iPhone Life magazine

G1 vs iPhone Part 4...and wrap up

 This is my final post in the G1 vs iPhone review series. In the previous posts (Part1, Part2, and 3), I described the hardware (unboxing), the OS, web browsing and mail/chat messaging aspects of the G1, and how they stack up to the iPhone specifically, and even to the iPod touch since it's pretty much an iPhone sans phone/GPS. Let's wrap up with the rest of it, which will include maps, phone/PIM features, third party applications, and camera features.

Google Maps...

I was going to start in about how awesome maps are in the G1 (which they are), especially considering that Google's street view is supported on the G1 (and not the iPhone), but my understanding is that Apple has just recently added this feature to it's own Google-based Maps application, though I've only briefly observed it being used.

Google's Street View...go sightseeing from your living room

Maps on the G1 were simple to use, and honestly there isn't much difference between G1 and iPhone here. You can triangulate your position on the G1 by selecting the "My Location" selection, and the GPS unit will attempt to zero in on where you are on the map, but in my case it was markedly off. I also had some issues getting map updates to occur reliably in a few locations, which could have been accounted for by poor reception. The street view feature is very cool, allowing you to pan and zoom down to street-level and then view a ground's-eye panoramic view of the surrounding location (provided there is photographic imaging data for the area). When using the map mode for street view, geographic areas on the map that have images will be higlighted in blue. The iPhone does not use this highlighting technique (which I like better on the G1). Alas, the iPod touch did not get street view in the 2.2 update, most likely because it lacks GPS and a 3G network connection to make this feature truly more useful in a mobile situation. However, that sounds somewhat lame, because one could argue that having Maps at all is of questionable use. I wonder if the touch version couldn't simply use the large internal storage to cache the data instead somehow? Anyway, Apple obviously wants to create a distinction between the iPhone and touch other than just phone and GPS capabilities. The G1s' internal compass allows the handset to be moved around to change the street view direction aspect, but this was too jerky to be effective in my case, so I used finger gestures instead. The problems could also possibly be blamed on less than optimal network reception.

Phone, Contacts and SMS

The G1 has a pretty popular option in it's service offering from T-Mobile called "MyFaves". This is undoubtedly a good deal for anyone wanting to stay in touch with the same circle of friends or family (unlimited calling to the same 5 people). My son laments not having this plan option for his AT&T iPhone.  The G1 home screen has a prominent shortcut to the MyFaves application, which is a essentially an amalgam of quick dialer/messaging actions which allow you to communicate to the peeps in your circle. I set up a few "Faves" to test it, and then found that the service complained when I tried to later delete a fave. It kept sending me messages warning that I would have to wait a couple of months to complete the action. I guess you better be sure your faves really are your faves when setting this feature up, because you might be stuck with them for awhile.

The G1 phone dialer is pretty standard, and like the iPhone, the contacts and phone features are integrated into one app. The screens for adding contacts or entering numbers are simple with large buttons and text fields, and I doubt anyone would have any issues using the phone. The speakerphone (and non-speakerphone mode) was adequate during my testing, and nothing remarkable to report really...except the fact you can edit G1 contacts using a hardware keyboard while the screen is rotated to landscape mode! This is a restriction I dislike in many an iPhone or touch app (not being able to rotate the screen). The landscape keyboard in iPhone is actually quite usable in most cases, but portrait is aggravating at best. The G1 phone worked quite well, and I can't say I suffered a single dropped call or any cases of poor reception. The handset speaker produced a clear sound, and with the G1's little canted base, it felt like...well, talking on a cell phone. I did not get a chance to check out a bluetooth headset, unfortunately with the G1.

SMS messaging..

The G1 "MyFaves", and standard phone app make calling or messaging a cinch, and the SMS messaging screen presents a clear, easy-to-read threaded chat screen. The iPhone phone apps are all definitely flashier in the eye-candy department, but screen scrolling through contacts and the like feels pretty close on both phones. The G1 has some contradictions in functionality that are odd in a few places. I would say the iPhone has a more unified UI in terms of "this does that", and "does the same thing over here"... I also personally like the colored message bubbles that the iPhone displays in it's message threads. I know...I'm shallow.

More My Faves actions...

 

Apps without Borders! The G1 Market...

One of the big deals about the G1 from a development standpoint (if I am interpreting the hype correctly), is that the G1's operating system is an open source based OS, and that the flavor of java is specific to Google and the Google-based Android operating system. Android applications follow a framework for development that lends itself for Android widgets to interact easily between applications and Google services. Data from one application can be fed to another, and of course your Google account will do a fair amount of proxy work as well (therefore also synced to the web). Having watched some of the early product videos, and becoming quite awed, I found it not that earth-shattering in reality. The G1 Market was still in "beta" at the time I reviewed the G1. Many of the apps reminded me of the early days of iPhone. Uhh, kinda cool, but mostly not that useful. When I review a phone (any phone...WM, Palm, whatever), the first app I look for is a document or notes editor. G1 doesn't have one. Okay I thought, you have an OS "without borders" but you don't have a simple notes application? So, I downloaded one from the Market (a notepad app). Guess what?...this app was not designed to leave it's borders, because after taking notes on the phone for a week, I found no way to send my notes as text anywhere. One of the downsides usually not mentioned about "open source", or freeware, etc. is that you get exactly what you did not pay for. I think the Market will probably be a little on the wild west side compared to Apple's iTunes, however the G1 does warn and give you lots of info about the apps you  are installing. 

 

YouTube Video

Watching videos on a tiny phone is a requirement these days, so you knew the G1 better have a video application. Well, suprisingly, it lacks a built-in video app, as well as the ability to make video clips for that matter. Big strikes against the G1 in terms of younger people who could care less a hoot about "apps without borders". They want their phone to take pictures fast--you never know when your buddy is gonna hurl, for instance--short video clips, and also be able to post same to their Facebook or myspace pages. The G1 redeems itself somewhat in that it has a YouTube application, however no other built-in support for playing your own videos. YouTube produced an error when I was playing videos, which could have again been caused by the network in my area, but the video strangely kept playing behind the error...

Camera and PIX...

The camera is a 3.2 megapixel number located on the back of the phone, and it takes decent pix. The application is slow to start in my opinion, and the camera app refreshes the display kind of sluggishly. I had a mixed bag of results, but the pictures were adequate if not astonishingly great (not that I could take great pictures anyway). The picture app makes short work of rifling through your saved photos, and like the camera is adequate...

Conclusion

Writing an in-depth review of a device as powerful as the G1 is not a simple or easy task. There are a lot of aspects and features of the phone to consider, and many that I left off for the sake of brevity. It's especially difficult when comparing it to another phone. Harder still, when it's a real winner like the iPhone. This is an old reviewing saw, I know--to compare devices, features, etc., and the point is usually to try to give the reader a guide from which to make informed decisions. I had the G1 for almost a week. I tried out nearly every feature of the phone in that time, or at least I'm pretty sure I did. I carried it to work with me. I used it to make calls, and send and receive e-mails and text messages. I synced my Google Calendars and PIM information, etc. I downloaded some third-party apps, and music from my CD collection, and played them next to my iPod touch as well as the iPhone. I left my Blackberry at home and used the G1 as my personal phone, and well...

...I liked it, alot. Are there some flaky things that need to be ironed out? Most definitely. Would I ditch an Apple iPhone for the G1? No way, but if I didn't have an iPhone, I might think long and hard about the G1 before going with Apple. If I only wanted compact PDA-like functionality: PIM, browsing, mail, an excellent video, and music player, I would buy an iPod touch, period (or maybe a WinMo device). If I ONLY wanted a cell phone without any bells-n-whistles, I would not buy either a G1 or the iPhone (perish the thought, but some people don't need all that stuff). If I was looking for a strong phone/messaging platform that integrates well with Google services and applications, then I might go with the G1. If I wanted merely to escape the oppression of iTunes, I would run to the G1, however I really don't think the G1 is as good an all-around choice for the casual or business phone user. An area the iPhone excels quite well in. So, if you want the best in phone with all the trimmings, it's still the Apple iPhone IMHO. 

I reserve the right, of course, to change my opinion when a revised version of G1 is available (or a new Android handset for that matter). I have no doubt it will be better and have a slew of great options. Of course, one can't expect that Apple is going to just stop innovating... I'm sure this won't be the last of the iPhone shootouts! 

 

 

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Nate Adcock's picture

Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.drupalgardens.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.