Posted by: Frank | November 23, 2008

G1 Catch Up

Time to catch up on what I am finding about using Android on the T-Mobile G1 mobile phone. I continue to use the G1 as my main personal phone, though it is evident to me that this is a very rough 1st version; some might say it is a beta, which would be consistent with Google’s software development cycle. After all, Gmail is still in beta after several years. This whole beta software thing can be a topic for a whole post on it’s own, so I won’t go down that path.

One thing that I have noticed about the G1 that doesn’t seem to be written about elsewhere is that it does have performance problems. To me it seems to be tied to memory management, if you only keep two apps running you are going to be ok. Run more and you might find that switching back to an app takes longer than you like. There have been many times when I have switched to Gmail to have to wait a noticable amount of time before the app fullly displays and shows all of my email.

I have noticed little things that aren’t show stoppers, but demonstrate just how many little details go into making a great device. For example, try scheduling an event, say like a vacation, that runs from Monday thru Wednesday. You can’t do it. I also haven’t found a way to duplicate an event across multiple days. I had to manually enter the same event info on multiple days.

When you compare Gmail to Mail on the iPod Touch, it is very clear that Mail on the Touch is much more advanced in the area of displaying HTML email. Android doesn’t handle HTML mail well at all, causing horizontal scrolling. On the Touch HTML email is legible even in portrait. I like the fact that Gmail on Android is closely aligned to it’s web parent, but reading email is fundamental and with so much email being in HTML, the whole experience breaks down. IMHO, this needs to be a priority for Google.

Next to the dismal battery life, the small amount of internal storage is the second biggest disappointment. It is only 256 mb, used for storing email, the web browser cache, and application binaries and storage. If you download and install a lot of applications you quickly run out of storage. Yesterday I experienced my first “low storage” notification. Tapping the notification takes you to the application manager where I was able to clear out the browser cache and the Gmail storage. There should be a setting that automatically clears the browser cache or limits its size like on Windows Mobile. Gmail was taking 23 mb of storage and after I cleared it I still had all the message headers. This seems to be another opportunity for a setting to limit the total amount of storage used by Gmail on the device, allowing the user to balance between speed (having email on the device) vs. preserving storage space.

Of course, if the G1 had more internal storage, or if Android knew how to deal with putting more stuff on storage cards, we wouldn’t have as much of a issue. I do know that I find myself having to spend too much time managing storage space, and I don’t think I am all that abnormal. If you are going to provide this wonderful Marketplace for exploring applications, you are going to find that people actually download, install, and try out those applications.


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