Monday, October 20, 2008

The Google/T-Mobile G1: Neat but clunky

(Originally posted on Facebook on Sept. 23, based on G1 launch demonstrations and reporting)
G1 shows why cross-company orchestration in technology is so hard to do, and why Jobs-ian obsessive integration sometimes wins.

If you're a techie looking for the next toy and are already on the T-Mobile network, the G1 is for you. But, only a more streamlined, lighter, smaller next-generation "G2" would likely have the consumer "whoomph" to give Apple a real run for its money.

G1's operating system--the first "live" implementation of Google's Android--has a lot of neat features, but not necessarily ones non-tech-geeks will find most intuitive or useful. For example, the phone allows drag-and-drop onto three separate icon desktops, but has only a bare-bones built-in music player.

The phone's physical design, by HTC, is more reminiscent of the original, circa-1996 Palm Pilot than a modern smartphone. That's surprising, as HTC also ships slick Windows Mobile handsets like the HTC Touch.

Finally, as Verizon might say, "it's the network." T-Mobile has a bit of a ways to go on its 3G network rollout, which, of course, it promises to do this fall.

What's in it for Google?

Google is donating Android code as open source. So, what's in this for Google?

Mobile advertising is the official raison-d'etre, but it's still nascent and difficult to implement despite growing screen sizes.

Features-bundling is another, and G1 is full of it. If your world consists of Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube, this phone is for you. If you have more diverse online preferences, however, you may find G1's built-in "steering" towards these services somewhat irritating.

Controlling key technology in future mobile development is the third, but as Dylan Tweney of Wired points out, Google must move quickly to prevent Android balkanization and loss of brand.
"The company needs to set up an aggressive "Googlephone" partners program." "If Google doesn't do that, Android will quickly disappear into the morass of poorly-branded smartphone operating systems that consumers don't give a damn about, alongside Symbian, Windows Mobile and the Palm OS. And Google will have lost the mobile game."

Great minds think alike?

New York Times' David Pogue writing on Oct. 16 agrees with my original review, giving the G1 the following report card: "software, A-. Phone, B-. Network, C".

No comments:

Post a Comment