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Nov 20, 2008

My first impression of the Android

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I had a chance to put my hands on the world's first Android-powered handset - T-Mobile G1.

I must admit I had little expectations, as it is the first version of the product and I was always taught that when it comes to technology - version 1.0 never really works.

Though I didn't have too much time to play around with it, I have to admit that it exceeded my expectations.

Here's my thoughts about the first Android phone:

Sticking with some good ideas:

You don't always need to invent the wheel to be successful, and indeed, the design of this phone combines few good elements that can be found in other handheld devices: trackball (BlackBerry anyone?), full sliding QWERTY keyboard (always better than those virtual ones), and the four classic hardware buttons: home, send, end, and back (combined with one additional 'menu' button).

Classy.

The OS tries to follow the touch experience that exists in all the new phones. It is designed in a finger friendly way and does a good job at it even though not always consistent.

The home screen is an interesting combination of a launcher (like iPhone's shortcuts) with summary panels (like Windows Mobile's informative today screen) - all, with the capabilities to define multiple pages.

It seems like Google learned from other's experience: the iPhone misses some summary information in the home screen, and on the other hand - WinMo users always add launchers to their 'today' screen. Google combined the two and did it well.

Other than that, there are many things that reminded me of the iPhone: especially the way that the menus are scrolling using finger gestures. I can't blame Google for doing so, as this is now becoming an industry standard. However, even though the screen technology is the same as the iPhone - the Android does not have the same smoothness.

A nice Innovation:

Something which I did find innovative was the built in 'Menu' button: why wasting important area on the screen with menus or buttons or both when a hardware button can be allocated for that? No matter what application is currently open - the 'menu' hardware button will open a popup menu related to that specific context - it pops up from the bottom and it's very intuitive.  Great concept.

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OK.

So far so good, but as always, I never miss a good opportunity to complain. So here are few of the things I didn't like about the Android.

First - the hardware design:

I've said it in the past already; this HTC device looks like it was taken from the 80's. The goofy rounded buttons and the entire design made me wonder if maybe it's some kind of a human experiment to see how far people will go just to be the first to purchase the Android. Holding it in the hand feels OK, but this is no match to the great designs we usually get from HTC.

AndroidFace copy

Having said that, the device feels solid enough and the sliding screen doesn't feel like it will break so fast - which is good.

Having a real QWERTY keyboard is nice, but I found the keys too small and not raised enough over the body which made the keyboard uncomfortable.

Internet Browsing:

Internet browsing is one of the most important things in today's devices. While my new iPhone roamed automatically and found the local wireless connection in 2-3 seconds - it took the android couple of long attempts to get connected. I found that loading my Mobile Spoon blog which has became pretty loaded by now took way too much time (comparing to the iPhone browser). And finally, the browsing itself was not perfect. Some attempts to scroll the page resulted in opening a link, and the general movements inside the page were not smooth.

I noticed a similar problem while clicking some icons and buttons - Some clicks did not react as expected. Checking some other blogs I found that other reviewers witnessed the same problem. (Did I mention version 1.0?)

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Summary:

If you are looking for a fancy toy such as the iPhone - Android is definitely not the one for you.

If you are looking for a business device - you have few options: Windows Mobile, BlackBerry or Android. The last one tries to combine a friendly user interface (although not completely consistent yet), touch screen, and a powerful platform - all the things we are looking for. But it's still version 1.0.

I personally don't see a reason to purchase this phone right now: the handset design is poor, and even though the OS has a huge potential - there are more mature and attractive options out there. At least for the time being.

All of that can dramatically change, of course, once version 2 is released along with some new (better looking) devices.

 

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