Wondering what all the fuss is regarding the G1, the latest mobile phone to be hailed as the "iPhone killer"? We were, too, so we headed to a press conference held yesterday to introduce the much-anticipated device.
First, the facts: What makes the G1 different from other recent iPhone challengers is that it’s powered by Android, a new operating system developed by Google. While iPhones are manufactured exclusively by Apple and (officially) available only to AT&T customers, Android is open-source software, which means anyone can make an Android-powered handset. Which means that customers of a variety of mobile providers could very well own an Android-powered phone in the near future.
Now, onto what gives the G1 "mass appeal," as T-Mobile big-wig Cole Brodman put it this morning (Disclaimer: I am not sure how well these features actually operate—I’m merely reporting what I saw in the nifty introductory video and what I experienced while groping the phone for about two minutes.):
* It has a touch screen, but it also includes a full keyboard that slides out from under it (BlackBerry users, you know you love it!). Also, there’s a trackball on the bottom of the screen for easy one-handed navigation.
* The phone, which is a lot smaller and sleeker in person than it looks in photos, will come in three color options: black, white, or brown.
* Music can be downloaded directly from the Amazon.com store (the memory card that comes with the phone holds approximately 500 songs, but additional memory is available), but you need to be in an area with a good Wi-Fi connection to do so.
* Instant messaging programs that come built-in from: Google Talk (go figure!), AOL, and Yahoo.
* A YouTube application is also included, as is a 3.1 megapixel camera.
* Like the iPhone, the G1 comes preloaded with a Google Maps app that takes advantage of the unit’s GPS. But the G1 includes Google Maps’ Street View feature with a Compass Mode that allows you to see a 360-degree panoramic view of your surroundings when you move/swing the phone.
* When you click on any address in your phonebook, it plots the location in Google Maps.
* The Internet browser is enabled so that you can open multiple web pages at one time. It also allows you to copy a link from the browser window right into an e-mail just by "hard touching" it (pressing your finger to the screen for about two seconds).
* It’s compatible with almost all e-mail clients (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.), but it includes a "push Gmail" app, meaning it delivers any e-mail sent to a Gmail account instantaneously.
* The Android Market is G1’s version of iPhone’s App Store. The major difference is that Android Market is "open" to anyone who wants to create applications for it (Apple, on the other hand, must approve every program that comes its way). This openness means the sky’s the limit in terms of the kinds of off-the-wall and extremely innovative applications we’ll be seeing down the road.
* Applications already available (for free!) on the G1 include: Ecorio, which tracks your "carbon footprint" for the day, and ShopSavvy, which LISTEN UP PEOPLE!! was by far the most jaw-dropping part of the presentation. This app turns the G1 (well, its camera, really) into a bar code scanner: When you see something you like, photograph the UPC code and the G1 provides a list of nearby stores and what they’re charging for the same merchandise.
* Last but not least, the G1 is priced at $179 (plus tax, with a two-year contract). Current T-Mobile customers can preorder it at http://www.t-mobile.com, with units expected to ship on Oct. 22. The unlimited web/messaging option costs $35 on top of your regular plan.
Well, there you have it, PopWatchers, a quick run down of the much-hyped T-Mobile G1. Google founder Larry Page (yes, he and his billionaire partner Sergey caused quite a stir when they made a cameo at the big launch this morning, so much so that the camera crews attacked them the way paparazzi attack Brangelina!) claimed it’s "as good a computer as you had a few years ago." Now that you’ve gotten the basic info behind it, would you agree? And how many of you out there are planning to buy one? Is this it for the iPhone?