Why I won’t be buying the Android T-Mobile G1 phone

After getting interested in Android after Mike Jennings talk, weeks of coding on AndAppStore.com, reading up on APIs, watching and getting involved with discussions on the Android developers and discussion mailing lists, and following various Android community sites to see if the G1 was the start of the Android revolution, I’ve decided that, for now, I’m not going to get an Android ‘phone, and here are the reasons why;

The T-Mobile Deal (phone & contract)

T-Mobile describe the tariffs they offer with the G1 as their “2 best value pay monthly plans”. These tariffs cost £40 (approx $65) per month and lock you in for 18 months, so you’re looking at paying £720 (approx $1170) in total over the 18 months which doesn’t shape up well compared to even T-Mobiles own tariffs offering the same allowances.

For your money you’ll get either 800 minutes and unlimited texts on Combi 35, or a mixture of 1,250 minutes and 2,500 texts on Flext 40. These tariffs may be great for some, but as I rarely use over 300 minutes a month and 100 texts a month there’s going to be a lot of unused capacity in those tariffs. I would happily take a lower allowance contract and pay more for the ‘phone, but alas, T-Mobile don’t give you the option, they are forcing customers into a high monthly cost tariff in order to get the ‘phone.

T-Mobile

I live in an area that T-Mobiles on-line checker says has no T-Mobile 3G coverage (and only a few hundred yards from an area that has no T-Mobile 2G coverage either), so I could end up paying £40 per month for a phone that I can’t use to make calls and/or use data connectivity with, which is just crazy.

I would, again, quite happily pay more for just the ‘phone with no contract and use Wi-Fi to connect to the net, but I’m not going to lock myself into paying £40 per month for 18 months for a service I can’t use.

I don’t believe the G1 is going to be the Android ‘phone which gets mass adoption.

In the last year I’ve use a few ‘phones and the one that strikes me as a prime Android candidate is the LG Viewty. It may not have the keyboard and trackball of the G1, but the year old KU990 model has a 5MP camera, is smaller than the G1, has over three times the standby time, and already has a virtual keyboard and predictive text.

I believe we could see a ‘phone like this running Android inside of 6 months (possibly from LG themselves). Based on this it just doesn’t make sense to buy a G1 and lock myself into a 18 month contract knowing that in six months time we could see phones which relegate the G1 to an also-ran contestant in the Android landscape in the same way that T-Mobiles MDA series are usually just a footnote in the world of Windows Mobile handsets.

I’m not convinced that Google/HTC/T-Mobiles developer strategy is going to draw in good applications.

I’ve blogged about this before, and I’ll say it again; The treatment of Android developers is an insult to those developers. Google engaged developers in a competition which generated great application ideas and a considerable developer buzz for their platform, but it was done in a way that borders on the highly disliked practise of spec work. Now, even after the US launch of the G1, there are some winners of that competition who have not been given the hardware to test their applications on, and some who are just being told they’ll appear in their market sometime in 2009. This means it’s easier for a man on the street in the US to get a phone on which developers could test the applications than it is for someone who Google thought had a good enough idea to pay them tens of thousands of dollars.

The platform was also billed as an open platform, yet bundled applications have access to features which third party developers will not have access to, and then Google decided to charge developers $25 if they wanted to list applications on the bundled marketplace. The $25 charges is suppose to help quality, yet that’s already been shown not to work.

Given all of this I’m not convinced that new developers are going to start working on the platform or even that existing ones will finish their projects, which could mean that Googles Android Marketplace may never grow beyond the number of apps that Apple had in the iPhone application store after its first weekend.

Finally; I don’t think the product is ready for Market.

Since the US launch a week and a half ago there have been two patches scheduled for release. The first one (rc28) which was due to fix a range of problems including problems with the use of shared WEP keys, problems with syncing with Google Contacts & Calendar, and Wi-Fi and Blue-tooth disconnecting when the phone is charging, all of which seem like bugs that would be easy to find. The second one (rc29) was then scheduled after a security flaw was found in the browser which could allow malicious web site operators to steal usernames, passwords, and credit card details.

Given that Google, HTC, and T-Mobile all chose not to make use of the army of potential helpers who would have happily assisted in testing the hardware and looking over the source code for free, and given that they chose not to supply hardware to developers who had already shown themselves to be part of the Android faithful by investing time and money in developing applications, I’d expect the product to either be rock solid and thus not in need of testing, or to be very rough around the edges and in need of a few patches before the platform starts to shine, and at the moment it would appear that the latter is true.

And so that’s it, no G1 for me. I’ll continue to support the platform through AndAppStore.com, but for now I’m going to stay a sideline supporter.

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10 thoughts on “Why I won’t be buying the Android T-Mobile G1 phone

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  1. Al,

    It makes sense to wait if you are not actively developing applications for Android. I’m sure kickass Android phones will come out in 6 months as you had rightly said, and make this TMo G1 obsolete.

  2. yes, this is just the start. if you are not developing s/w, wait. if you want to start developing now, get one. the h/w specs will be similar in future versions, although the h/w footprint may not. the s/w will be the same, so developing today means you will be ready for future handset models…

    ceo

  3. As far as LG’s bringing out an Android phone goes, latest reports are that it’ll be no sooner than Q3 of 2009, see

    http://www.unwiredview.com/2008/09/28/samsung-and-lg-to-release-android-phones-in-q3-2009-at-the-earliest/

    It’s increasingly appearing that this OS isn’t nearly as easy to work with, from a device manufacturer’s point of view, as Google would like people to believe. I suspect that HTC and T-Mobile got a ton of direct help with the G1 from Google and that’s a situation which definitely won’t scale up…

  4. You should go and visit a T-Mobile store. I went to the one at the new Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush and they were offering the G1 on Combi 15 + a fee for the phone.

  5. As someone who didn’t want the straight jacketted ‘you can only do what we say you can do’ approach of the iPhone I went for the G1. Terrible. All I can say is that you’re absolutely right with the above. The hardware platform is poor. I don’t know why, HTC have been making successful phones for years. The plus points are that Android is stable, and seems to have the basics covered. But Google have rushed it out and left far too much to the community. Put the G1 next to an iPhone and there’s just no comparison. The G1 looks a bit of a joke.

  6. Matt,

    seriously dude what are you talking? A poor hardware platform? I mean, there is absolutely nothing to complain about the hardware they’ve used, it’s even better than 90% of the phones on the market of today. Could it be that you’re talking about a poor design rather than the hardware platform itself? I agree, the design is everything but fancy. Like other said before, sort of a late 90’s prototype of an nextgen smartphone.
    My summary: The hardware is neat, but design sucks!

    Kind regards Johannes

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