Round Robin: TiPb vs. Google Android G1 Q&A!
[This is an official Smartphone Experts Round Robin post! Every day you reply here, you're automatically entered for a chance to win an iPhone 3G, Case-Mate Naked Case, and Motorola H9 Bluetooth Headset! Full contest rules here!]
You had Google Android G1 questions, we'll try to provide answers. Unfortunately, we already shipped the Android G1 off to TreoCentral's Jennifer and we're moving on to the Palm Treo Pro, so we won't be able to answer anything we didn't already find out last week, but for the most part, we'll try our best to give you an iPhone look at Google handset.
See our answers, after the jump!
Jason asks: in what user-friendly ways does the G1 shine? I know the open OS is a big deal for developers, but what about the average user?
If you're in a Google world, with Gmail and gCal, then the G1 is awesome with it's login/activation setting up Google push at the same time. I still maintained Google Contacts is an embarrassment, however, and needs work pronto. I'm not sure how well Google Docs work, if at all, as I didn't test those.
For users, the open OS means the potential for a wider range of more innovative software, but it will depending on developers being interested and able enough to produce it, of course.
Fassy asks: What are the major differences between Android’s WebKit browser and Mobile Safari? Do sites render differently, and, if so, how? Can/does the G1 use iphone-optimized versions of sites? Is the G1’s browser any more (or less) stable than Mobile Safari?
The major difference between MobileSafari and "Chrome-lite" (is that what the cool kids are calling it?) is that Chrome lacks multi-touch, which was a huge negative coming from the iPhone mindset. Multi-touch just kills on moving around the space.
Sites rendered similarly, since the engine is the same, but Chrome didn't resize pages and text flow the way Safari does, so it required extra zoom-out steps all the time. I didn't see any iPhone-optimized pages pop up on the G1 either, though I did notice when I tried to login to the MobileMe website, it told me to use the built in iPhone apps instead, so Apple was obviously miss-identifying Chrome as Safari.
Chrome was much more stable than MobileSafari 2.1. It didn't crash once the whole week. So far, MobileSafari 2.2 hasn't crashed on me either, so maybe things would be more even now.
cherryhead25 asks: Obviously their apps are tied into Google but have you found the phone productive at all? I mean is there a document/spreadsheet editor, or alarms for tasks? What are the calendar views like compared to the iPhones PIM? What about foreign language support like the iPhone has built in, specifically Asian languages. These are deal breakers for me so please elaborate on the productivity side of things.
The learning curve definitely impacted my productivity, especially the dismal contacts. I didn't try docs, but I didn't see any way to view or edit them built in. Calendar had a week view, which is lacking on the iPhone. Didn't see foreign languages, but remember this is a localized to T-Mobile in the US phone. I'd bet when it goes international, like the iPhone 3G did, we'll see that. I think Android Market will need to enable paid apps before we see the big productivity tools show up as well.
It's still very much early day with this phone. Just imagine the omni-pesent Google "beta" tag being on the phone.
Dimietriev asks: How easy is it to buy and download apps from the android store. With the iphone, you can do it fairly quickly, especially from the phone.
Very easy! I was very impressed with the download and install on Android Market, and the notification of what services each and every app would use (i.e. GPS, network, etc.) Update notices also popped up right when I launched an app, so no having to rely on an App Store-like badge.
Dimietriev asks: Also, how do you think the swinging hinge will hold over time(long term)? You refer to the word ‘creaky’.
In my experience, each added level of complexity and mechanics is an increase in the chance (read: certainty) of breakdown. Whether it lasts as long as you plan to keep the phone, however, is a question. I'm guessing many people would upgrade handsets before wear-and-tear sets in. But, yeah, definitely "creaky" and not my preference.
Leanna asks: Is the touch screen just as nice and responsive? Or do you need to push harder or hold your finger down for longer?
It's good, being capacitive like the iPhone, but not quite as buttery smooth (but what is?). Also, not being a glass screen, it didn't "feel" as nice. Also, having to switch input methods ruined the sheer joy of the experience. I like touch screen. I don't want to have to change to keyboard and back, track-ball and back. When the virtual keyboard launches, I'm hoping this goes away.
Keil Miller asks: Will android be on other phones and allow for less confusing methods of input?
My guess is yes, there may well be all keyboard, all touch, etc. versions of Android, similar to what we see with WinMo and BlackBerry now. However, on the flip side this will make development as difficult as those platforms since lack of unified hardware means never knowing what input end users will have available. Every iPhone/iPod Touch works the same, which is a huge plus for developers.
Dimietriev asks: Also, what are the options, if any, if you want to back-up the device?
Didn't see any. iPhone backs up via iTunes when you tether it, and the G1 you really don't have to tether, which I love. I'm guessing there's some sort of backup in place, but I didn't stumble across it. If the iPhone goes completely tether-less eventually as well, I wonder if we'll see a Time Machine-like option?
Lead asks: Is there a software keyboard?
Not yet, but I understand it's coming. In my opinion, it would greatly enhance usability in portrait mode especially
James asks: is there any way for you to type up messages an emails while still in portrait mode?
Not yet! See above!
jhunt4231 asks: Does the G1 run flash?
Also not yet, but also coming if we're to believe the demo at the recent Adobe MAX conference.
Deathscaller asks: Whats the internet speed like compared to the Iphone and(if it has WiFi) how does that compare.
The G1 has WiFi and while I didn't run any speed tests (d'oh!) I found them both to be snappy.
Luis asks: is there anyway to change the icons on the G1? how customizable is the whole android os?
In theory, it's ultimately customizable by carriers, manufacturers, and users. According to Ryan Block of GDGT, while there's no skinning process yet in place, all the UI files are standard image and XML, so anyone could either replace or rewrite them, or create a framework to more easily do so.
Firas asks: but I wonder if my 3 year old nephew would enjoy using it as much as my iPhone.
At the age of 2 1/2, my godson could use the iPhone. By 3 he could use it well. He can unlock it, return the home screen, switch home screens, find the apps he likes, launch them, quit them, play games, look at the photos, etc.
About the only thing he could do with the G1 was launch in at my head and demand the iPhone back. (I joke only slightly).
Alex Radu asks: How’s the camera on the G1? Both in terms of quality and features and options…
I'd say better than the iPhone but when really discussing mobile cameras, we're discussing the difference between horrible and terrible. It's not as bad as an iPhone, but not as good as an N95. The iPhone's camera is greatly restricted by the thinness of the device. It lacks the space for mechanisms. The G1, however, is much thicker, even if part of that is taken up by slider action. Everything is compromise.
royk asks: what’s one thing the g1 does better than the iphone? what’s one thing the g1 could learn from the iphone?
Aside from the more open SDK, Gmail is much better. User experience could learn tons from the iPhone.
Eric asks: Do you like the physical keyboard better than the iPhones virtual one?
Not for me, but then I've never liked physical keyboards on small devices. Going back to the Palm 600, I've found them hard to use. I vastly prefer the iPhone-style keyboard. I'd recommend asking Crackberry Kevin or Dieter this question, as they live with hard keyboards while I -- frankly -- have freed myself from the tic tac-tiles
Thanks everyone for sending in your questions!