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T-Mobile G1 Review: Software

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500px-android-logosvg-465x465In this chapter of the G1 review we will explore the new software platform released with the T-Mobile G1, the open source Android operating system from Google. There was much hype and expectation for this OS, and in October of the last year, it went live with this phone. We will now see how it performs.

To start, the Android OS has a really useful Desktop screen, It is elegant, intuitive and user-friendly. It is fully customizable with applications, shortcuts and widgets. By combining the different elements the user can get a perfect desktop for his needs.

The Desktop has three panels, the center panel which is the main one, and two extra panels to configure more shortcuts if the user swipes the finger to the left or to the right.

On the top of the desktop screen there is a notification bar that becomes visible when the user slides the finger from the top to the center. This bar shows missed calls, emails, conversations and other notices.

The responsiveness of the desktop is 100% accurate and lag cannot be found. I personally like this way of creating a desktop screen because the user can adapt the Android OS to his, or her needs.

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To access more content, the desktop has an arrow on the bottom edge of the screen, it can be activated by pressing it or by sliding it upwards, its main and only task is to bring the user access to the many applications available on the phone, as well as other important OS elements, such as the control panel, configurations and settings. With the two screens we have so far, Desktop and Arrow, one can be access all features and functions of the device.

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The G1 has a full QWERTY keyboard in the open mode and has six physical buttons when closed.

On the closed mode the green button basically manages all the calling; moving to the right we have the home button which takes the user to the Desktop; the trackball is used to navigate; the back button to show previous screen; and the red button to end calls. On top of these buttons there is a Menu button that activates the menu on every part of the OS and shows the functions on the current application.

An interesting aspect about the G1 is that although it is a touch screen phone, it can be entirely used  with physical buttons but not vice-versa. For example, the only way to input text is with the QWERTY keyboard, there is no virtual on-screen keyboard. Work is under progress to develop one, under the codename Cupcake.

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An useful ability of the Android OS is to update by itself, it informs the user whether there is an upgrade available and asks if the user wants to perform the update. The G1 can be used  after the 20 minute-update. During that time, the phone downloads and installs the update by itself. I was amazed by the usability and extreme simplicity of the upgrading process, in other platforms this task can take a lot of time and it is more complex to execute, not to mention that many regular users don’t even know that the phone can be upgraded.

Another excellent aspect in the Android OS is that the system is not likely to fail by itself and crash, instead of freezing and crashing followed by a restart like most smartphones. The G1 informs the user that a certain application has an error and needs to be closed by force, and then it terminates the application as if nothing had happened and keeps running normally.

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The most interesting aspect of the Android OS is the Application Market, which provides the user with thousands of free applications that can be installed with just one click, ranging from dictionaries to web browsers, and games. The Market has every single application you could imagine, and it is a clever strategy because for many users, the G1 will be more fun and productive as they have every application and extra functionality just one click away.

The G1 showed me that it is a flexible and intuitive OS when I first used the handset. I did not have time to set the device up or load my music, so while on-the-go I searched the Market and installed Last.FM with just one click, which is an amazing capability on a handset.

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The most important aspect of an OS is the stability and reliability, and so far the Android OS has proven to be reliable by not crashing and freezing. The Android OS is very easy to use, while it has advanced functionality and potential.

I do however, have a suggestion: to me the OS looks too simple and plain as the phone itself. I would prefer to see more elegant transitions and effects.

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By , International Correspondent on Jan 28th, 2009 GMT +2

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