Friday, July 17, 2009

Google Phone

My 1 year old AT&T phone has been randomly shutting off, and it's been getting worse with age. When I went to the store a few months ago and complained, they assured me it was the battery (even though I had already tried a new battery). I told them that if they were wrong, and just wasting my time, that I was gonna drop AT&T, and I finally found the time to do that this week.

I ended up getting a G1 (aka gPhone or Google Phone). It's great! Since I use a ton of google services already, I benefit from the seamless integration between all their apps and the phone.

My first task was to use a custom map I created on Google Maps to drive around and photograph some houses for my dad's genealogy project. The default maps program didn't support my custom maps, so I had to download My Maps Editor from the marketplace, but the whole process (figuring out what I needed, finding it, and downloading it) only took about 10 minutes, which wasn't a big deal. For each house, I got direction and GPS tracking, and when I got there, I could use My Maps Editor to take and upload a picture (to google maps), and change the flag on the map from red to green. And, it was very easy and intuitive, other than the poor integration between My Maps Editor and the default maps app, which is needed for GPS and directions. (Hopefully those two will be merged into one app before long.)

Ultimately, I'm looking forward to using the non-Big-Brothered Android marketplace to write some apps, which I'll write about on techspeak if I ever make progress with.

There are three downsides I've seen so far, and unfortunately two are significant.
  • My T-Mobile plan is about $20/month more expensive than my old AT&T plan. To be fair, if I had a comparable phone (iPhone) at AT&T, I think I would have to upgrade my plan anyway. I did, though, have a decent employer discount with AT&T, which I've had to give up.
  • The battery life is really horrible with this thing. I get a day out of it if I'm not driving around using GPS. But, since it's my new toy, I'm using it pretty heavily and I've seen plenty of "You have 15% battery power remaining." messages. Fortunately I have a car USB power adapter, so I should just need to get a spare USB-gPhone cable, to combat the expensive GPS features.
  • This thing has a full QWERTY keyboard, which is nice, but the letters light up when you're using it. At night this is helpful, but when it's not dark the letters light up and become the same color as the keys, which means you're typing on effectively a blank keyboard. I can touch type fine on a real keyboard, but just because my fingers know where the keys are doesn't mean my eyes do, and I find myself holding the phone at a severe angle to try and see the letters. I don't consider this too bad a defect, because I know my keyboard well enough that I think I will become comfortable with the blank keys before long, but it would be much more of an inconvenience for some.

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