- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2008

If you’re wondering whether you should buy the new T-Mobile G1, the hand-held phone/e-mail device running the “Android” operating system, or pay $20 more for a basic Apple iPhone, here’s a definitive answer:

It depends.

The new G1, available for $179 after a massive $220 “instant discount” that is likely tied to your remaining a T-Mobile customer for a spell, is a remarkable achievement for T-Mobile, for Google and for HTC, the Taiwan hardware maker. However, it’s not an iPhone clone or even an iPhone killer. That doesn’t mean you should dismiss the G1, but anyone contemplating either phone should view each realistically.

The G1 is a boon for T-Mobile because it helps the cellular carrier achieve a niche in the market. Yes, T-Mobile has Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry devices, and, yes, T-Mobile has had a wide range of interesting phones, PDAs and hybrids, the Sidekick being the most notable. Nevertheless, the G1 puts T-Mobile in a new category by offering a device that can take pictures, handle e-mail, browse the Web, make calls - and do it all in an integrated fashion.

It’s an accomplishment for Google because the “Android” software is supposed to be open-source and, thus, adaptable and improvable by many people, including those outside of Google. In theory, this should mean more applications for the Android more quickly and more devices for the software to use, such as “netbooks” and other “smart” gadgets.

Finally, it’s a win for HTC Corp. I trashed - and, I believe, rightly - the AT&T Tilt, which was also made by HTC, because its “rough edges” outweighed its plusses.

However, this G1 - which has a slide-up screen and keyboard similar to the Tilt - performs better. Typing is better, the display is clearer and, overall, it’s a better product. Battery life seems to be good, and the unit includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections; there’s no jack for a headphone or headphone/microphone combo, though, and that’s a negative.

Where the Android software shines is in its integration with Google Inc. If your contact list and e-mail are Google-branded, you’re going to love this phone. Enter your user name and password, and you’ve got your e-mail. It’s possible to add your own e-mail accounts, but apparently not in the integrated manner in which the iPhone now adapts to Microsoft Exchange, which is the dominant corporate e-mail system.

This is something that needs to be addressed, and pronto.

I also had a bit of a hard time finding applications for the G1; so far, there aren’t many. Granted, it took Apple a year to add resident applications to the iPhone, but Google has had enough time in developing Android: This is another area that needs work.

The iPhone’s strengths have long been discussed here, and they make the device a winner for many, many users. That said, some folks may prefer the G1’s form factor, price structure and network. For them, and perhaps for the future, the G1 and other Android-based devices bear watching.

What are you carrying?

E-mailMark Kellner