The G1: A Retrospective
Last week, I reluctantly traded in my 2.5-year-old T-Mobile G1 for a brand-new Samsung Galaxy 2. Why did I spend so long using a phone with a hideously outdated version of Android, a bezel the size of my thumb, and hardware straight out of 2004?
Partially, it was for fear of T-Mobile’s hefty early termination fee. But it was also more than that. After all these years, the G1 is still a pretty decent phone. It makes phone calls. Its camera, despite my earlier rants, takes halfway decent pictures. And it’s robust enough to have survived over a quarter decade of almost constant use, in an age where most electronic gadgets are supposed to be replaced the instant something new comes along.
Of course, this is a somewhat melancholy moment. Looking back, though, it’s amazing to see how far Android has come. When I first got my G1, I was a rogue early adopter, stubbornly choosing an early-stage Google product (and we know how long those normally last…Google Wave, anyone?) over the sleek and sexy iPhone which seemed guaranteed to eventually crush it.
Today, Android has a market share to rival Apple’s, and normal people are buying the phones in drogues! A Linux-based product, gone mainstream? Who’d a thunk it!
Looking at my shiny new Galaxy 2, it’s also amazing to see how far we’ve come in the last couple years in terms of hardware. My G1, especially near the end, was molasses-slow and had a screen that, in comparison to the Galaxy, looks a bit like a postage stamp. The new phone is pretty much all screen and has a faster processor than my laptop. I can watch movies on it, the GPS actually works, and the long-promised Flash player functions brilliantly.
Time, however, actually treated by little G1 pretty well. It survived (mostly) a fall down a few flights of stairs, suffering only a small crack in the screen which didn’t even affect the capacitive touch properties. And the original factory-shipped screen cover sticker remains on the phone to this day; tell that to the guy at the Sprint store next time he tries to sell you a $15 screen protector! Battery life suffered after a couple years, of course, but I could still get a day’s worth of normal use out of the G1 if I charged it fully.
All in all, I’m happy to have a new phone. But you have to hand it to the G1; it managed to launch a whole new sector of the mobile industry, pose a real threat to Cupertino, and not completely suck after almost 3 years of use. Not bad Google guys, not bad.