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 ·
III. Odds & Sods
VIII. On Android Maps
XII. A Half-Year In
XIII. Tasty Words
XIV. Switching Droids
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.
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.
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.
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.