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So I wonder which is more open? G1 or iPhone

At first blush, the G1 is obviously more open than the iPhone – open source platform, open SDK from day 1, and you can install software from anywhere just by selecting a menu option.

But this software runs in a Java sandbox. You don’t appear to have access to the operating system outside the sandbox.

And I have a jailbroken iPhone. I can ssh into my phone. I can use the phone without a SIM card (G1 goes into “emergency calls only” mode). I can modify startup scripts. I can write applications to do anything on the phone. I can change anything I want to on the phone, as a Simple Matter Of Programming. Is the G1 that open? Not the Android platform – the actual, G1 device in my hands…

Of course, as a platform, Android is much more open than iPhone OS. But the actual device? So far, I’m saying a jailbroken iPhone…

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So I Compared a T-Mobile G1 vs an iPhone

I’ll continue to update this as I continue to learn about both phones, but I’ll start with some first impressions.

  • The G1 is noticeably bigger, but not bad.

    It’s bigger than the iPhone, bigger than my RAZR VR3, thinner than my wife’s old T-Mobile Wing, but way smaller than my Zaurus c860. It fits in a shirt pocket or pants pocket (though my wife is concerned about it being tight in her jeans pockets).

    It meets my size criteria, though I’d like it to be smaller – I forget the iPhone is in my pocket, not likely to forget the G1.

  • The bend of the G1 isn’t bad. I was really concerned from the pictures of the bent-up bottom of the phone, but you don’t notice it, it isn’t bad to hold either in portrait or landscape. Not a problem.
  • The iPhone screen is noticeably larger, and a bluer white. The G1 screen is brighter, and a bit warmer (more yellow) white.
  • Android needs a review of “small screen” mentality. Apple got this right (very right) in that whatever application is presenting content to the user gets the whole screen. Smaller-than-screen windows should be rare, and only for very small announcements.

    There are lots of places Android uses sub-screen windows, often presenting large amounts of content without making full use of the available screen real estate. This is present in basic functionality – like the Applications tab not using the whole screen – and applications using dialog boxes.

    You can really see this by going into the Settings|About section – all the Legal documents are presented in a centered dialog box, appearing over the background window, even though they have pages and pages of content. If you open the DMCA info, you get a web page that is scrolled horizontally half off this tiny dialog box because of navigation controls on the left side (but they’re not even visible because the page is scrolled down past them). Really obnoxious. Kudos to Apple.

    Oh, and one more example: setting up a Wireless access code. the G1 pops up a dialog box (again, smaller than screen size) for you to enter your key. And you have to open the keyboard, rotating to landscape mode, to enter it, because there is no onscreen touch keyboard. Then you type the key, and there is a half-exposed control at the bottom of the dialog box. If you scroll the dialog box up a bit, you can see that it is a checkbox to display the key as you’re typing it. If the dialog took advantage of the whole screen, you wouldn’t need to scroll to see this option.

  • Android is much less aware of its device than the iPhone is. No, I’m not trying to anthropomorphize the phones.

    When you tip the iphone, it (usually) rotates to landscape. Touch is integrated throughout the iPhone system, to go back, to select options, etc. You always interact by touching the screen.

    I haven’t found anything on the G1 that recognizes when I’m holding it landscape unless I open the keyboard. Then everything is landscape, even if I’m still holding the phone vertically. The only way to rotate the browser to landscape/wide-screen viewing is to open the keyboard.

    With Android, you go to the home screen by pushing the off-center home button. You get menus by pressing the menu button. You go back by pressing the back button. These functions are never presented on screen for a touch. I find myself constantly wondering, “How to I get back to that last window? Oh, yeah, the button”, whereas with the iPhone, it’s presented where your focus is, on the screen. I’m always forgetting what functions need the menu button, which need home, and which need back.

    Now, I realize that onscreen controls cost screen real estate (not as much as the “dialog boxes” do, though!). Maybe I’ll remember the G1 controls more naturally later, but for now, the physical buttons aren’t helping usability.

    And sometimes, things you really should be able to touch can’t be selected by touch – in the google legal information, you can’t touch-to-select a link until you’ve touched the trackball, then you can touch to select.

  • Apple’s browser is easier to use. The zoom & scroll is easier than the G1, thanks to the multitouch interface. Android could do better than its clunky buttons even without a touch screen, but for now it’s clunky.
  • To take a screenshot on an iPhone: hold down the “sleep” button and press and release the “home” button. It saves the screenshot to the Photos directory.

    To take a screenshot on the G1: connect the G1 via USB, install the SDK, run DDMS, select your handset, and press Ctrl-S, then save the image. ( *sigh*

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So I Had to Force Reset (Shutdown) my G1

When I turned on my T-Mobile G1 phone this morning, it showed a picture of a big triangle with an exclamation point inside it, and a G1 lying flat on its back.

It was completely unresponsive.

I tried holding down the power-off (end) button, alone and in combination with the various other buttons, but didn’t find anything that drew a response. Plugging the phone in to a USB cable connected to a computer caused the computer to recognize there was a USB device.

I tried scanning the “Tips and Tricks” booklet that came with the phone. Nothing. The user manual? Nada.

Finally, consulting the modern Oracle of Delphi (Google, that is), I found the answer:

Solution: Hold the Home and Back buttons for a few seconds (nothing happens) then release (and the phone restarts).


For what it’s worth, the battery level was at 5% when it completed rebooting. I guess the phone didn’t like having its battery get really low overnight?

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So I Got a Defective T-Mobile G1

Just after I got my iPhone, my wife heard the announcement of the T-Mobile G1. She knows I’m an open source kinda guy, and she’d heard me complain about the then-awful iPhone SDK agreement, so when she heard the announcement, she came down to my office and told me about it (I’d heard it already), and said, “This sounds just like you! You should get one and develop for it!” So I placed my preorder immediately. (Thanks, Sweetheart!)

When it arrived, I was delighted. Neat stuff, though I need to do a full review – the iPhone is definitely more polished at this point.

However, my particular phone had a small problem – a column of pixels about 15 pixels in from the left edge of the screen is defective.

This let me contact T-Mobile phone support on day 1 of the G1 event.

I spent about an hour on the phone (had to call from another phone, because the first representative told me they’d have to open up the phone, look under the battery, etc. – but they never did). I spoke with representatives from customer support (4), technical support or PDA support (2), and somebody dealing with returns but it was his first day and he eventually decided I’d been routed to him by mistake. My favorite line from him was, “How did you get it already?” (My answer: T-mobile shipped it to me??)

Anyway, T-mobile eventually came through and sent me a new G1, and it does not have the pixel issue, so I’m going to send the other one back RSN (Real Soon Now).

Thanks, T-Mobile!


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