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Rory Cellan-Jones

Impressions of Android

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 23 Sep 08, 19:03 GMT

I don't know about you, but getting to grips with a new mobile phone takes me some time. I have to load up thousands of contacts, set up my e-mail, surf a few websites and even make the odd call before I know what I think. So half an hour spent playing with the T-Mobile/HTC/Google G1 - the first Android handset - this afternoon wasn't really enough to reach any firm conclusions. But here are my first impressions.

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The G1 looks much like HTC's recent efforts for the Windows Mobile platform. The slide-out keyboard gives a bit of added bulk, but it's a reasonably compact device. The touch screen seems to respond quite rapidly, and there's a jog-wheel too for faster navigation.

But what quickly becomes clear is that you'll be sliding out that keyboard much of the time. If, as I suggested earlier, there is now a schism between the touchers and the typists then this is a phone for the typing tribe. Even sending a text means using that keyboard rather than the screen. There are also several buttons to press to take you to a home screen, to bring up a range of applications, or to make a phone call.

The Android platform seems to be operating pretty smoothly, with Google applications - Mail, Talk, Maps - prominent on that home screen and launching quickly. The web surfing, which is such an attractive feature of the iPhone, is pretty intuitive on the G1 too, although you have to zoom in and out by tapping on the screen, rather than pinching and dragging on a multi-touch screen.

Other features include a barcode scanner, which captures an image of the code on the product, then searches the web for price comparisons, and an Amazon mp3 store which will apparently be available only in the US.

Most important, to my mind, is the Android Market, which allows users to install a whole range of applications from independent developers. I didn't get a chance to try any of the apps, but presumably they will be similar in range to those in Apple's App Store, allowing users to customise their phones with games, social networks and the like.

I didn't have a chance to try the 3 mp camera - but with no video capture it looks as though this phone isn't really aimed at keen snappers or instant movie-makers.

As you can see, I've made frequent reference to the iPhone and the G1 will inevitably be compared with Apple's product. For those who don't like the idea of a phone totally dependent on a touchscreen, the first Android will prove an attractive alternative.

What it lacks is the wow factor. I can't imagine there will be an awful lot of "oohs" and "aahs" when the G1 hits the shelves in November. But Google's first entry into the mobile phone world is a lot more impressive than many had predicted, and should hasten the development of the mobile internet.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Looks quite slick and easy on the eyes... I wonder when this will start to appear on other handsets?

    I bet the owner of that mobile number in the final few seconds of your video was delighted at having their number broadcast like that ;)

  • Comment number 2.

    Being a bit nosey (or should that read investigative journalist?), I googled the top number to find that it's a Recruitment Agency - are you sending subliminal messages to the BBC management Rory?

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm not sold. Google are an advertising company, and to lesser extent a content company.

    To be perfectly honest, I'm pretty much happy with my Windows Mobile phone. I don't see what this can do that my WiMoPho can't.

  • Comment number 4.

    Forgot to ask, how does it preform as a 'phone'? I've been using 'smart' phones for a while now and I've always found the 'phone' functionality lacking...

  • Comment number 5.

    Your first impressions are pretty much what I would've expected: plenty of "fluff" (barcode scanner???????) to titilate the marketing guys but dodgy when it comes to the ease of doing what you do most on a phone: text and make calls. I'll bet the underlying platform is solid: I have a lot of respect for Google's engineering prowess - but it's how the platform is exploited to create the user experience that's crucial and tellingly that's precisely where Google don't have a hand in the phones that use Android.

  • Comment number 6.

    ... and SophiaParvz seems to be a lazy spelling of Sophia Parviez, the T-Mobile PR manager according to another Google's suggestion. It's OK, he forgot to include the international prefix when dialling Penta in Croydon !

  • Comment number 7.

    Does the barcode reader cover book ISBNs and barcodes for CDs/DVDs ? That would be useful for cataloguing home collections as well as shopping.

  • Comment number 8.

    Google Android is at least an open platform, unlike Apple's locked iPhone/iTunes tie-in. See - http://www.macrumors.com/2008/09/23/apple-extends-non-disclosure-to-app-store-rejection-letters/

  • Comment number 9.

    @mernsmern

    I agree, I think that the fact it is open source is a huge plus. Apple is so closed it is more of a step backwards from microsoft than a step forward.

    The open source community is really good at giving end users what they want fairly quickly. They just really need to focus on making stuff more user friendly so they can hit the mainstream.

    Gogole (for all the recent privacy problems) has done a really good job in encouraging the growth of open source.

  • Comment number 10.

    @mernsmern

    I agree, I think that the fact it is open source is a huge plus. Apple is so closed it is more of a step backwards from microsoft than a step forward.

    The open source community is really good at giving end users what they want fairly quickly. They just really need to focus on making stuff more user friendly so they can hit the mainstream.

    Google (for all the recent privacy problems) has done a really good job in encouraging the growth of open source.

  • Comment number 11.

    This might be a big PR spin but it doesn't really add up to a great deal. SmartPhones are reckoned to make up less than 12% of all mobiles sold so its unlikely any more than about 1 in 10 of mobile users will ever really be interested in it. The problems with SmartPhones are more fundamental than the hardware/software - mobile data is still too expensive and too limited in functionality for most people to want or use it.

  • Comment number 12.

    These phones are starting to separate the plain phone user (phone and text) from the 'all-in-one' user who wants all the functionality of the home PC in the phone.

    We tried a Samsung phone last year with a slide-out keyboard and all the bells and whistles, but it was too much complication.

    At the end of the day we went back to basic Nokia 6300 phones which do more than we need. We go overseas regularly so Tri-Band is necessary, but we take a mini-laptop as well, so anything web-related we can get at the motel, and internet access at airports etc is still not good enough IMO.

    The comment about mobile access costs above is also very relevant. Great if someone else pays your bills!

    Peter

  • Comment number 13.

    Since S60, WinMo, Apple and Blackberry SDKs have ben out for ages I'm not sure what extra this brings. Developers will build things that are either:

    a) Profitable and/or
    b) Fun to do

    Regardless of the platform.

  • Comment number 14.

    The lack of a 'wow' factor counts in its favour as far as I'm concerned. The evangelism surrounding the iPhone appeals only to the fanboys whose adoration is based on faith rather than facts, and rubs many people up the wrong way.

  • Comment number 15.

    @neilhoskins,

    I base my decisions on whether a device is useable. My iPhone does everything I want, and is aesthetically pleasing to boot.

    Making wild accusations using daft, tired stereotypes like 'faith' (surprised you didn't say fanboy or cult) just makes you look like a green eyed fool.

    Get an iPhone, you will soon see what I mean.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Get an iPhone, you will soon see what I mean."

    See what I mean? Evangelism. Honestly, they'll soon be knocking on doors pushing copies of 'Mac World'.

    Did I try to push my opinion of the best phone on you? No. Did I even mention what my preference was? No.

  • Comment number 17.

    All the pundits are comparing the G1 with the iPhone. Well i dunno. How about comparing the G1 with a similar HTC running Windows Mobile?

    All the video footage is showing stuff the G1 does. Again, what about the stuff it doesn't do?

    Video? I notice there is a YouTube app but i haven't seen it demo'd yet - anyone have a link to that?

    Flash?
    PDF/document viewers?

    And what about this Google sync thing - how does the G1 handle stuff off-line - will i still have all my email like on the Blackberry when i'm out of range?

    Still waiting for a bit of journo with a bit of know. I can understand why journos like wow-phones better - a lot easier report on. ;-)

  • Comment number 18.

    I shall be sticking with my basic conventional phone and my Asus eee.

  • Comment number 19.

    @neilhoskins

    Calm down son, you'll give yourself a heart attack if you carry on like that! It's not evangelism I am preaching, I just think the iPhone is an amazing device and suggesting you should try one. It was YOU that mentioned 'fanboys'' and 'faith', as if Mac fans are part of a cult - utter hokum created by people who strive to be average. Me? I just like a well designed, clearly thought out product. Simple.

    Anyway, back to the point. What I find really amusing about this whole Android thing is every single article, video, blog will talk about how good the OS is, how functional it is, but no one actually demonstrates anything on them apart from touching the screen to bring up an icon!

    What is it like to type an SMS on?
    How sensitive is the touch screen?
    How easy is it to navigate through the menus?

    All you see is journalists clicking the home screen and that's it!

 

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