I've previously mentioned my desire for a new smartphone. I'd been eyeing the G1 since its release, with the main factor stopping me from going ahead the need for a T-Mobile contract. They don't have any 3G coverage north of Belfast that I've seen and I'm very happy with my Â£20/month O2 Simplicity contract and don't have any need to pay twice that. Luckily Katherine decided to get me one for my birthday, and after some confusion involving it going to Norwich (always remember to update your Paypal delivery address as well as the card address when you move home, folks. Oh, and your Amazon wishlist address too; it's different than your primary address and I've been bitten by that myself in the past) it turned up the weekend before Christmas.
I have a UK spec T-Mobile G1. First step was to get it unlocked for use on O2. I used Unlock G1 - they weren't the cheapest, but I'd seen them recommended on a few G1 news sites and they had a helpful guide on their site about activating without a T-Mobile SIM. They claim a code within 2 business days. I ordered at 19:30 UTC on a Saturday night and had a code by 21:00 that worked first time.
Once the O2 SIM was working I needed to check if the phone was easily rootable. I typed reboot and was rewarded with a rebooting phone. I had the RC7 UK firmware release, which still had the bug. I followed the android-dls.com guide to keeping root and upgraded to the RC8 release. With that out of the way I could start to actually have a play.
The screen is lovely. I'm used to the high res E70 screen and have been disappointed at the number of phones that only do 320x240. 480x320 is probably the minimum I'd want (if I can't manage an 80 character wide SSH session I'm not really interested) though obviously if HTC ever get round to a Touch Pro with Android I might be tempted... Touch aspect is perfectly responsive, as is the interface in general - while I don't use a phone that much day to day my mobile is the only number I give out so it tends to be the only phone I use. This means that the ability to make/receive calls/sms is the most important feature for me (it's odd having to say this, but I know people who've claimed to love phones but on further probing reveal it's a great PDA but dire for calls and they have to carry something else for that). The G1 performs admirably for my needs.
The built in apps are good too. The browser is much better than the E70. I don't know if that's the bigger screen (though the resolution isn't much different) or a faster processor, but browsing on my mobile is a much more realistic proposition now. I've only played briefly with the iPhone browser and I wouldn't say the G1 was any better, but it's certainly good. Calendaring is functional too and copes with multiple Google Calendars as you'd hope. Shame it doesn't deal with anything else, but for the moment this suits my needs. I haven't used it for email; I prefer to ssh to my colo box and run mutt. Contacts are mostly ok, though I have a few gripes I'll mention later.
I haven't felt the need to install many apps. The connectbot ssh client was an obvious one and is pretty nice (main missing feature is UTF-8 and there's a feature request for it raised already). I've installed a few games off the Android Market, as well as Barcode Scanner (does what you'd think) and CellFinder (displays your location and which mobile cell you're using; it's a bit scary how few O2 masts there seem to be near my house). Installation from the market has been a breeze and it's nice to be able to flick through what's available. With my E70 it was always a real pain to go and hunt down Symbian apps (especially when S60 3rd Edition was new) and install them.
Before I start on my gripes, let me clarify that I am very happy with this phone. I wanted something with a keyboard that was functional and this fits the bill. It's a definite improvement over my E70 and I feel it's much more responsive than any of the recent Windows Mobile devices I've encountered. Also the battery life hasn't proved to be an issue - from articles I'd read I'd expected to have difficulty getting a day out of it, but in general I can easily get 2 and have had 3. Maybe my usage patterns aren't as heavy as everyone else, but that's fine for me (I remember my 9000i Communicator which really was a case of having to charge it every night).
The first issue I hit was the contacts system. Google have tied this into GMail and it really seems to have been a last minute thought process, perhaps along the lines of "Where can we stick this? Oh, hang on, people have email contacts, how about there?". Trying to move my contacts over from my E70 I was surprised to find that there's no way to import a vCard. The only option is CSV. WTF? I'm not saying vCard is perfect, but it's pretty much what we have as a standard method of contact interchange. I ended up writing some Perl to crudely parse the vCards and output CSV. I shouldn't have had to.
Then again, maybe the issue is that Google know their contacts system is a bit lacking. You'd think a company with online calendaring and contacts would be able to cope with things like birthdays, tying them together between contacts and displaying them in your calendar, wouldn't you? They can't. I can't see any way to store a birthday or anniversary with a contact. Nor a home page. The contacts system is the one area that the E70 outshines the G1.
I miss an onscreen keyboard more than I thought I would (ie at all). I understand this should be coming in the next release, which will make things like quick replies to SMSes much easier (there's no point opening the keyboard for a "Nearly there" response).
The use of only a single APN for internet access and MMS is a bit troublesome; I haven't managed to get this to work properly with O2 - either I have fully working 'net or fully working MMS with only web seeming to work. I haven't played with the settings very much though and I spent 7 months without MMS even enabled on my O2 account, so it's not high priority. Also something I understand is being fixed upstream.
I'd like a way to see the next calendar event on my home screen. I may just be missing how to do this, but it was a nice feature on the E70.
I haven't played much with the camera, but I get the impression it's pretty typical of the average mobile phone; ie not great. Not a problem for me, but don't expect this to replace a compact digital camera.
While I accept this phone isn't for everyone I think it's pretty much what I'm looking for in terms of what's on the market today. There's nicer hardware out there, but a large part of what makes this phone is the Android software. I look forward to seeing new phones in the coming year making use of it, hopefully leading to a decent selection by the time I need a new phone again. :)