With much fanfare, though not nearly the level of showmanship we see from a Steve Jobs keynote, T-Mobile, HTC, and Google execs formally announced the first Android-driven device yesterday. What did we learn about the T-Mobile G1? Let’s recap:
- Touchscreen (NOT multi-touch) device with slide-out keyboard (exactly as pictured in previous spy shots)
- Quad-band GSM and 3G capable on T-Mobile’s network, currently live in 16 markets in the U.S.
- Includes WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a 3-megapixel camera
- 1GB microSD card included, unknown internal memory
- SIM-locked to T-Mobile, can be unlocked for users in good standing after 90 days
- No headphone jack (requires a proprietary adapter to use headphones)
- Can download apps from the Android Marketplace (developers can produce and distribute any type of software with no restrictions)
- Pre-loaded music player, web browser, and other software. No built-in video player.
- Amazon music store software pre-loaded
- Copy & paste (though limited to editable text boxes)
- Integrates seamlessly with Google apps and syncs with online counterparts
- Google Maps has compass function to automatically adjust street view
- No desktop synchronization software
- No Exchange server synchronization capability
- Push email only with GMail accounts (all others are pull)
- Camera records still photos only, no video
- $179 with a 2-year contract, two data plans at $25 and $35, available starting October 22
While we don’t know every single detail about the G1 quite yet, what we do know doesn’t compare all that favorably to the iPhone 3G. The biggest thing missing is a desktop syncing application or conduit – this is a key element for smartphones to enable users to easily get their PIM data, media, and documents on to their device. While the G1 will easily sync wirelessly with the online Google applications as long as you have a Google account, this doesn’t cover music, video, podcasts, and photos. Managing all of this manually does not sound appealing in the least, particularly for someone like me who makes frequent use of smart playlists and photo albums on my Mac to automatically organize, add, and remove content from my iPhone. To be clear, iTunes syncing isn’t perfect – additional settings to customize further what content makes it on to your iPhone would be more than welcome, and some way to sync documents would be fabulous. Despite this, it’s still far better than not having any syncing software at all.
One of the biggest complaints about the iPhone before the 2.0 firmware release was the lack of Exchange server synchronization. Now that it offers this, it’s reasonable to expect that any phone worthy of being called an iPhone competitor would also include it. The G1 does not. And if Google and T-Mobile wanted to sway potential or current iPhone users to the G1, they will fail to capture those users who have a significant investment in the media and other content stored on their computers since the G1 provides no automated way to share this with the phone.
Of course, there’s more. A paltry 1GB of memory on a microSD card? No headphone jack? No built-in software to play videos aside from YouTube? At least offer something that the iPhone doesn’t have, like video recording, to attempt to make up for this. On this wishlist of most iPhone users is the Bluetooth A2DP profile to allow the use of stereo bluetooth headphones, but the G1 misses this mark also by not including this profile.
Now let’s think about the hardware. Does the G1 really surprise or please anyone with its sleekness or sexiness? No? I didn’t think so.
So is the G1 a true iPhone competitor? Not really. At the moment, it could be for those who live and die by their GMail, Google Docs, and other Google content, but not for anyone else.