The world’s first Android phone ever was HTC Dream aka T-Mobile G1: my hands-on review

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With Android clearly the world’s leading and most advanced smartphone platform, that’s where all the hype is these days. It is amazing how far Android OS has come in such a short period of time since the first device hit the market in October 2008. If there is anything, I am glad I got to own the first Android phone ever made. The photo below is of my unit (camera resolution back in 2009 was lower than what we have today, so the photo isn’t of great quality today after enlarging it for this article).

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HTC Dream aka T-Mobile G1 was the first Android phone
HTC Dream, AKA T-mobile G1, was the world’s first Android phone and also my first Android smartphone

The World’s First Android Phone was also my first Android Smartphone

My first Android smartphone was the original ancestor, the progenitor of the Android race, HTC Dream AKA T-mobile G1. I purchased a second-hand unit in May 2009. Oh, I actually drove from Lagos to Ibadan to make the purchase too. I wanted to try out Android that much.

The G1 had a sliding physical keyboard, was clunky, and was almost ugly. There was no built-in Documents viewer/editor in it, which was an issue for me then, as my smartphone was my primary business tool then. One of my gripes about the G1 was: “Battery life is frustrating! The G1 simply burns fuel like a race car.” Yes; it did. 

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But I loved that baby. On my list of likes was this: “Touch, swipe, and tap, and with a responsiveness that’s rarely seen in touchscreen devices.” I also said back then that it was my firm belief that Android was on its way to giving Symbian a run for their money in terms of market share. Oh well, that is already history. Let’s look at some key specs of the HTC Dream.

The first Android phone in the world was developed and built by HTC. It is also called the T-Mobile G1 because in the United States, it was available only on T-Mobile. Below are the key specs. You will find some of them middling by today’s standards.

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Specs of HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1), the first Android phone

HTC Dream aka T-Mobile G1 was the first Android phone
  • Display: 3.2 inches, 320 x 480 pixels, capacitive touchscreen.
  • Operating System: Android v1
  • Processor: Qualcomm MSM7201A ARM11 clocked at 528 MHz.
  • RAM: 192 MB
  • Storage: 256MB with microSD crad support for up to 16GB cards.
  • Camera: 3.15 megapixel
  • Battery: 1150mAh
  • Announced: 23rd September 2008
  • Released: 20th October 2008

The first Android phone in the world was not a hit like that. It arrived at a time that Symbian smartphones ruled the world, and BlackBerry smartphones were cool and hip. But Android OS has grown big since then and now dominates the smartphone world.

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Incidentally, the first Android phone in the world arrived the same year that MobilityArena was started – 2008. I had been blogging about mobile phones for 4 years before that though – on a different blog that no longer exists now.

10 things I liked about the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream)

Here is the list of 10 things I liked about the G1.

  1. The user interface. Touch, swipe, and tap, and with a responsiveness that’s rarely seen in touchscreen devices. The icons are attractive as well, and the UI is generally easy to use. I adapted to the G1’s UI in under 10 minutes. No manual. No previous training.
  2. Handling of data. If you have multiple access points for GPRS/EDGE/3G/HSDPA setup, the G1 intelligently uses the one for the SIM currently in your phone. And its all done behind-the-scenes and quickly too. Amazing!
  3. Web browsing. The browser on the G1 is fast and gets the job done. Cpanel, WHM, online banking, it has handled everything that I have thrown at it with gracefulness.
  4. Android Market. I don’t know where to start with the Android market but just say, “It works”. It works very well. Plus, the G1 automatically notifies you when updates are available for any application that you have installed from the Market. Sweet.
  5. Customisable Home screen. The G1 homescreen is glorious. You can set widgets for a number of tasks, contacts, shortcuts to applications, folders, and wallpapers.
  6. Integration with Google services. The G1 syncs with your Gmail, including contacts and calendar entries. All you need is your Gmail login details, and the G1 does the rest. There’s also a Google search widget, as well as built-in Youtube and GoogleTalk apps.
  7. The QWERTY keyboard rocks! Now, I am Mr. QWERTY keyboard on mobile. When I say that the G1 QWERTY rocks, I mean that in my experience, it is second only to that on the Nokia E90 Communicator. And that is a close second.
  8. Notifications. There’s a notification bar at the top of the screen regardless of what menu you are in. You can pull it down to view the details of your notifications and then tap to open that item e.g. new email, new SMS, successful download, etc.
  9. USB charging. Plug in the USB cable and connect to your PC, and the G1 tops up its battery charge.
  10. Multi-tasking. It is multi-tasking spiced up. You can run multiple applications, and if one gets shut down because you ran out of memory, when you launch it again, it is restored to the very state you left it last time. If a download is interrupted (for example, because the data connection is broken), when the phone re-connects, it also resumes the download. Just sit back and relax.
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8 things I did not like about the T-Mobile G1 aka HTC Dream

Following up on that is my list of gripes about the Android-powered T-Mobile G1:

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  1. Battery life. Battery life is frustrating! The G1 simply burns fuel like a race car. With semi-intensive use, a full charge barely lasts 7 hours. And that is with the 3G, Wifi, and GPS radios turned off. Go figure.
  2. Keyboard backlight. It works well in the dark, but in daylight, the white backlight on the grey/silver keys simply means that you can”t see the characters on the keys without having to turn the device at an angle.
  3. Multi-tasking and Application Management. The G1 has multi-tasking, but since there is no way to terminate applications by the user, it is up to the device to determine what applications running in the background to close. At times, it simply closes the very one you would love to have left running. There is at least one 3rd party app that provides this functionality though.
  4. No Bluetooth file transfer. Yup; sorry guys but you cannot send or receive music, pictures or any file for that matter via Bluetooth. Bluetooth on the G1 exists only for audio. No way; this is not happening!
  5. Inability to install applications on external memory. You can install apps only to built-in memory. Install heavy apps and run out of space ASAP.
  6. One general Gallery. All your media files – pictures and videos are presented under one general gallery. Yes; there are sub-folders, but not in a very elegant way. again, 3rd party applications offer alternatives
  7. No built-in file manager. Again, 3rd party apps to the rescue here!
  8. No built-in MS Office viewer or editor. Once more, 3rd party apps fill this vacuum…
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It is a nice thing that I got to experience the first iteration of Android OS and have followed its development all the way till now. I wish I still had the HTC Dream locked away in a drawer somewhere. That would be something. The world’s first Android phone might not have been a hit, but it kick-started this wave that has taken over the world of mobile.

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