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Walt Mossberg - Google’s G1: First Impressions (allthingsd.com)
51 points by nickb on Sept 23, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 44 comments

Umm.. so it's a sidekick...

I'm just glad the android developers finally have a device for their apps.

Am I the only one who realizes that this phone solves the syncing problem better than Apple & certainly for a much lower cost (free!).

Your contacts/email/appointments move across computer & cell phone with every update.

Copy & Paste is solved by the G1.

There is 3.5G coverage & GPS built in as well as open standards for applications, so before you know it, you can video conference from your G1 over the net to friends in Argentina, Europe or Asia.

Improved maps with a compass, walking directions & street view definitely does not hurt either.

The G1 phone matches or exceeds the iPhone in everything except storage, which you can pay extra for.

Seems like an OK device hardware wise, but that is likely to change fast and for the better. I'd expect there to be some really nice, polished devices by Holiday season 2009.

Software-wise, it looks pretty solid. Has a number of neat features that the iPhone doesn't, but that's also true vice-versa. Seems users will have to think how they use their device to see which one fits them better.

That was sweet, I hope there will be more applications like this... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgkSZS6o050

Jesus, guys, hire a design firm. This thing looks literally painful to use.

iPhone has just lost a bit more if its luster with this release.

Really? I get the impression that this phone lacks a lot of the iPhone's polish... various sliding/pinching gestures, tilt to change orientation, sync with PCs... Of course, the G1 is playing catch-up, and not doing a terrible job -- it has some of the features the first generation iPhone lacked (and vice versa).

The real thing the iPhone loses is exclusivity. Now that they have some semblance of a competitor, will Apple make concessions to developers and customers to maintain their advantage?

the real thing the iPhone loses is exclusivity

and thus has lost some of its luster -- its not the only player in the market anymore with an app store, touch screen, and all the other goodies

The iPhone doesn't lose luster when it acquires imitators. Far from it. The release of Android is a big, free benefit for Apple's marketing.

The release of Android will inspire approximately 3e5 articles comparing the new phone with existing phones. And which is the existing phone that will be featured in every single one of those articles, cast (once again) in the role of the current gold standard for smart phones? It'll be the iPhone. Because stories with Apple in them are exciting stories. And because, from the market's perspective, Android is an obvious derivative of the iPhone -- except for the parts that are derivative of the Blackberry instead, like the hardware keyboard. (If RIM is lucky they might rate a mention in the fifth paragraph of these articles.)

There will now be a big P.R. effort to define the entire smartphone industry as an epic battle between iPhone and Android. Which can only benefit both platforms, because the amount of downside to losing a bit of marketshare to your direct competitor is more than compensated by the enormous potential upside of growing the entire iPhone/Android niche of the industry. Remember, iPhone may be a hugely successful product, but it's still only a tiny percentage of the installed base of phones. There's a lot of potential customers still out there. Customers that might be drawn in now that they have a range of iPhone-like devices to choose from.

The only way that Android would be a terrible blow to Apple is if it clearly and obviously kicked the iPhone's butt. But it doesn't. There will be a lot of little details that will lead some people to prefer one phone over the other, but there's nothing game-changing here that would cause me to abandon the iPhone. The big difference that folks here on HN notice is the openness of the software platform, but that might not actually be a competitive advantage -- and, if it does prove to be a huge competitive advantage, it won't be one for long, because Apple could eliminate it in fifteen minutes if they really wanted to. All it takes is a policy change.

"the iPhone with a keyboard."

that's all you have to tell ordinary consumers (read: high school teenage girls and college-aged folks who absolutely OBLITERATE text messaging services and would never buy a mobile phone without a keyboard).

as a phone, iPhone rates very poorly for two things: calls (poor reception, horrible battery life, etc.) and sms.

G1 fixes one and possibly the other.

i have an iPhone, FWIW

I can text reasonably well.. (aka - by sight while driving using T9). I don't know ANYONE who texts regularly with a QWERTY keyboard on their phone. Maybe it's just an australian thing? Certainly none of my teenage female cousins have one - nor people I catch a train with...

> I don't know ANYONE who texts regularly with a QWERTY keyboard on their phone."

You must not know many young docs doing their residencies.

Until somebody realease something that isn't a 'Brick with no video recording' perhaps.

Ah, I interpreted "luster" as "surface polish", not "appeal". Sorry.

I don't see this device being a "must-have" device like iPhone is.

Wake me when I can use Exchange or IMAP to connect to arbitrary mail providers without having to pipe everything through Gmail.

Wake up. Android has both an email and Gmail application. You can use IMAP without having to go through Google.

christ we are in the dark ages again

i need a google account to use gphone

i need itunes to use iphone

i have to buy apps from approved channels

it favors the vendors apps

no thanks

wake me when i can buy a device that runs apps i choose, connects to the network i want. i realize this is a pipe dream. the wireless world is a world of shit

i might as well look for the smallest flash-based linux notebook possible that runs skype and just hold it up to my ear old-skule style like gordon gecko and that giant cell phone from wall street

I have an Openmoko Neo FreeRunner: it has GPS, accelerometers, WiFi G, high resolution 640x480px touch screen, Micro SD card slot, good quality speakers/headphone jack, and good battery life; it works with any GSM carrier; it can run just about any operating system compiled for its ARM CPU; you can run and compile programs on it in any language supported by GCC or an ARM-compiled interpreter; it can connect to the internet via GPRS, WiFi, or USB with a PC, to update it's software, install software packages, accept/initiate SSH sessions; it allows software to run that uses any windowing toolkit, including Gtk, Qt, and E.

It costs $399 direct from Openmoko and is available through multiple worldwide resellers ( http://openmoko.com/distributors.html ).

Any questions?

I'm not a fan of Openmoko, but you make a good point. There ARE options for people who want them. The cell phone market is more open now than it ever has been in the past.

I have one: Do you actually like using the phone?

Good question: Yes and no.

Because the software stack is a community effort, there are still a few niggling issues:

- problems with suspend (just like Linux on "real" computers) killing the sound driver (mostly fixed) or not waking back up (rare)

- there's no software yet for the device to wake itself at a specified time, so alarms are not possible when using suspend

- WiFi and GPRS is not yet straightforward when using the UI, but work perfectly fine when you can get things set up from a terminal/shell script

However, it's not all bad:

- The diversity of applications is already growing fast, and there are multiple choices for phone software, from Qtopia apps to Gtk or the latest FSO apps.

- GPS works great, and the mapping tools are really nifty and useful, especially TangoGPS: http://www.tangogps.org/

- Once you set up the "good" touch keyboards, using an Xterm is really nice for on-the-go ssh access to servers and such

- There's a great app available that will run in the background and auto-rotate the screen based on accelerometer data, which works great for terminals to get a wider screen: http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Rotate

How do you find the battery life to be on the unit? I used to keep up with the mailing list, prior to the device actually being released, and I recall that being an issue that there were some concerns about.

I'm glad to hear that there have been improvements though!

Do you use the phone as your "daily driver" yet?

I usually get about a day and a half of battery life, with the Neo suspended whenever I'm not using it, and usually with GPS/WiFi turned off until I need it. There are however people who think the Neo could potentially go for even longer, but it's already comparable to what the original iPhones seem to be getting anyways.

I don't yet use it as my only phone; because of the suspend issues, I have to have a more reliable method of being reached, so I still carry my Razr with me, and have my calls forwarded whenever my Neo decides not to come out of suspend, but the Neo is still my primary phone otherwise.

Isn't that the one that was a giant trainwreck as far as, you know, actually using it?


From the video, it looks like the FreeRunner is a long way from a usable open phone. And not all the issues are with the horrible software it ships with. The hardware looks like it sucks, too.

Have you tried an iPhone? They're awesome.

edit: Other reviews I've found of the FreeRunner are absolutely frightening as well. It looks more like a $400 toy to hack on than a phone one might actually use.

Actually, with the current ASU software stack (not shown in the video you linked or its followup video) is quite usable as an everyday phone. Granted it's not yet perfect, but neither is Linux or Windows, and both of them have had far larger user bases and companies backing them.

For the most part, the hardware is not "horrible", but by the fact that Openmoko is a tiny company, they don't have the purchasing power that Apple has to get newer hardware components at an inexpensive price point, hence the older ARM CPU and TI Calypso GSM chipsets. It's still plenty peppy enough and has enough RAM that I can run numerous applications at the same time without degrading performance of the entire system.

Certainly it's not as polished as the iPhone, but for people who actually care about their freedoms, it's fantastic. Even if for the simple reasons that I can flash my Neo at will, and that I have no limitations from the manufacturer as to what I can do with my phone, or how it can be used, it's the best smartphone/PDA I have ever purchased or used.

I find it interesting that you're the most vocal supporter of the Openmoko on this site, and you still don't use it as your only phone. Hopefully they will work out the kinks eventually, but it is not an option for most of us yet, not even those of us who care about software freedom.

If you NEED to have a backup phone, then it is still just an expensive toy.

Correct. But that doesn't mean that it's any less important in the mobile ecosystem. It's the only truly free phone in every sense of the word. You're free to do anything with the phone, at any time, without the permission of phone manufacturers, or app store reviewers, or fucking NDAs.

The biggest problem with Openmoko is that nobody knows about them, and nobody realizes why they matter. Everybody sees the horrors going on between Apple, the App Store, and developers' applications being rejected for competing with Apple, and then they complain about it, but that's just the way it is.

Yet that's not how it should be, and if everyone could find out about Openmoko, and actually realize and know why their freedoms truly matter, and that Openmoko makes the most freedoms-loving phone on the planet, then I wouldn't have anything more to talk about.

But we all know that even Openmoko's unexpectedly high sales amounts for the FreeRunner is still only a drop in the ocean compared to even only the iPhone, and even less compared to the entire smartphone industry. And that's why it matters to me and others to get the word out, to let people know that there really is another option that doesn't squelch your freedoms, and that if freedom truly matters to you, then you do have a choice.

Freedom is Your Choice. I choose Freedom.

As for the crappy "purchasing power" argument for the SoC : let me point out that the Zune of all things has a better processor. If you look at hacker friendly devices, a game console called called "Wiz" from a small firm will be selling at $180 and has roughly a similar processor. Also "OpenPandora" console from a small firm has a OMAP3 and will sell for $330. Now you want me to believe that a $400 phone cannot spend $10 more on the SoC? When running generic apps is what it was built for??

An OMAP3 sells for somewhere around $50 in quantity (I think).

The Zune is backed by Microsoft, and was built on orders of magnitude more than the Neos; the Wiz doesn't include GPS, accelerometers, 640x480 res touchscreen, or GSM chipset.

From my understanding, Openmoko was very limited in choices for SoC, because they needed to stick with open chipset, low power, ARM systems; the crucial point is open chipset systems, which most manufacturers won't give you for anything cutting edge. When your primary goal is freedom, and you insist on getting parts with open specs and chipsets, you eliminate a lot of your potential choices.

Yeah, when are we (I've got one too, still working on getting the Mokomakefile system working on Solaris) going to get a decent software stack for the thing? Leaving it suspended overnight shouldn't kill the battery.

Things have really picked up pace lately. There are currently two good software stacks available: the more stable and dependable ASU 2008.9 release [1], and the more experimental, and slower Python/Dbus-based, FSO framework initiative [2] that builds a new set of phone software on top of ASU.

[1] - http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Om2008.9_Update

[2] - http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/FSO

Any questions?

yes. okay you have sold me on the hardware. can i get one, then contact a wireless vendor and get a service plan? or will they tell me that i have to use a authorized device? astoundingly i have never owned a cell phone

You can use any GSM provider you want. AT&T and T-Mobile work fine on it. You can also use a prepaid plan if you want.

I already have a standard cell plan with T-Mobile for my Razr, but when I got my Neo, I was able to walk into the local T-Mobile store and just pick up a prepaid SIM card plan for $15. You just tell them (or AT&T) that you already have a phone, and you just want the service plan, and they'll give it to you. T-Mobile offers both monthly contract-free and prepaid plans without the need to purchase a phone, so you should be perfectly fine.

FYI, Android Market apparently will have no review process -- anyone can list an application without approval.

And you have heard about OpenMoko, right?

FYI, Android Market apparently will have no review process -- anyone can list an application without approval.

I wonder how long this will last. All you need is one malicious app and the party will be over. If not Google, then the carriers themselves will demand the locking up of the store... all in the name of security.

My understanding is that Android apps are sandboxed (a la Java or Flash applets) and need to request permissions for sensitive operations. This may help prevent obvious abuses and allow carriers to restrict problematic operations post-launch.

And Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Palm devices (and PCs) allow users to install arbitrary applications that they get off the internet, and their world has not collapsed yet. The Android Market might even be considered an improvement over these software ecosystems because it provides a de facto central location for flagging problem apps.

Almost every phone on the market besides the iPhone can run an app without walled garden approval. I think it will be OK. I don't want my desktop apps being filtered any more than I want my mobile apps to be filtered.

disagree because i've heard many reasons why apps are being declined outside of the complaints of nazi-ism that hit the wire. a number of apps have caused significant problems for iphone testers, and thus problems for Apple customer service (bottom line) on supporting user-created issues. It's easier to put a filter on it before hand... and scale up as the base software improves.

AAPL is positioned to be a barrier from the headaches of open computing. And that's what I love about them.

A filter for their store is not objectionable. My objection is that they require all apps to go through their store. It should be like Mac apps and anyone could make one (and distribute it), but not anyone gets listed on Apple's downloads page.

If Apple or Microsoft tried to pull this shit on the desktop they would be massacred. I would stop using OS X immediately.

Palm just released the Treo Pro, which lets you run any WinMO app you want and connect to any GSM network you want. They have PalmOS and Windows Phones that connect to any network.

I feel they do nothing but demonstrate why a tightly integrated solution is better than a highly flexible one.

We need someone like Linus Torvalds for mobile os.

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