Whilst enjoying a quick coffee in a public place in central London the other day I noticed that the chap next to me was sporting a Google jacket and playing with a familiar-looking black mobile phone with a slide out keypad.
Putting two and two together I realised that this was possibly the Google G1 phone, launched in the USA earlier last week, and subject to much press excitement over the last few days. This was confirmed when I rudely interrupted his surfing. It turned out that he was an employee of ‘the big G’ and the phone was an early prototype which had been issued to staff to undertake tests in the UK. He kindly let me have a very quick play and snap a photo.
I was quite impressed. The screen is bright, clear and easy to read, and the slide-out keypad keys were reasonably functional for one-fingered typing. Movement around the screen is via a tiny trackerball rather than the touch-screen concept that Apple’s iPhone employs. The phone has handy red and green keys (rather than touch-screen pads) for starting and ending a call and I liked the way you can hit the ‘home’ key at any point to get back to the main menus. I thought it displayed the Web well, although I only had a few seconds of experimentation. On the down-side, it seemed a little heavy, certainly in comparison to my standard issue Nokia.
Although it’s early days it is probably fair to say it doesn’t stand up that well when directly compared with the iPhone, especially on the design side. But as the guy said, the real issue is the open software platform called Android which runs the phone. Google are hoping that thousands of developers will see the opportunity and get coding up a wondrous array of applications for the phone and its subsequent versions.
As ever in this industry the market will decide. But this chance encounter perked up the start of my day.