Found an Android in the Wild (T-Mobile Google Phone G1)

Yesterday evening while out with my wife an in-laws for dinner I spotted an Android. The Google Phone, or T-Mobile G1, was alone in the hands of a man at a table full of iPhone and BlackBerry owners.

This was a first. I’ve been using a G1 for a week, and other than the phone in my hands I have not seen another in use. This was exciting… I could actually interrupt someone’s meal to learn his thoughts on the device!

And I did. And the response was what I expected.

Me: “I see you’ve got a G1… I’m reviewing one. What do you think.”

Alex: “I’m returning it. Aweful. Getting a BlackBerry.”

Alex elaborated on what he didn’t like. He’s used an iPhone, but likes BlackBerry’s more. Mostly his beefs are with hardware:
– big nob on right side when screen is extended (hardware)
– feels cheap (hardware)
– lack of proximity detection so screen items are pressed during calls (arguably, this could be fixed with a software update)
– the messaging and email are weak compared to BlackBerry. Unreliable. (software and network)
– keypad isn’t friendly – not a fast pad to type on. (hardware)

I had hoped he would have some praise for it. Perhaps something I’ve missed or overlooked. But other than believing a future generation will be competitive, he had none. The apps and browsing didn’t matter.

I’ve come to appreciate the browser for stability and support of ajax (its use is still a disaster). I’ve also liked the implementation of the Market (the Android App Store). But if Alex is a read on consumers, these features don’t really matter.

Writing a Post From the Google Phone

This post will be written entirely from a Google Phone (aka T-Mobile G1) while in transit on a train to Philadelphia. I’ve mostly expressed a dislike for the G1, for mostly good reasons, but so far this post has been uneventful.

G1 at the train station

An impressive bit about this post is that I’m using the web version of WordPress. There are no apps as of yet for blogging on a G1. This is the first time I’ve been able to use the web based rev of WordPress on a mobile device, so this has been farely impressive. The image inserted above is via a Flickr feed plugin. It worked, but not seamlessly.

Today’s impression of the G1, soley from the power of its web browser, is less negative. I will say however that I plugged the G1 in to the official Device Success Wife-o-Meter and the needle barely lifted. I didn’t tell her it was the Google Phone before asking her to check it out. Here’s how that went (continued after the updates…):

UPDATE: T-Mobile botched up my Internet plan somewhere between the time of getting 1/2 way done with this post and the time of clicking the “Publish” button. When I finally published I received a message about not having the appropriate data plan for the G1. You can probably imagine the color tones of my face turning bright reddish-purple with rage.

UPDATE 2: Wasn’t able to recover the text from the post, but the following is close, re-written…

Seems a little fragile. Kind of blocky and big.

She played with it for a little while, trying the flip screen and browsing to different sites. YouTube popped up automatically for her. Still, the result was a definite ho-hum run.

Ok, so what about the Google Phone? I thought you were going to be reviewing it.

“That is the Google Phone…”

I thought the Google Phone would have more colors.

UPDATE 3: I’ve cancelled my second line on T-Mobile and upgraded to the G1’s official data plan on my primary line. The failure with the post was a case of terrible timing, where T-Mobile took 2 days to determine I was on the wrong data plan (I had no idea I needed to be on a special G1 plan). The T-Mobile network shut my line off at the worst possible time for a blogger – moments before publishing.

Trash Talking the T-Mobile G1

I haven’t used the G1 for a call. Its underpowered GPS hasn’t led me in any direction. There has been no music or video to entertain me. I have not used a G1 for anything, really… Because I knew months ago in reading a paragraph of specs and seeing a picture that it was guaranteed garbage.

Don’t mistake my statements as a knock on Android. Android is great. I love it. My statements in this post are not directed at Android. The G1 is an unfortunate first hardware release of that OS.

There are certain laws mobile manufacturers must follow: You may not offer a media device without a standard headset jack. You may not offer navigation with a week GPS. You may not double the actual required width soley to add a physical qwerty foldout keypad. Above all else, you may not offer a lifestyle device without style.

Now, I’ve said all this based on reading the spec, viewing the pictures, and palming it for 10 minutes. I’ve owned and reviewed many HTC made devices and this a completely obvious failure to me. Perhaps that’s not fair without real-world use though?

So I’m going to endure some pain and suffering so you don’t have to (not that you would buy a G1 – you wouldn’t). I’m going to replace my N82 for the rest of this week with a device I know has no hope. I’m going to use it side-by-side with my iPhone 3G. Wish me luck.

Chrome after a day of use

Been using Google’s Chrome browser for a day, and so far it’s a great experience.

No. Sorry. That’s an understatement. It’s revolutionary. As the comic describes (yes, Google released a comic to introduce Chrome), this browser takes the web to impossible places. It makes the web more like an operating system, allowing each site (tab) an independent process and memory allocation, improving javascript speed – via a virtual machine – by orders of magnitude, and integrating more cleanly with Gears.

I’ve liked the browser enough to find Windows more useful than OS X this morning. A strange feeling indeed.

I’d mentioned in an email yesterday that the question was whether Chrome would quickly grab users away from Internet Explorer and other browsers or if it would be incremental in its chipping. My expectation is that it will still be chipping, but it’s going to be much faster than expected.

Just as the Google search tool grew wildly popular purely out of speed and relevance, the Chrome browser will gain huge momentum because of speed and relevance. Since there are still massive amounts of IE6 installations out there (proving that not everyone goes out and upgrades) a swing won’t happen over night, but it will gain ground more quickly than Firefox or Safari (Opera not mentioned since Chrome pretty much destroys the reason for Opera’s existance – speed).

A couple questions are begged… Is this where we really see web 2.0 take hold? I think so. And how does this affect Google in terms of monopolizing the web? They now own search and could quickly dominate the browser.

Scraping the rust off – AppEngine and iPhone SDK


Photo by Peter BaerCC


As a tech manager I’ve got myself in to that mode. You know the mode. The one where you’re so focused on building a great product that you’re not getting to code that often, if at all. This isn’t bad – you have to do whatever you can to get things done – but if you’re a developer manager, you need to live in this space. And I’ve felt the atrophy.

So over the weekend I scraped the rust off and tried some new stuff. I’ve never coded in Python, but I’ve had Google AppEngine sitting on my account for a while. And I’ve got a personal iPhone developer SDK and ADC membership. It was time to whip out the programmer-WD40.

What did I build? Pytchfork. What is Pytchfork? You’ll find out – but not in this post. It’s something I’ve had on my mind for a while. In about an hour I had AppEngine installed and Pytchfork configured. Less than two hours later I was done with a REST library and the framework for what Pytchfork will become.

A REST feature set for input. Basic XML, RSS, ATOM, and JSON as output. In a few hours. Not bad, and it felt gooooood.

From this I’ve learned Python is a friendly animal, and not just in theory. It’s too friendly. The lack of semi-colons in my C/C++ brain feels like I’m walking up to a cliff without a railing at each line ending. But it’s something one gets used to.

Unless you’ve written a PHP or Ruby framework you’re married to, AppEngine and Python is about the best thing you could do for yourself as a way to publish a small, personal, application.

Starting a Monday without rust feels great. Stay sharp!