Around noon today, I picked up my unlocked Android G1 dev phone, and as of now it’s my main phone, plus I’m trying to write an app for it. I suspect that my experiences are going to be shared by quite a few people in the not-too-distant future, so why not record them?

Table of Contents ·

Why Not iPhone? · Clearly, at this time, the iPhone hardware and software are slicker, and the ecosystem is bigger. But I just can’t get past stories like Newber. Well, and I already know how to program in Java and don’t feel like picking up Objective-C and Cocoa to earn the privilege of being a sharecropper.

Hardware · It’s nice. I’ve never actually had a “smart” or otherwise fancy phone before, so this is by far the nicest I’ve owned. Feels good in the hand. The screen is fantastically high-quality; the pix from here at ongoing look terrific even shrunk down. It’s already totally smudgy, but you only notice that when the lights are out and you’re not using it.

Android G1 phone in action

A half-day in.

The keyboard is easy to use even with big farmer’s fingers like mine; I’ve made remarkably few typing errors.

Getting It · If you join the Android marketplace ($25) you can get one for $399. UPS wanted $200+ to ship it to Canada (strengthening my opinion that UPS is a cabal of slimy banditos), so I shipped it to an American Sun colleague who dropped it in a Fedex to me.

It shows up in a plain white box with the requisite wires but no documentation whatsoever, except a little card saying you can’t get it going without a wireless data plan from your GSM provider.

Android G1 dev phone shipping box
· · ·
Android G1 dev phone unpack shot

The UI In General · It’s pretty good. So far, I’ve been able to figure out how to do everything I wanted, with only the occasional glance at the online PDF user guide. Other reviewers have complained about sluggishness but it seems to run about as fast as I can think.

One of the reviewers whined that this thing having a touch-screen and a keyboard and a trackball was a sign of confusion, but that’s just silliness, like Apple’s contention for all those years that you shouldn’t want more than one button on a mouse. In my half-day with the G1, I’ve found myself using all of them all the time, naturally and without thinking.

As a Phone · It seems to have all the features you might want. My first few calls have been trouble-free. It works just fine with my bluetooth headset. Dialing on-screen is way easier than with the little Samsung clamshell it replaced, and if you’re calling someone you’ve put in your Favorites list, that’s just two or three taps.

Reception is acceptable here at my house, which is significant because the signal quality is really poor.

Syncing · Like a lot of people who might pick this up, I use a Mac and its Address Book app. Address Book doesn’t want to sync with Google unless you have an iPhone or Touch, but you can work around that. Even though I use Gmail I’d never actually noticed its “Contacts” feature. Anyhow, as of now my contacts are on the G1, which is nice.

Calendar sync is not yet solved, but I bet a lot of people are working on it, and it’ll get there.

The Net · I hadn’t actually been planning to use the net via GSM since I’m usually around WiFi. But you need it in order to get the process bootstrapped, so I signed up for a basic $35/month plan with my network operator. Roaming data rates are onerous, but if I read the settings correctly, you can tell the phone not to use them.

Canadian 3G doesn’t work with the G1 so I’m on Edge, which is faster than dial-up but not much. On the other hand, I’ve hooked up to several flavors of WiFi network, WEP, WPA, whatever, with no fuss at all.

WiFi reveals that the browser itself is kinda slow. It’s not as good as iPhone but massively better than any other allegedly-Internet-capable mobile device I’ve used. All they need to catch up is some fit-and-finish and that little pinch/unpinch trick for zooming. As it is, I’m sure I’ll use the net regularly from the phone, which is a new thing for me.

The Apps · Gmail worked fine out of the box; haven’t figured out how to delete messages unread yet, but I’m sure there’s a way. There’s another email program that hooks up fine to Sun’s secure IMAP, which reminds me that I really need to do my filtering on the server not the client. Having two email programs doesn’t bother me, it’s how I work on the mac too.

The chat program seems limited to GTalk, which is irritating but not serious, just about everybody I know uses Pidgin and doesn’t object to letting it connect to GTalk.

The maps are nice, although I’ve hardly been outside with it to give the GPS a chance; its first shot was off by about five blocks, hmmm. The map UI seems a little clunkier than the rest of it, I wanted to change modes all the time and had to go into the menu for that.

Programming It · I’m trying. I have an idea that I’m pretty sure will be visually pleasing if I can pull it off and, who knows, maybe useful too, in a way that might help Sun sell servers. Hey, I even grabbed a very decent 7-letter domain name with a “Web 2.0” vibe.

Back of the Android G1 dev phone

Dig the decorated back.

There’s a developer community happening. I’ve already got one question answered on #android, which is mostly l337 kernel hax0rz, but lively and amusing. #android-dev, which is supposed to be about apps, is much quieter. Also the Google engineers are watching both the IRC and Twitterstream; I know because they’ve already been in touch.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Matt Ingenthron (Dec 18 2008, at 23:45)

I'm very interested to see how it goes. I'm at the crossroads of a BlackBerry Bold (Canadian and Java), a G1 (South-South-Bay Silicon Valley and half-Java) and an iPhone (North-South-Bay and no Java... except hidden on the CPU).

To me, keyboard utility and calendar synching are important. I would also prefer to code in Java... but the synching of the BB and the email are a bit less than Open.

This has most recently lead me to the conclusion that the G1 may be for me... so I'm curious to see where it goes.


From: Andre Arko (Dec 18 2008, at 23:54)

If you're still using iCal, I (strongly) recommend BusySync (from It handles LAN, WAN, and Google Calendar syncing, very transparently. It also allows other Mac programs that use SyncServices to sync with those calendars, whereas CalDAV calendars are read-only to SyncServices.


From: Brian Gupta (Dec 19 2008, at 00:29)

Now that I discovered you have an ADP1 (Android Dev Phone 1), I figured you might be interested in what I have been working on... An Android FAQ, mostly collected from #android discussions:

(As far as I can tell it's by far the most complete Android FAQ out there).



P.S. - I have an ADP1 and a modded G1. Fun stuff, you are gonna have a blast.


From: dave (Dec 19 2008, at 01:09)

Um, people are reporting the despite what the UI says, you can't actually turn off the 2G/3G data connection. Apps can use them at will. If you roam, it is suggested that you a) leave the G1 at home or b) turn off the phone and switch to a local SIM so you don't pay roaming rates.


From: Wesley Mason (Dec 19 2008, at 02:41)

If Android doesn't have a GPS lock on it uses the GSM cell position to get an approximate location fix (and when you do have GPS it uses both in tangent), as well as any available network based geo services, so you'll probably find that the "off by 5 blocks" position it gave you was your nearest cell position.


From: razmaspaz (Dec 19 2008, at 06:25)

I haven't quite figured out the extent to which this syncs address book but it at least pulled my gmail contacts into address book, and I think sent some to google. Its very new, so...

Interesting stuff about the phone, I will be interested to know you opinion a month into it.


From: blake (Dec 19 2008, at 06:45)

What about the battery life?


From: Patrick Mueller (Dec 19 2008, at 07:14)

Bummed to hear you need to get a cell plan; was hoping you could use it with no cell at all; just wifi. Still waiting ...


From: Dan Guy (Dec 19 2008, at 08:56)

You can delete email without reading it by pressing and holding on the email, then pick delete from the pop-up menu.

There are a lot of things you can do in Android by pressing and holding.


From: Hub (Dec 19 2008, at 09:31)

Wow, $200 for shipping. Looks like it will be a pass. Once again.

You also forgot to mention how the 3G side of the device was not suited to work in Canada due to lack of 2100MHz deployment here (or lack of 850/1900MHz support in the device).


From: adam (Dec 19 2008, at 10:35)

you've earned a spot on my RSS reader. keep posting and i'll keep reading :)


From: Brett (Dec 19 2008, at 11:29)

To delete an email in Gmail without having to actually open it, do a long-click (literally just keep your finger pressed down for a while). A menu will pop up where you can scroll down to Delete.

Long-clicking provides a decent number of shortcuts throughout Android. I have found it pays to just long-click first and then try the menu button.


From: JD (Dec 19 2008, at 11:45)

Another canuck here who had the ADP1 shipped via an American colleague. FYI, I don't think UPS is the problem here - yes, they do charge an obscene handling fee, but if you do the math on the worst case tax+duties+UPS fees, Brightstar still seems to be overcharging by well over 100 CAD. They are the problem here.

The browser does need some work. It is slow, and HTTPS is *really* slow.

You can delete (or archive) unread messages in the mail app with a long press.

Maps location is using your nearest cel tower if you aren't actually getting a GPS signal, that usually explains 'off by five blocks' problems. I've found the GPS to be more reliable than the iPhone once outside.

The fact that initial setup can't be done with wi-fi is an inexplicable drag, as is the fact that you can't meaningfully make the device go 'wi-fi only' later. It will always go for at least a 2G connection as soon as you don't wi-fi, unless you disable networking altogether. This is lame.

Core cel functionality is pretty solid - this is a good phone.

The keyboard surprised me with its quality - I have big fingers and was scared that it would be useless at first glance, but it is really well-designed and works a treat. My wife has a tablet notebook that is actually more cumbersome to type correctly on than the G1 keyboard.

The Market is so-so. The comments are right up there with YouTube for quality - who knew that so many mouth-breathing feebs were acquiring G1s? Also, apps whose authors claim that they are now on the Market can inexplicably not be found - for instance I couldn't (and still can't) find Connectbot by searching for 'connectbot' or 'ssh', I had to grab the apk manually. Connectbot is awesome, I might add ;)

Worst point of the G1, hands down: The camera is really, really atrociously bad - crap hardware, though the Camera software may be making the situation worse. They should have gone with a quality 1MP unit, instead of this entirely useless 3MP one. You'd need floodlights handy to take a good shot with it indoors, and the inconsistent delay between press+release and the actual shot being taken is a huge pain in the ass.

All in all I am pretty impressed with this 1.0 platform - the UI polish and intuitiveness really surprised me, I was definitely braced for a rockier ride. I've seen some glitches here and there, but no showstoppers, and that's to be expected at this early date. Android has tremendous potential and I can't wait for more devices to hit the market in '09, and to see where it goes from here.


From: Mahlen Morris (Dec 19 2008, at 12:06)

"haven’t figured out how to delete messages unread yet"

The Menu key presents a menu for the screen you are on; to get a menu for a specific item in a list, do a "long press" (yes, hold your finger down on the item for a couple seconds) and a menu of actions about that item will appear, and that's where Delete is.



From: Robert (Dec 19 2008, at 16:57)

Assuming the G1 integrates with Google Calendar, razmaspaz is right on with his suggestion.

I use caldav to sync iCal with my Google Calendar which then syncs to my Blackberry's calendar. There were some growing pains when they first announced it a couple weeks ago, but it's all working well now. You can set ical to look for updates in intervals between 5-30 minutes; but it sends new events to Google immediately after they're created.


From: Me (Dec 19 2008, at 22:46)

The chat app (mine, anyway) speaks not just to Google Talk, but to AIM, MSN, and Yahoo.


From: Scott Nelson (Dec 20 2008, at 09:17)

Thanks for the 'long press' tip! I had been struggling to figure out how to add a number from the call log to contacts. A tap calls the number...but a long press gives a menu. So simple, yet didn't occur to me. The battery life is pretty bad. I can make it through the day...but barely if I use a lot of 3G. Good news is, it charges very fast.


From: sunracer (Dec 21 2008, at 09:24)

You never owned a smart phone or other "fancy phone but then you say that this is "by far" the best one you've owend...Are you for real?

Sounds like another clueless Sun engineer that doesn't even know that a real world exists, let alone where it is. Try out about 6-10 other "fancy" phones and then maybe your opinion would have merit.


From: (Dec 21 2008, at 10:59)

Great Android community at our website:

Lots of app reviews, games & accessory videos!


From: Matijs van Zuijlen (Dec 21 2008, at 22:49)

@sunracer: Try reading what it actually says: it's the nicest (not best!) phone he's owned, precisely because it's the first smart phone he's owned.

Of course, for that to make sense you would have to first agree that smart phones are nicer than other phones.


From: Steve Holden (Dec 24 2008, at 04:35)

Unfortunately you can forget the "pinch to zoom" feature, as the G1 doesn't have a multi-touch screen.


From: Michel S. (Dec 28 2008, at 14:57)

You'd probably have discovered this by now, but something other commenters have not noted -- and what threw me off at the beginning as well -- is that the GPS defaults to off. You need to turn it on from Settings->Security&locations->Enable GPS Satellites.

When it's active, there will be an antenna icon on the tray with pulsing green lines; accuracy should be down to within a few meters or so


From: fbz (Jan 12 2009, at 04:23)

Sorry if this sounds inane, but I can't seem to find an rss feed for just your android or just your tech category. Is that the case or am I just missing it somewhere? Thanks for doing all this documentation of your work on your g1, I just got one and after thinking "nah I won't code anything for it, I just need a replacement for my aging nokia e70", I have revised those thoughts. I haven't coded java in eons, but I am inspired to dig in and code.


From: mathiastck (Jan 12 2009, at 12:52)

The app irc chat might be slow, but there are lots of lively newsgroups.

The main for app development is:

Related groups for app developers here:

And the full list including the groups for source developers rather then app developers:


From: Eddie (Mar 18 2009, at 02:49)

This is a nice blog post about Android especially given that yesterday in the Wall Street Journal it was reported that HTC in Taiwan is going to come out with more versions of Android phones although particularly for the Chinese market, and especially given all of the energy about iPhone 3.0 today (I can't believe content providers would be willing to give Apple a 30% cut of their revenue (such as updating game levels in an app) just for the sake of Apple providing the "logistics"? You've got to be kidding me. As Tim would say, talk about being an Apple ShareCropper!


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December 18, 2008
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