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Home / Tips and Tricks / Hands-on with the World's First Android Phone – What a Difference a Decade Does «Android :: Gadget Hacks

Hands-on with the World's First Android Phone – What a Difference a Decade Does «Android :: Gadget Hacks



Nowadays, new phones seem to be announced every other week. We've gotten used to revising specifications, looking at some press assests and then checking the next phone. If you did this in September 2008, you might have overlooked what would become one of the most important phones of all time.

The HTC Dream, better known as the T-Mobile G1 in the US, has introduced us all. It is now the most widely used operating system in the world – even for desktop PCs like Windows and MacOS. The first Android phone. The first true competitor for Apple's iPhone released the year before

With its pull-out keyboard, trackball, dedicated phone keys, and tilted chin, the G1

was a quirky piece of hardware. But these quirks would help make Android what it is today: a flexible operating system that offers a wide range of hardware for individual needs. Below, we'll look at how the G1 shaped the mobile landscape and how much has changed in a decade.

The T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream). Image of Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

How the HTC Dream G1 Changed the Game

The T-Mobile G1 was a product born out of necessity. Before its existence, Google was primarily just a search engine. However, as the mobile Internet became more and more popular, they had to make this search engine available on various platforms such as Windows Phone, RIM, Symbian and iOS. As CEO Larry Page puts it, "We had a closet full of more than 100 phones and built our software pretty much on device, making it almost impossible for us to make truly great mobile experiences."

This was not sustainable, so Google decided to do something to get all the different smartphone OEMs on the same page. In November 2007, they formed the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), a consortium comprised of the majority of major players in the mobile industry, to "accelerate innovation in the mobile space and provide consumers with a richer, cheaper and better mobile experience." To achieve this, Google simultaneously announced Android, an open source mobile platform that every company could use on their phones.

At this point, however, Android was software without a piece of hardware that could be called home. There had been prototypes of Android phones like the BlackBerry Esque Sooner, but after the success of the iPhone, Google knew that its new mobile operating system would need a primary touch-oriented flagship device if it was to succeed.

At that time Google HTC, one of its original partners in the OHA turned. With the Taiwanese manufacturer handling hardware, Google's management software and T-Mobile ensuring compatibility with the complicated cellular data networks in the US, this was a daunting task. But on September 23, 2008, the HTC Dream, the AKA T-Mobile G1 was introduced to the world.

Picture of Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

In many ways, the G1 was the first Nexus phone to a forerunner of today's Google Pixel family. It ran pure, Stock Android, and Google handled the software, so the features and functions were representative of the vision of the Mountain View company for the platform. Google services were in the foreground (Google Maps, YouTube, Google Talk, and Gmail were all preinstalled), and the phone had direct access to Google Search from the Home screen.

Speaking of the home screen, you knew it immediately When you unlocked the phone, you use the fully functional software. Instead of a simple grid of your apps, the G1 had an app drawer to offer a future in which you have tens, if not hundreds, of apps installed. Interestingly enough, the G1 app drawer can be accessed by rocking up from the bottom of the screen, just like the current Pixel Launcher works.

Another "futuristic "Main screen feature was the widget system of the G1. You can add them to any free space on your home screen and get quick information at a glance on your apps. This widget system is still a key aspect of modern Android versions, and Apple has a hard time rebuilding it – the iPhone's widgets are still not as rich as some of the widgets that came with the G1.

Below are some of the key innovations on the T-Mobile G1 / HTC Dream. While some features were available on other platforms before this phone debuted (especially desktop platforms), all of these features were present on the G1 before they were available on iOS. In other words, the G1 brought these features to the mobile mainstream.

  • Copy and paste functionality
  • Widgets
  • Third-party keyboards (after Android 1.6 update)
  • Predictive Typing (after Android 1.6 update) [19659022] Video capture (after Android 1.6 update)
  • Push notifications
  • Notification center
  • Home screen widgets
  • Custom wallpapers
  • Multitasking features
  • OTA updates
  • Sharing items between apps [19659022] Voice search

This phone does not just have Android It has changed the fate of the entire mobile industry. It has shaped the future of the iPhone by offering features that Apple ultimately had to implement to keep up. Whichever phone you use, you know it has a bit of the HTC dream in it.

What makes a difference a decade

While the HTC Dream G1 was definitely ahead of its time, today it shows its age. Compared to a modern smartphone, the difference is almost funny.

The specifications were horrendous in relative terms. The high-end OnePlus 6 has 42 times more RAM. The battery of the Razer Phone is almost four times bigger. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium has a 4.25 times sharper screen (806 ppi versus 180 for the G1). Speaking of which, you can actually paste 27 G1 screenshots into a single screenshot of Google's Pixel 2 XL.

27 full screenshots from the HTC Dream G1 overlaid on a screenshot from the Pixel 2 XL. Image of Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

The pull-out keyboard and mechanical buttons have almost disappeared on today's phones, and the trackball has been extinguished on the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G for some time. Pad to be fair). Nowadays, the screen size is of the utmost importance, so much so that the manufacturers do everything in their power to reduce the aperture on the edges of the displays of telephones. The 1.5-inch lower jaw of the G1 now makes it look like a relic.

HTC Dream G1 next to the Google Pixel 2 XL. Image of Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

The fast pace of the mobile world has made the G1 obsolete in more than just hardware. You can no longer install apps from an official source because the TOS page of Android Market is no longer loading.

In order to set up the device, I had to find a normal SIM card, which was not easy. When I got one, I realized that the T-Mobile data network had long since left the G1 – I could not get a mobile service because there was no 2G Edge coverage nearby and the G1 did not support any of the available bands. I had to drive around in San Diego until I found a cell tower with old enough technology to even use the G1.

To top it off, I could not even sign in to the Gmail app. In fact, I received a "Critical Security Alert" because Google saw the Android 1.6 Gmail app as a "non-Google app" and the G1 as an "unrecognized device". It is safe to say that a decade is more than a life in the modern mobile world.

But we should not let the current state of the G1 spoil its good name. Sure, his time is long gone, but all things are over. While it can no longer exist alone, it lives on in the spirit – so many parts of it have evolved to what we know as a modern smartphone.

Cover Picture and Screenshots by Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

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