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Android: Hands-on with the T-Mobile G1

At long last, we finally got our hands on the first Android handset, the T-Mobile G1. Our buddies at Engadget already put together a kick-ass hardware review and they were nice enough to break down the software too. Now that phone is officially available and the Android Market is open, we can finally start to give this new platform the once-over.

I have been using the phone for the last four and a half hours or so -- and let me just say, the platform is slick. The hardware is certainly nice, but what really makes this thing sing -- and what we care about at Download Squad -- is the software.

The OS is fast and responsive. Running multiple apps doesn't seem to slow anything down at all. And although I have had a non-Android Market app crash on me a number of times, it hasn't affected the rest of the phone -- something I cannot say for my BlackBerry Curve.

Non-Android Market? Yup! Although the preferred and ultimately, probably the safest way to access applications is through Google's Android Market, you can download applications OTA (over the air) directly from developers after checking a checkbox in Settings > Application Settings.

I did this to use Twitroid a Twitter client for Android that is still in development.
Other highlights/lowlights:

-- As Engadget mentioned in their coverage, the Amazon MP3 Store only works if you are connected via Wi-Fi. That isn't a huge problem, but it did require me to enable a setting (there isn't a Wi-Fi wizard at set-up).

-- The phone comes with 10 pre-loaded tracks by various artists. Some of which are actually good!

-- Using a mini-USB cable, I was able to hook the Android phone up to my Mac without any hassle. Without using the SDK, you can only access photographs, downloaded Amazon.com music and the pre-loaded music from the microSD card - but this means that you can easily load other music or photos on the phone. There might not be a desktop management app, a la iTunes or BlackBerry Desktop Manager, but you can absolutely interface your phone and your PC or Mac.

PC Connectivity actually highlights Android's biggest strength as a platform: it allows for seamless integration of your Google data that is "on the cloud." In addition to the developed apps for Gmail, Contacts and Calendar and Maps, accessing Google's other services is both seamless and responsive. Push e-mail via Gmail on Android is just as fast as Push for the same account on my BlackBerry. If you are someone who finds that you use web apps far more often than desktop applications, Android was made for you.

-- Moving around the home screen and general navigation is clean -- but it isn't quite as polished as the iPhone. I really don't think that has much to do with the hardware (iPhone is multi-touch, the G1 is not), the software just has some differences and I find the iPhone/iPod Touch to be more intutitive.

Check out the gallery of screenshots from some of the include applications and stay tuned for some first-look posts that highlight some of the new Android applications, available in the Marketplace and elsewhere.

Android Hands-On

Tags: amazon mp3, AmazonMp3, android, gmail, google apps, GoogleApps

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