Best Gadget I’ve bought this year…(so far) part 2

The G1 is a nice phone, but what about its operating system.  I have to admit I’ve never given much though to the operating system of a phone before, but I had heard that google was developing the Android OS for use on mobile phones – a first for google and the G1 is the first phone produced to use this software.

I already use gmail as my mail reader (although not for that long) and I use google calendar and google docs and other google apps a fair amount.  I didn’t really use the contacts feature very much within gmail, but I do now.  So, anyway, when you first switch on the G1 it asks for your gmail login details, and that is it, your phone now has all your emails, your calendar and your contacts… no worrying about backing up your SIM card or keeping an address book, provided google doesn’t break it is all there and syncs seemlessly with your online account.

If you are within a 3G area or a wifi signal is picked up the phone is always online and you can set up notifications to let you know of email arriving as well as texts, your google calendar reminders, etc.

Other features of the software include the integration of google maps with the built in GPS, a youtube player, fully featured web browser, etc.  All easily accessed on the triple width desktop which is very easy to set up and use.  Of these I suppose I’ve used the browser most and find it fairly easy to use although for more precise selection of links you either have to zoom in till it is big enough for your finger to hit or use the little trackball (which I tend to do most of the time).  The dedicated Youtube player is great, as it simply saves setting up the youtube web page to the right part of your screen.

It may be worth pointing out that this isn’t like GPS in a car which talks to you and tells you when and where to turn to get to your destination.  It can work out a route and the GPS signal will update as you move along that route but that’s about it as far as directions.  The real use of google maps and GPS on your phone is to use it to find things around you.  So open up maps, click on ‘my location’ for it to find out where you are.  You can then search for anything, say ‘coffee’ or ‘church’ and it will show you your nearest options.

There are far too many other things to mention a number of which I’ve downloaded from the free Market place, a facebook app, Shazam (which samples music you can hear and looks it up to tell you what it is), textonphone (an ebook reader which I’ve already read my first ebook on), a notebook app which you can also set an alarm from (so I’ve set up alarms for 5:15pm that pops up a shopping list for me to pick up on the way home for example)  and the incredible Compare Everywhere, that uses the built in (crap) camera to scan a barcode, look up what it is and tell give you online links to where you can buy this item, it can use the GPS to tell you where nearby you can get the item, it can link to reviews of it or add it to a wish list (say, ‘remember this as a possible Christmas present for little Jimmy’).  Of course it works best with books, music, dvds etc.  I have tried to scan a tin of beans and it just said it couldn’t find a match.

Lastly, the built in music player.  I’ve left this till last because I’m not sure what to say about it.  The sound quality is good.  The number of songs is good, ease of finding a track is good and it has sequential or shuffle mode.  But it isn’t an ipod.

Now, for me this is a good thing, I don’t like ipods sure they are well designed and have an incredibly easy to use interface but they have encouraged DRM from the very start with all that authenticating to a certain number of machines, etc.  So I’m against them under the principal that if I buy music I want to won it and choose where, when and on what device I listen to that music.  So compared to other mp3 player and phones that I’ve used the G1 music player is easy to use, but it really isn’t anywhere near as easy to use as an iPod or iPhone.  But it does have interesting other features…

Overall, I think you will have gathered that I am very pleased with this gadget.  I find myself using this phone for so many things – I am really stating to be able to apply some of the Getting Things Done principals I read about last year, such as context sensitive reminders, action rather than based todo lists, etc. simply because I’ve found a tool that helps me work in that way.

Anyway, enough self indulgent phone worship, I’ve got a bathroom to fix.

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