New phone: HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1)

Since my new job will have me working from different places, I needed to bite the bullet, buy a mobile phone, and move into the 21st century. I bought an Android Dev Phone 1, an HTC Dream (a.k.a. a fully-unlocked T-Mobile G1). Getting it on T-Mobile service proved a little tricky, as they sent me a SIM card provisioned for Sidekick service, which simply doesn’t work on the G1. It took a while to find someone at T-Mobile who could help me, but once I got on the phone with Lindsay, she got me all fixed up.

The good:

  • Nice case, display, keypad, and slider (if you want to call it that). Thicker than an iPhone, but about the same mass. HTC has a reputation among my peers for building phones that don’t last very long; we’ll see.
  • Very nice UI. It only took a half hour of use before the interface became second nature and I stopped noticing it. The notification system (you have a message, weather alerts, etc.) is unobtrusive but useful.
  • After upgrading to Android 1.5 (a.k.a. Cupcake), the interface is as nice as any phone I’ve used. The on-screen keyboard is very usable, the camera is snappier, and the UI got a bit glossier.
  • Absolutely fantastic integration with Google services. (Big surprise, I know.) All your email contacts are in your phone book. Upcoming Calendar items can show up on your “home” screen as a widget. Google Talk IM sessions work seamlessly like texting but with your contact icons and such. You get the idea.
  • The web browser feels snappier than the one on the other phone’s I’ve used (better panning and scrolling).
  • Market has a ton of useful apps (a good ssh client, ConnectBot; a passable Google Reader client, Greed; etc.). The vast majority of them are free.
  • Respectable battery life for a tiny computer. I don’t use the voice part much, but use the browser/email/etc. over WiFi a lot; I can go two days between charges.

The bad:

  • The default browser can’t run Adblock Plus. Sigh.
  • Marketplace interface could use some love: only two sort options, and there must be a better way of browsing a thousand apps.
  • Turning on/off WiFi or GPS (to save battery) is cumbersome, requiring navigating several menus. Thankfully, the free Market apps “ToggleWiFi” and “Toggle GPS” make them one-touch.
  • Built-in camera is pretty poor; though not atypical for a phone. Lots of haloing, fairly slow focus, low ISO, lousy automatic while balance, etc.
  • The lack of multi-touch zoom is a slight hindrance on documents and some web pages.
  • Developer’s kit can be tricky to install. Some pages haven’t been moved from the old Google code site, so I found broken links and out-of-date instructions.
  • There doesn’t yet appear to be any easy way to run apps from the SD card. The phone will store your data there, but there’s limited space for installing applications. There’s are a few tutorials on doing it via command line, but I’ve not yet tried them.

Must-have applications:

  • ToggleWifi: one-touch toggling of the WiFi radio; great battery-saver.
  • Toggle GPS: one-touch toggling of the GPS receiver; great battery-saver.
  • Ring Toggle: one-touch switching between ring, vibrate, silent. Faster than tapping the volume button many times.
  • Greed (not free): RSS reader that ties in to Google Reader. It’s not a fantastic RSS reader, but if you use Reader already, the integration is well worth it.
  • WiFi Tether for Root Users: only for unlocked phones, but makes your phone act like a WiFi access point (well, an ad-hoc peer, to be precise). Essentially allows tethering your phone to your laptop.
  • ConnectBot: ssh and telnet client
  • DroidRecord: use your phone as a voice recorder
  • RingDroid: convert your audio files into ring tones; has basic editing like cropping.
  • WeatherBug: a little slow and bloated, but the best weather app I’ve found. The weather alert notifications are nice.
  • Magic 8-ball: shake and wait for your answer

All in all, a strong smartphone. If you’re already using Google services (gmail, calendar, etc.), this phone will very likely knock your socks off. If you aren’t, it’s still a good phone, but a harder sell.

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