Christmas is still three weeks away but Black Friday, the second most important shopping day in the United States, has already passed. I decided to buy myself another Christmas present, after the DNA kit. This one is more conventional, the G1 from HTC, the first cellphone using Android, the Google operating system based on Linux. For those of you that have seen an iPhone (there are about 15 millions around the world, chances are that you have), the G1 is the first serious competitor. Since the moment I have heard about Android I have been waiting to see one. Since the G1 came out on the market I had seen a lot of videos of how cool the phone is and I really felt like I wanted one. Problem was that it was only sold locked to the T-mobile network that works only in big cities, and Dartmouth is way far from big cities. But recently some people have figured it out how to unlock it and after spending half afternoon reading on forums about people successfully unlocking it and playing around with it I decided to take my chance too.
I got a used one on eBay yesterday and I bought right away an unlocking code and this morning I got a friend SIM to perform the activation, since without it the phone is little more than a brick. Once all these technicalities have been solved I started playing. I do not even have a SIM card but the amount of Internet applications you can play with is so diversified that it is worth it the money just as a PDA. I think of it, for now, as an iPod touch with microphone and gps and a keyboard. Now, let me explain you why Android is so much better than the iPhone. It is not just because it runs Linux, although the open source philosophy has a lot to do with it.
First of all, the phone has a better processor, more memory and a keyboard which, if it might not look aesthetically beautiful when open, it does make it way more functional when browsing. This in turn gives more flexibility to the applications that you can run.
One of the features I like the best is the ability to synchronize with the Internet your contacts, your calendar and your email. This basically puts an end to having to organize your private information more than once ever again. Just one problem less to think about in your life. As the developers put it, if you lose your phone you just buy another one, login into your account, and you are ready to go with no further configuration.
The applications you can install are absolutely innovative. The most surprising is the barcode scanner. You can scan anything with a barcode and in a few seconds you are redirected to a website with a list of online shops with prices for that product. Basically the best deal is now always two clicks away. Merchants will have to deal with this at some point because customers are about to get a lot smarter. Another very cool application is the one that recognizes the name of a song after listening to it for a few seconds. It is not fail proof but it works fairly well. This one exists also on the iPhone actually, as it should be. Applications should not be tied to a given operating system. Another great application to show off the features of the G1 is the one to look at the stars in the sky. Using the accelerometer and the compass built in the phone, it is enough to point it to the sky and the correct region of the sky is displayed on the screen. So easy that I almost cry at all the time spent trying to recognize the stars in the sky equipped with different maps and books. Now it is just about to become much easier.
Overall the idea of the phone is simple. Making the information on the Internet as easily accessible as possible. To this extent, probably the best application is the browser. There is not much to say about it. It works great, as much as the one on the iPhone, since both browser are based on Webkit. If you ever used a browser on a different phone do not get it wrong. The experience on the G1 and the iPhone is completely different and it will not make you regret too much not being in front of the computer.
Someone once said that since the beginning of the 80s little has changed in the PC world, other than the little chord that connects it to the Internet. I can see the point but this new generation of cellphones is adding something new to the PC experience. Maybe 20 years from now we will all have connections deep in our brain that will allow us to connect to the Internet straight with our thought and cellphones will seem something from the past. But, nevertheless, the G1 is about to make history and I am not missing the excitement.
I cannot way to get back home for Christmas to show it off.