small PC's. Scaling down the phone size with a battery size to match, getting 4.5 hours out of it is quite remarkable. I'd be happy with my PC laptop would also last as long.

    We do whine a lot, forgetting how simple our original phones use to be; plus 3G sucks up more juice than plain old GSM.

    VF

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    Battery mgmt is my life
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    Default Re: T-Mobile G1 Review

    Recommended case

    Cases are a matter of individual preference, so what works for me may not be to others' liking. To me, a good case that stays on all the time is essential (no pouches). I dropped my G1 twice when it was out of the pouch it came with. Luckily, it wasn't damaged. Also, the G1 has a complex sliding mechanism, so case makers have had to be very ingenious. Here's the one I bought and can recommend.

    Designio Leather Sleeve™ - T-Mobile G1



    For me, phones like this are a bit too big to wear on your belt, but this case has an optional belt clip that just leaves a flush metal thread, when removed. This is nice, as there's really no downside, even if you don't plan to use it. It's hard to get a good sense of how the case works without seeing it in person, but the set of pictures on the BoxWave site makes it pretty clear, especially this one:





    SW
    "Oh I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused."
    -- Elvis Costello, Red Shoes

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