Monday, February 16, 2009

Life Changing Technology - T-Mobile / Google G1 device 

It's hard to call this a telephone! Just like the competing iPhone -this is a handheld computer with some very cool features not found onlaptops like auto-rotating display orientation, touch screen, built-inGPS and 3G network access. The reality is that most mobile phones will be like this within two to three years.

Ever since I had my first Palm device I've been wanting to combine the tools and functionality that is the G1 now. My trusty Palm LifeDrive has served me well, but now the G1 is the new king on the block.

There is just so much to like about the G1 its hard to know where to start. Let's try to go from the stance of the non-geek - because those are the real end users that will drive the market.

There is so much of the average persons life that the G1 can make a positive change in. Let's run through what I've found in the just the first week.

Answering and managing phone calls (it is a phone after all!) is much more empowered. You can conference up to 6 people and easily switch between on hold callers. But also if you are in a meeting or unavailable, just one tap of a button and you can send a text to incoming caller telling them you are busy and you will call back shortly. You can also install an app (more on this shortly) that can make the phone work like a walkie-talkie between a group of people. And the speaker phone mode is excellent and clear.

There's a missed call management application that allows you various options for reaching back to a missed caller via text, email or callback.

For text messaging there are handy tools that make sending and receivingtext (SMS) much smoother and easier and you can use either the built-in QWERTY keyboard or an on-screen touch keyboard (if you don't want to open the phone).

Your office and GMail emails can be managed right from the G1, no need to buy Blackberry service. And you can Blog from the G1 too - I wrote part of this piece from the G1.

Satellite Navigation and GPS - when you have the G1 in powered profile (I found with the car charger this works best) then the G1 will connect to Google Maps and let you navigate in real time. It will work in battery mode, but the updates are on a slower refresh rate.

This also connects to the new Google Latitude application that let's share your location in real time. Great for when the kids need to know how far away you are from picking them up - without having to text you while you are driving!

GPS tracking and you - with the tracker application the G1 will post updates on a preset timer (I'm using every 10 seconds) and this is great for tracking your exercise regime, bike rides, walks, runs and then afterwards log in to the InstaMapper website and review total distance, average and top speed and optionally download these or choose to share the map. It can also help you find a lost phone in certain circumstances.

Weather services from WeatherBug and other global services keep you up to date with all aspects of the weather quickly at your finger tips. Even watch weather videos directly on your phone. Plus when you move location it will automatically update for your new location.

Next there is the calendaring and meeting organizer tools that integrate to Google calendar or your Office Exchange and Outlook server and provide you quick summary of your day and alerts. Also the contacts manager synchronizes to the T-Mobile servers so that keeps a backup copy for you.

The music player is outstanding, best I've used, sound quality is superb. And you can connect the G1 to your computer via USB cable and manage your own music collection. I replaced the standard 1 gigabyteMicroSD card with an 8 gigabyte card. You can download extra ring tones and desktop backgrounds from the HTC web site for free.

The camera can take 3 megapixel images or video and can upload to all those social sites like Facebook, YouTube, Flicker and so on. Combining the camera with the internet, you can snap a barcode off a product and then do a price check via the internet.

Then there is the internet. Real internet with WiFi anywhere you can connect to a network or 3G networking for on the road. The browser is excellent and I also installed Opera Mini which works fantastic too. Speed is quick and the built-in browser has some nice time saving favourites and up to 4 sites in windows that you can flip between.

I'm using the browser for my morning commute on the train. I can track where the next train is from their web site and this makes my drive much safer as I know exactly when I need to be at the station. Conversely in the evening I can time leaving from work to meet the right train of there are any delays occurring.

Then of course another great site is the TV and cable channel program listings. Not to mention built-in Wikipedia which allows you to store facts from online Wikipedia directly into your G1.

Similarly there area set of translation tools for language help while travelling.

In the fun applications department you can find things like the bubble spirit level and the compass, you never know when you might need these!?

In the games department I've stayed away from those as they are just productivity sinks but I've seen there are a ton of those too, and especially leveraging the shake sensor to control action in the game, not to mention voice control.

You pretty soon realize that this phone is replacing a whole raft of devices and tools you used to have to haul around. And that makes the price point even sweeter too. So far I have GPS device, MP3 player, game console, calendar and notebook, PDA device or Blackberry, a translator, and of course a phone too.

Not bad for one week and counting!

We mentioned "apps" above, how do those get created and how do you findthem and how do you know they are safe? Google has created a whole marketplace set of tools built in to the G1. It's very easy for end users to search the marketplace of approved apps and add an app to their G1. Most of these a free currently, Google have created a bunch already and then saavy developers are jumping in there and creating traffic to their sites by building these.

So what is in this device for geeks? Well it is running the Android operating system which is based on LINUX. It is rock solid and Google have created a whole open source world to develop into and a built-in Android Marketplace to download apps from. And you can connect the USB to your development machine and do interactive debugging. The development environment is Eclipse and Java.

This all adds up to a very sweet application environment for the geek!

The screen display resolution is excellent HVGA - 320 x 480 pixels andthe user interface tools that come with Android development suite makebuilding simple applications quick. Here is a link to the technicaldescription of the G1 device from HTC:
http://www.htc.com/www/product/dream/specification.html and for the "wow"

Last but not least is the street appeal. Frankly the wow factor is the biggest selling point. People see this device and know that their next phone is likely to be one of these. Obviously the providers are also going to be competing to get you to take one too because they want to sell you the monthly data subscription that you need for the internet and data services.

I'm sold! Once you have one of these devices you are not going back to the old world of "just a phone". It's not a phone - its a G1. Thank you Google, T-Mobile, HTC and the Open Source movement!

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