[geeks] iPhone alternatives
mparson at bl.org
Thu Jan 29 13:54:16 CST 2009
On Jan 29, 2009, at 12:35 PM, Shannon Hendrix wrote:
> What do you guys think of iPhone alternatives these days?
> I have decided to start using a PDA again, and of course I looked at
> However, I hate AT&T service, and I think the iPhone sucks as a
> phone. I much prefer T-Mobile service over AT&T and Sprint, at
> least in my area.
> I thought about getting an iTouch, but Apple does annoying things
> like leave off features and charge more than the iPhone, plus it
> would mean carrying two devices. Most important missing feature in
> iPhone is a GPS. Seems a really silly omission.
> So, I'm looking at possible replacements for my Motorola KRZR to get
> better PDA features.
> Does anyone have any long-term experience with the G1 now?
I've had the G1 for a couple of months now.
> I also see a few others from T-Mobile like the Sidekick.
> One thing though: I would prefer to have generic WiFi support,
> rather than only T-Mobile's "HotSpot" Wi-Fi.
> Generic Wi-Fi is more widely available, and of course it is free.
The G1 has generic Wi-Fi, it connects to my home network just fine,
plus many other free places around town. The T-Mobile HotSpot support
is just a plus. And I can theoretically use my T-Mo HotSpots account
with other devices, but I've not tried this yet.
This still has a lot of the '1.0' feel to it. The coming updates in
the 'Cupcake' release look promising, but time will tell, and there is
no telling when T-Mo customers will get it after Google decides it is
ready for public consumption.
Things I don't like about it:
Syncing. It only syncs with Google (Gmail, really). I didn't have a
gmail account before getting the G1, and you have to sign into the
phone with your gmail account (or create one) the first time you power
it up. I then had to go and figure out how to get my Mac to sync my
calendars, contacts, etc, up to my new gmail account, so they could
then be sync'd back to the G1.
It only has one I/O port, a multi-function mini-USB connection. If
you're using a wired-headset, it uses that port, blocking your ability
to charge. This guy has the ability to play MP3 and movies, but the
only head-set you can use (out of the box), is the set they give you,
which wouldn't stay in my ears. I had to buy an aftermarket converter
to use regular headphones. They now have a little dongle you can get
that gives you two mini-usb ports, a 2.5mm headset jack, and a 3.5 mm
headphone-jack. One of the mini-USB ports is charging, the other is
to use with their goofy headset, so you can still charge the device
while using the audio capabilities.
You can currently only install/run apps from the internal storage.
They are reportedly working on allowing us to use the micro-SD card
for apps (up to 16 GB supported, comes with a 1 GB card, I got an 8 GB
Which brings us to:
The address book. There are no categories in the G1's address book.
It's one big, flat listing of everyone in there. Also, it doesn't
have a concept of a 'Company'. So, any listings in my Mac's
Addressbook that don't have a person's name on them, only a company,
show up at the front of my G1's phone book/dialer as just phone
numbers, with no hint as to whom they belong.
The built-in mail app is pretty lacking, but this is solved by a fork
(which is reportedly sending their patches back up-stream), known as
K-9 (Android Mutt). It's getting better, but still not as good as the
mail program I'd been using on my Treo for years (Snappermail, which
was pay-ware). There are no pay-apps in the Android market yet, so,
maybe something even better will show up when Google lets the
developers start charging for their wares.
Battery-life. It has a pitiful battery for a PDA/Smartphone. I think
the stock one is just shy of 1200 mAh. To make matters worse, there
seem to be a few apps that don't cleanly exit and keep running in the
background, chewing up battery. Some of this can be addressed by
Google in future releases of the OS, but there are going to be limits
with a battery this sized. Every night, I have to plug it in, some
days, it is below 70% by lunch, and I have to plug it in while at
work. A car-charger is pretty-much a must-have.
I'm annoyed they took root access away from us. I can understand
making us jump through a few hoops to get it, to prevent people from
doing something stupid, but we should be able to do things as root if
we want to. This was marketed as an open platform for hackers, let me
hack. Okay, I can jump through other hoops to run the dev boot-loader
on it, which would let me do these things, but then I wind up with an
We cannot currently tether a computer to the G1 and use it as a modem
for internet access. There is an app out there somewhere that lets
you basically set it up as a proxy, so you can browse the web, but
that's not full access, and I think it required getting root on the
phone. I don't remember the details. Here's to hoping that gets
addressed in future versions of the OS.
Things I like:
It has Wi-Fi! I've never had a Wi-Fi enabled PDA before. I wish it
could support LEAP, so I could use it on the $WORK net, but 3G does
what I need it to do (check my personal email, browse the web, etc).
The browser is the best I've used on a PDA. I've not spent a lot of
time with the iPhone/mobile safari, so, I can't really comment on that
offering. It is far ahead of anything I used on the Palm platform
(Blazer, Opera Mini). You can open multiple-windows, it does a good
job of scaling/rendering pages for the screen, etc.
GPS. The API to the GPS is open, anyone can write apps to read from
it. Google Maps, which is built-in, of course, can give you
directions and with the GPS on, gives you a little blue dot that
follows the blue-line of the directions. It is not a turn-by-turn GPS
like a lot of people seem to want (like garmin/tom-tom/etc provide),
but if you know how to read a map, you can use Google Maps + GPS. And
you can turn off the GPS to save battery.
The slide-out keyboard. I like real-keys on my keyboard. An onscreen
keyboard (potentially coming with cupcake), would be OK for quick
replies to SMS messages, but for email, and ssh, I like not losing
screen real estate and having keys that I can feel when I type on
them. BTW, the ssh-client from the market defaults to a very-usable
80x22 screen, and you can change the fonts trivially to get more/less
chars on the screen.
The Android Market. Full of fun apps and games. Pac Man (official
Namco port) was probably the first game I installed on it, and it is
surprisingly playable with the little trackball. There is not
currently anything in the market to allow you to view and/or edit
Office-type docs. I'm guessing people like Docs-to-Go are waiting
till they can charge for it before putting it out there. Else Google
might be developing a mobile version of their online stuff? *shrug*
There is a limited-capability spread-sheet, but I've not played with
it much, don't think it can save/open Excel sheets.
> Feel free to gush wildly about your favorite toys in this area...
> NOTE: I'm not totally opposed to carrying two devices, just thinking
> about trying to reduce it to one.
Honestly, if the iPod Touch had come with Bluetooth and the ability to
connect to the net via BT and my phone (a Moto RIZR), I probably would
have gotten one long ago.
If I missed something, please let me know, I'll elaborate more.
mparson at bl.org
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