The T-Mobile G1: The Whatley Response

Morning Folks,

Happy New Year from yours truly and what not. I had a brief moment yesterday (while chilling out in front of my laptop) when I came across Ed Hodges’ MIR post covering his thoughts on the G1.

Some of you may remember that back in November, Ed himself was there when I first gave the G1 a go.

The thing is, I never actually got round to publishing my thoughts on said handset as, well, it drove me NUTS. Why? Allow me to explain.

Back on that fateful day in November, not too long after my epic rant on the Nokia N96, our glorious leader here at Mobile Industry Review – Ewan MacLeod – furnished me with a brand new T-Mobile G1. The point being that we’d capture this moment on camera for a special G1 edition of the MIR show.

From that initial handover, much to Ben’s (who had paid for his) and Dan’s (who’s now finally got one) joint annoyance, I had said G1 in my possession for about three weeks. The only advice I was given, and I quote:

“James, I think you might benefit the most from this handset. It’s your opinion I want… BUT. I don’t want you to review the hardware; I want your POV on the software, the OS and most of all the ‘out of the box’ experience.”

Ewan made this VERY, VERY clear. So, software. Not hardware. Check. Right then, let’s dive in shall we? Here we go…

Today kids, I want to talk about ‘centricity’. What do I mean? Well, within the first couple of days of using the handset, a few things came to mind that made me look at the G1 in a very odd light. The issues I’m going to raise in this piece aren’t necessarily about the device per se, but they do relate to the kind of person that you’ll have to be to truly benefit from owning one. It should be noted at this point, I am not that person.

You see, as you all know, I am a mobile geek. My career in this industry has seen me move from product management to user experience, marketing, online, branding, blogging and ultimately a combination of the lot with the advent of Social Media. In this short time, there have of course, been learnings. These learnings bring me back to that word again; centricity.

Brands, tech, carriers/network operators, companies, banks, post offices, you name it – many of these over recent years have claimed to be USER-centric or CUSTOMER-centric. Now that, if executed well, can be very good for the organisation in question and of course, for the consumer. Fantastic stuff.

However, that’s merely my introduction to the notion of ‘centricity’. As the iPhone before it has benefited those consumers out there that have a mac-centric lifestyle, the T-Mobile G1 works best for those who live their lives through Google. GContacts, GMaps, GTalk, Gmail, … Geee-Ma! Look at my new phone!

You name it, it’s got it. You turn the phone on and you’re immediately invited to sign in, sign up or sod off. BUT! Before I get into the negative (because surprisingly, the thing ain’t perfect), I really must, must, must point how truly awesome the actual setup process is. Turn on, log in and within minutes the entire phone sucks down all your *cough* GOOGLE *cough* info; mail, contacts, calendar etc. and is up, running and totally in sync. Brilliant. NokiaEveryone can learn a lot here.

At this point however, I believe it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get dirty…

The thing is, the G1 and I immediately got off on the wrong foot with each other because it assumes that the user (you/me/whoever), must have a GOOGLE-centric life.

Your contacts? Google.
Email? Google.
IM? Google.

As I said, a Google centric life.

Of course, this is the T-Mobile G1. The ‘G’ obviously stands for Google, which really wouldn’t be a problem if the phone had just appeared on the scene without much fanfare (yeah, like that’d happen). But it’s not the fuss that I’m moaning about, it’s the fact that it’s positioned as being ‘OPEN’ that gets me. I mean really, really gets me. OPEN?! OPEN?! Don’t make me laugh! I can’t even sign out of the bloody device without doing a full factory reset, and don’t even get me started on how such an ‘open’ device is LOCKED to T-Mobile… sigh

I digress. Imagine the scene; it’s a cold November afternoon, Ewan and I are sat in a quiet room at One Alfred Place. The show is ‘in the can’ as you say, when he turns to me with; “I’ve got one more thing for you.” Then he hands me the G1.

“I want to film it from the moment you turn it on and sign in with your Gmail credentials.”
“But dude, I don’t use my Gmail account. I send my Google Alerts there and that’s about it.”
“Ok, that’s fine. You can sign in with your Mobile Industry Review Google Group account.”
“Yeah but…”
“No, no, it’ll be fine!”
“But EWAN! I use Yahoo for my email, thanks an’all for that MIR account, but I never use it.”
“OK, fine. Then we’ll just export all of your contacts and calendar info from your Outlook, that’s easy enough.”
“Er… Alright. Let’s do that.”

This is where we come unstuck. The ‘out of the box’ experience – as no doubt the video showed – is fantastic. However, what really rubs my rhubarb is Gmail. Let’s make one thing clear. I have two Gmail accounts; one for MIR and one for me, personally. I never use either of them. Everyone always goes on about how wonderful they are, but I’ve tried – really I have – and I just can’t see the attraction. Really. Smite me G-Man, but I just don’t get it.

‘Gmail BETA’ to give it it’s full four year old name (Bored of beta? Yeah you are!) is so bad it makes me want to plunge USB keys into my eyes just to see if I’m able to find some way around their heinous contacts management system! It is atrocious!

You’ll see on the video (which you’ll just have to go and watch now I’ve referenced it three times) that once the contacts have finished sync-ing,  the first thing you see is a bunch of ‘unknowns’. This isn’t my doing. I don’t have random numbers stored in my handset kids. Oh no, you can place the blame firmly and squarely on the ‘revolutionary’ G1.

My N95 8GB and my E71 both sync perfectly with my Outlook over Mail For Exchange. WHY would I want to have a (broken) contacts management system such as the one Google provides as part of Gmail!? It’s not just me either. The BLIND LOVE shown by many a G1 owner that I’ve met is almost as bad as that of the Mac owner (you know who you are). For example, before Christmas I went to visit my ex-colleagues at the Mippin HQ offices in Fulham. Scott Beaumont, my old boss and now new G1 owner almost leapt out of his seat with excitement because he’d FINALLY managed to completely ‘de-dupe’ his entire Google contacts list which (surprise surprise) the G1 had royally messed up with its first sync.

“Look! I’ve done it! At last! It’s taken me FOUR DAYS but I finally did it!”

I nearly fell out of my chair with laughter. Just the fact that he was SO pleased, he had to scream it from the rooftops. Anyway, the point is, as simple and as (supposedly) easy it is to sign up/in into a G1 phone – if you don’t have a Google centric life, then this phone is not for you. Think about it. Think about it a lot. Then think about it again.

And on top of all that, the camera’s crap and the phone feels like a fisher-price toy.

(Sorry, not allowed to mention the hardware)

I’ll get my coat…


MIR Show – Week 44 – T-Mobile G1 Launch from Mobile Industry Review on Vimeo.

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  • ocifant

    Thanks James, I've been dithering over getting a G1. I use Gmail – a lot. But all my working, current contacts info is held in Outlook, simply because it's 'nicer'. Not all of my saved contacts have email addresses. Or phone numbers. But I need the contact details with me. My contacts details in Gmail simply aren't used, unless I'm answering an email, in which case I've got the Reply-to address, and don't need a Contact entry.

    Getting Outlook Contacts into Gmail is something I've yet to cleanly achieve. So it looks like the G1 may not be for me after all…

  • ocifant

    Thanks James, I've been dithering over getting a G1. I use Gmail – a lot. But all my working, current contacts info is held in Outlook, simply because it's 'nicer'. Not all of my saved contacts have email addresses. Or phone numbers. But I need the contact details with me. My contacts details in Gmail simply aren't used, unless I'm answering an email, in which case I've got the Reply-to address, and don't need a Contact entry.

    Getting Outlook Contacts into Gmail is something I've yet to cleanly achieve. So it looks like the G1 may not be for me after all…

  • MarkW

    Well said! It'll be interesting to see how it evolves i.e. hopefully just as an open OS and not relying on Google…

  • http://antoinerjwright.com ARJWright

    Ah. Someone else noticed that 'google centricity' too. That's one of the reasons that I think the Palm Pre got it right. If you are going to sync online services, might as well get the whole crap-load of them and be done with it, rather than just one.

    Always loving the opinion.

  • http://www.smstextnews.com/author/Ben.Smith Ben Smith

    Wrong.

    I love you (in a nice, no touching way), but you are wrong.

    Exchange / Mail for Exchange barfs my contacts just as regularly. It shouldn't (agreed) but it does… You have all your data in Exchange tidy and established now… of course it's easier. If you started in any other service and transferred the other way it would be just as much of a PITA. At least Google open their APIs for people to develop against for free. In the Microsoft ecosystem there's a license fee and um… one client and 2 mobile syncing options?

    The whole 'open' argument is tired and lots of other people are being similarly obtuse (sorry, love ya)… It's the code of the OS that is open. JUST LIKE SYMBIAN. Open doesn't mean operators can't lock subsided handsets and it doesn't mean you won't need a login to access network-based services. JUST LIKE NOKIA / SYMBIAN. The decision to tie it to a network service is different to other platforms, granted, but once you've made an account just think of it as a backup and ignore it… You never have to use Google's service again – IMAP or POP to your Yahoo account will work fine.

    I know I'm coming over all fan-boy here… and I guess I am a bit. However, there *is* plenty wrong with Android and I'm happy to point it out and hope they fix it (http://www.mobileindustryreview.com/2009/01/now…) but I strongly disagree these points are failings.

    *breathes*

  • http://www.kcjhdesign.co.uk Kip Hakes

    Seeing as I run everything to do with my business through Google Apps it would be the perfect phone, if it weren't for the poor camera!

    K

  • http://www.smstextnews.com/author/Ben.Smith Ben Smith

    Oh yeah, and my GMail's not beta… it's even got an SLA: http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/terms/sla.html

  • http://mostlythis.com Mac Morrison

    and teh lucky to make it to lunchtime battery life…

    iPhone is equally wonderful out of the box
    and equally apple centric

    if you have .mac (or mobile me now)
    i had all my email and contacts in my iPhone before the salesman got back with the printed reciept.

    sadly the shit camera/battery and rubbish 3G network sent that back too.

    some good things will come in 2009 iphone/android and symbinan

  • http://dabr.co.uk David Carrington

    Since I already have a very Google-centric lifestyle, the G1 is great for me. Everything I wanted from previous phones is already on there by default. I think I'm an anti-Whatley as there's only one Nokia I like so far: 6310i.

  • geekyouup

    …says the man who is putting up with a Nokia 5800 for the sake of being a Nokia fan boy. I think you've missed the point a little this time James. Something like the 5800 is just another device, the G1 is the first device of a new era, showcasing a spanking new mobile operating system, the apps are just starting to come out and the momentum is just starting to build up. The fact that the G1 is as complete as it is actually amazed me, I was expecting less.
    The second Android device to hit the shelves will bring up a host of issues that Android developers will have to work around, but we will work around them and Android will fly.

    NB: all views I express here are completely biased as I'm a complete Android fanboy, loe it

  • http://whatleydude.vox.com James Whatley

    Great points if only mildly flawed because your 5800 thoughts are based on one conversation we had in the pub last night. I'm yet to write *anything* on the 5800. It'll come.. Just not yet, and I'm 'putting up with it' because I was asked to review it. Not because I'm a fanboy.

    Just like I was asked to 'put up with' the G1.

    There are elements of the G1 that I'd really like to see in Nokia handsets (in fact – I think I even mentioned that in the piece above) – I needed to get these thoughts of my chest so I could reference them at a later date.

    Finally..

    “The second Android device to hit the shelves will bring up a host of issues that Android developers will have to work around, but we will work around them…”

    I love that.

  • Anonymous

    Lolz. Well written for a rant and a good read.

  • http://whatleydude.vox.com James Whatley

    Outlook into Google Contacts SUCKS.

    To be honest, I just can't see the point of a G1. Geeks/Developers will love it, but your average Normob will not. The *only* people I know who love their G1s are those that make apps for it…

    Which is great… but really, not for me.

  • http://whatleydude.vox.com James Whatley

    GMail isn't in beta?

    Riiiiiiiiiight..

    http://flickr.com/photos/whatleydude/3215686522/

  • ocifant

    “Geeks/Developers will love it, but your average Normob will not.”

    Funny you say that. My technically challenged daughter has the G1 and loves it! Mind you, she probably only uses it for calls, texts, games and music… :-)

  • http://www.smstextnews.com/author/Ben.Smith Ben Smith

    Yeah, but you *choose* to use the free service. I *choose* to pay a little. I said *mine* not *yours*. If you choose the beta product of course it says beta… but you don't *have* to use the beta product.

    My eyes are fine BTW :-)

    Kisses.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan @ MIR

    Yeah my normob wife who flatly refuses to get excited at the mere mention of anything mobile is a committed and loving-it G1 user.

  • South77

    FWIW (not much, I know) the 5800 is a lump — price and large screen is really its selling point. the soft touch screen is not really doing it for me.

    What do people think of the Storm? To my suprise I quite like it — to play with, not to replace my N95 8GB as an everyday phone.

  • http://www.abinarylife.com binarylife

    for once it's not going after us apple fan boys and girls.
    for some reason MIR posts don't display well in google (sic!) reader recently, all ” or ' are changed into ??? – have you done something ot the feed?

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan @ MIR

    Yeah my normob wife who flatly refuses to get excited at the mere mention of anything mobile is a committed and loving-it G1 user.

  • http://www.carsonified.com DominicTravers

    Perfect illustration of why there is so much fragmentation in the industry. All of us who are involved in some way or another hold strong opinions on combinations of technology that work for us.

    I like Nokia phones, have always used one for voice since the classic matrix banana phone. I will never use a symbian device ever again, it's crap, give me a Java ME candy bar to talk on and charge every 3 days.

    I literally threw my last Windows computer out of a 3rd floor window in Edinburgh in 2002 and you would have to beat me with a stick (or loads of cash) to get me to use Outlook again. I have never found a Nokia that can talk to a Mac computer. I don't like the iPhone because iTunes is rubbish for people who like to do stuff with music, don't even get me started on the device itself.

    I will take issue with your comments on gmail, I had one of the first accounts and it has been nothing short of brilliant ever since.

    Nobody has made contacts work across all the apps and platforms commonly in use, Soocial and Skydeck might be getting close but you can still find disgruntled users.

    James. I am looking forward to the next time I see you, we can talk about music and girls :)

  • rafeblandford

    I agree with Ben here in a sense, but I do feel the Google centric nature of the G1 is both its best and worst point. There's obviously a distinction between the G1and Android in this topic, but realistically a lot of Android phones are going to be Google service centric. Depending on your stand point MobileMe / Exchange / etc is just as bad on other platforms (e.g Windows Mobile is an outstanding client for those using Exchange, but has problems else where). To a certain extent it becomes a number game.. or addressable market. Clearly you can make GMail get email from elsewhere (or download directly), but that is also true of Exchange, BIS and other systems / platforms.

    I feel openness in mobile is about a lot more than the code of the OS. Indeed at a basic level all the 'smartphone OSs' are open to one degree or another. I agree that debate is essentially over (unless you want to talk about how far down it will go…) and there is still some importance attached to the level of openness (e.g. open source vs developer accessibility vs device function accessibility; cross platform, RIAs, etc etc).

    So is openness now more about software and service availability / access? I think this very often ties in with companies strategy (both manufacturers, platform providers and operators). I do think some companies are more committed to this openness than others. Android is this area, especially in its G! instance and in contrast to its open-soruce-ness, does not measure up here. Thats said I'd probably put Android and Nokia in the same camp as having openness as part of their core strategy, but it will be interesting to see who delivers this to consumers best.

    Maybe it is also worth saying that there is theoretical openness and what is actually delivered in to the hands of the consumer. Nokia's Ovi promises it but has yet to truly deliver on it (in terms of links with 3rd parties, APIs etc) – you can see their ideas / intent in something like Share online and Nokia messaging. Yes Android the platform is open, but the G1 implementation is lacking. I do think think it will improve, but the question at the back of my mind is Google's motivation (is it to drive traffic and money to its core strength in search and advertising, if s o what implications does it have?)

  • rafeblandford

    I agree with Ben here in a sense, but I do feel the Google centric nature of the G1 is both its best and worst point. There's obviously a distinction between the G1and Android in this topic, but realistically a lot of Android phones are going to be Google service centric. Depending on your stand point MobileMe / Exchange / etc is just as bad on other platforms (e.g Windows Mobile is an outstanding client for those using Exchange, but has problems else where). To a certain extent it becomes a number game.. or addressable market. Clearly you can make GMail get email from elsewhere (or download directly), but that is also true of Exchange, BIS and other systems / platforms.

    I feel openness in mobile is about a lot more than the code of the OS. Indeed at a basic level all the 'smartphone OSs' are open to one degree or another. I agree that debate is essentially over (unless you want to talk about how far down it will go…) and there is still some importance attached to the level of openness (e.g. open source vs developer accessibility vs device function accessibility; cross platform, RIAs, etc etc).

    So is openness now more about software and service availability / access? I think this very often ties in with companies strategy (both manufacturers, platform providers and operators). I do think some companies are more committed to this openness than others. Android is this area, especially in its G! instance and in contrast to its open-soruce-ness, does not measure up here. Thats said I'd probably put Android and Nokia in the same camp as having openness as part of their core strategy, but it will be interesting to see who delivers this to consumers best.

    Maybe it is also worth saying that there is theoretical openness and what is actually delivered in to the hands of the consumer. Nokia's Ovi promises it but has yet to truly deliver on it (in terms of links with 3rd parties, APIs etc) – you can see their ideas / intent in something like Share online and Nokia messaging. Yes Android the platform is open, but the G1 implementation is lacking. I do think think it will improve, but the question at the back of my mind is Google's motivation (is it to drive traffic and money to its core strength in search and advertising, if s o what implications does it have?)

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan @ MIR

    Those ???? are because James (and Samantha) wrote their posts in Word, I think. We'll fix it.

  • http://www.smstextnews.com/author/Ben.Smith Ben Smith

    I think we're in violent agreement, but just for a bit of pedantry – the G1 is equipped with a standard POP / IMAP client that supports multiple accounts. Not push admittedly(5 min refresh minimum) but your mail never has to touch Gmail.

  • rafeblandford

    Violent agreement is the best sort :)

  • rafeblandford

    Violent agreement is the best sort :)

  • Scott

    James, my technological incompetence is meant to be a closely guarded secret! btw you would not believe the amount of time it took me (actually you might even remember) to get up and running with Nokia PC Suite . Every new device, particularly with a new OS, takes time to get used to: Nokia, iPhone, SE, Android etc etc.

    The G1 is a solid device which suits my usage – heavy email and very heavy internet browsing. For the former it is better than the iPhone and any Nokia bar E71 and Communicator, for the latter it is better than all (including the iPhone). If I were a media freak (pictures, video) it probably would not be for me.

    Anyhoow, an eloquent and balanced review of all the current crop of smartphones can be found on Stephen Fry's blog. As an incorrigible iPhone addict he even has a number of kind words to say about the G1 (and I bet he synched contacts in a blink of an eye).

  • http://whatleydude.vox.com James Whatley

    I wrote it in Outlook then just copied the text over into the html section of WP dude.

    Rubbish

  • http://whatleydude.vox.com James Whatley

    I wrote it in Outlook then just copied the text over into the html section of WP dude.

    Rubbish

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan @ MIR

    Were you using Outlook's HTML client?

  • http://whatleydude.vox.com James Whatley

    Ahh…

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan @ MIR

    Were you using Outlook's HTML client?

  • http://whatleydude.vox.com James Whatley

    Ahh…

  • http://www.smstextnews.com/author/Ben.Smith Ben Smith

    There is a 'paste from Word' button I think that fixes that… no?

  • http://www.smstextnews.com/author/Ben.Smith Ben Smith

    There is a 'paste from Word' button I think that fixes that… no?

  • http://mobile-review.com markwebster

    Told you it was dire on the day you got it :p

  • http://mobile-review.com markwebster

    Told you it was dire on the day you got it :p

  • http://mobile-review.com markwebster

    Told you it was dire on the day you got it :p

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