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Perfect is in the Eye of the Beholder

Those of you following along on Twitter may have noted the Husband and I gifted each other with new cell phones before Christmas, specifically the Google G1.  Previously we had the T-Mobile Dash, which is basically a PDA-lite sort of phone, and we never used even one third of the onboard capability.  Yeah, it sounded good to have Word and Excel, etc. available, but in the three years I had the phone how often did I use them?  Never.  But then half my work is graphical (all of which is done on the desktop where Illustrator and Photoshop live), but with heavy email communication and an occasional need to access https-secured sites.  The Dash’s browser just could not cope with my average internet usage, which left it basically only a way to send/receive text messages and a particularly vexing way to play Solitaire.

So, despite the T-Mobile phone rep’s insistence we’d rather have the Ephemera Behold instead – and what kind of salesmanship is that, I ask you? – the G1 won us over when fiddled with in person.  And on the four-day road trip we took over Christmas, it proved itself to be the perfect phone.

First, the basics, the really important, use-every-day stuff:  the phone interface itself, email, and browser. 

The phone interface, as you might have seen, is a touchscreen much like the iPhone.  It is just as seductive as you might imagine.  With the tip of your finger you’re sliding things this way and that…there’s nothing to NOT love about that.  There are technically three screens, left, center and right, and you can drag/drop app icons between them, add a Google search bar, even add an analog clock with minute/second hands.  The only place the G1 might suffer in comparison to the iPhone is the lack of on-screen keyboard, but after attempting to use same in an SMS app, I tell you, I’d rather just flick my thumb and open the dang keyboard.  It’s not like you have to cock your head at a 90 degree angle to read what you’re typing, the orientation of the screen comes right along with you.

Email doesn’t get any simpler.  Seeing as how this is a Google creation, Gmail is built right in, one touch and you’re there.  Same for Gtalk.  Husband and I have had EPIC communication problems using AIM, Yahoo Messenger, even SMS between his office and our home, Gtalk has thusfar outperformed all of them.  And NO, we’re not currently in a 3G network, we’re still Edge around here.

The browser, in a word, rocks.  It’s Google-built, of course, and while it has suffered from a security issue or two, it is far more robust than the Dash’s Danger browser, and had absolutely no trouble loading every website we threw at it, including the https-secured Paypal, our online banking site, and even the javascript-heavy helpdesk.  

So that right there is enough to make us fully appreciate the phone.  

And then we were stuck in a Krystal drive-thru in Pensacola, Florida, watching traffic stack up in on the road front of us while awaiting our order.  Husband jumped on Google Maps (yes, just like on your big computer), used the onboard GPS to “find me,” then mapped a back way to get back to the hotel.

A HUGE plus for me is the ability to change the ringtone for all the different notifications I receive.  SMS messages can sound different than emails.  Gtalk pings can sound different than Twitter tweets.  It may seem like a small thing, but it means the difference between lunging for the phone when it notifies, or ignoring it until you have a spare moment. 

The Google Market has a metric arseload of apps that extend, and add frivolity to, the G1, most of which are completely free.  (I did see chatter on one of the Android forums regarding implementation a pricing structure after the new year, but cannot verify, it all still looks free from here.)   Here’s the addons I can’t live without:

  1. Twidroid – Twitter posting app.
  2. nanoTweeter – Twitter checking app.  Sure the Twidroid checks for new tweets, but nanoTweeter does it better (and it actually tweets when new, er, tweets come in), so the checking option is just disabled in Twidroid.
  3. AK Notepad – A notepad app, you can actually SMS or email notes to others.
  4. chompSMS – Chat style SMS interface, with text bubbles.
  5. SMS Popup – Pops up incoming SMS messages on the desktop.
  6. Toggle Settings – Quickly alter a variety of options, including wi-fi, gps, screen brightness, bluetooth.
  7. System Monitor – Shows how much memory you’re using, battery life remaining, etc.
  8. WeatherBug – Same as the web-based tool, uses the onboard GPS to find you and update to local weather.
  9. Solitaire – Yeah, the game, I have to wait a lot sometimes.
  10. ConnectBot – SSH client, one of the best mobile shell clients I have ever used.
  11. ConvertThat – Converts any measurement to any other measurement.  From Acre to Square Lightyear is my personal favorite.
  12. QSearch – On screen keyboard and a pulldown menu that lets you search Google, YouTube, Dictionary, Amazon, etc. etc.
  13. Yellowbook – Yellow pages search, also location sensitive.

And here’s the addons I have just because they’re nifty:

  1. Alarm Clock – Just what it says
  2. AnyCut – Lets you create desktop shortcuts for anything at all.
  3. Bubble – An honest to god bubble level.
  4. Compass – An honest to god compass.
  5. Flashlight – An honest to god flashlight.  Well, actually it just turns your screen solid white, and might be useful in finding something dropped in the floorboard at night, but I wouldn’t want to use it try and track down the dingo that stole my baby.
  6. Movies – Finds movies and showtimes in your GPS-determined area.
  7. Tricorder – A mostly useless app that uses the phone’s sensors to detect gravity (um, wouldn’t just dropping it do that?), magnetic fields, strength of cellular/wi-fi signals.  All of this is made uber-cool by the completely authentic tricorder NOISES it makes.  I’m a geek, stfu.
  8. Night Clock – If Husband has burrito-ed himself tightly enough in the covers, I can’t see the alarm clocks on his side of the bed.  So, this nicely dimmed clock tells me what time it is when the orange-butt cat climbs on my back and starts kneading.  With his claws out.
  9. Quickpedia – A Wikipedia-centric searcher for the G1.
  10. Shead Spreet – Yep, a spreadsheet app.  Very basic, but if you’re calculating the GNP of a country you should probably be using a desktop anyway.  Or a Cray.
  11. Sky Map – Will GPS-locate you, then show you the constellations you can see from where you are.
  12. We the People – Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendments.  Just in case you need to quote something to a Congresscritter who has apparently $*^&#^$ forgotten.

And finally, the most important apps of all….GAMES:

  1. Global Factbook – Entertainment that’s also learning!
  2. Amazed – Uses the phone’s accelerometer to let you roll a ball through a maze.
  3. Tilt Lander – There was a game at the US Space and Rocket Center in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama where you tried to land a spacecraft on the moon by use of thrusters only.  Vexing, pernicious game, yet utterly addictive.  I’ve seen other games through the years that did something similar but this one is the most like that version from my childhood. 
  4. Alien Blood Bath – My friend Michele would like this one.  A 2D shooter…you run, you jump, you shoot.

Boy, that games list is puny.  If you other G1 users have any game recommendations, slide ’em into the comments.

Well, there you have it.  The G1 won’t be the perfect phone for everyone – and you can’t NOT have the internet data plan if you decide to eventually cut costs – but it’s perfect for us.  Finally.