T-Mobile G1 – Review and Teardown (not for the squeamish):

For full teardown analyses, bill of materials, and high-resolution pictures, hit up the wiki: http://www.phonewreck.com/wiki/index.php?title=T-Mobile_G1 

What does HTC, flavoured with Google, and served with a plate of T-Mobile give you?  Apparently, its a a flavourful dream, as HTC liked to call it.  Of course, we’re talking about the T-Mobile G1 here, and it’s an important device to discuss, because it’s one of the most forward-thinking phones out there, with Google’s baby resulted from an Open Handset Alliance marriage of 30+ parties.

What’s better than a G1?  The G1’s guts you say?  Alright then, we’ll tear it apart, give you some good old fashioned teardown analysis, and plenty of pictures.  Click on for more!


Before starting to read the review, it’s important to mention that a lot of what the G1 is, is Android.  As such, quite a bit of the review will go over some of the greats, and not-so-greats of Android and its applications. There’s a lot of content, because having Android on board entails a lot.  Of course, if you don’t care, the teardown is right under =).  Enjoy!

T-Mobile G1 Review

Greats

The G1 has a lot of meaning to the ‘1’ in its name.  Not only is it the first phone to sport Google’s Android OS, it’s the first phone to use T-Mobile’s 3G network, its HTC’s first capacitive touchscreen phone, HTC’s first trackball phone, and their second attempt at a 5-row keyboard (correct me if I’m wrong).  Of course none of these firsts compare to this device’s greatest achievement:  the first ‘swoop’ sliding mechanism.  It shocks and stuns people the minute they see it and wins their hearts over temporarily.  We could go on and on about how awesome the sliding mechanism is, but we wouldn’t be running a teardown website.  The fact is, this phone has a lot of greats to back it up.  These include its relatively decent build quality (varies across units, however), a massive 5-row keyboard, a responsive touchscreen, and great navigational tools to come along with it.

The user interface of this phone is also another winner.  It seems like it’s difficult nowadays to have a regular desktop with icons and not be dumped into the stereotypical category of being a copycat of the #1 selling US handset to date.  Google’s engineers, however, have been totally innovative in giving users a pull-down notification bar, a slide-out menu, and three different customizable desktops.  The backgrounds even slightly move when you switch desktops, giving it a sort of, 3D effect.  Very cool.

To back up the UI, the trifecta of Google Apps — Gmail, Calendar, and Maps — are hands down the best implementation on a mobile phone.  Maps, on this phone, has turned into entertainment.  With the inclusion of a GPS, accelerometer, and even a compass, it has a Street View mode that mimics what you actually see on the device.  It’s an absolute joy to use.  Of course, the regular functions of Google Map work as expected.  It’s browser (Chrome’s little brother), is WebKit based and eats Javascript up like no tomorrow — provided you’re actually in T-Mo’s 3G coverage area.  It’s safe to say that it’s among the best of mobile browsers, bested only by Safari and possibly Opera Mobile. 

Another great for this device is its e-mail handling.  Now if you are a Google user, prepare to be in e-mail and calendar heaven.  Everything works amazing, and you can do all your little Gmail labelling and whatnot with the phone.  If you aren’t a heavy Google user, you’ll have to sign your life away to Google.  However, if you’re like us and you have multiple Gmail accounts, it’ll be difficult to manage the others as easily as your main account, since the actual Gmail app only manages your primary account’s e-mail. 

Medium

With medium being the mediocre flavor in between SPICY and honey garlic chicken wings, the G1, unfortunately, has a few components which are medium flavored.  First, it’s important to note that the G1 was targeted towards T-Mobile’s Sidekick users (and there’s quite a large following apparently).  Everything from the trackball implementation, to the sliding mechanism, to the very typable keyboard, was all targeted at them.  Sadly, the aesthetics also falls into this category.  Matte black all around doesn’t give it an attractive, sleek, and sexy look, and neither does the ’Leno chin’.  Fortunately, the chin does help with ergonomics and we found navigating in both portrait and landscape mode to be comfortable.  Some other reviews have stated that it bothers with typing, but in our experience, our hands are way bigger to be bothered by a measly chin.

The OS is also another one of the G1’s ‘medium’ attributes.  Though the UI was definitely a winner, Android 1.0 definitely feels like version 1.0 (as echoed by Steve Ballmer and many others).  There are some quirky bugs while navigating both in touch-mode and trackball-mode.  There’s a lack of integration with the rest of Google’s suite of apps.  No Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Picasa, etc.  What you do have access to, E-mail, Calendar, and Maps, are probably amongst the best I’ve seen.  And if that’s all you care about, this phone does those brilliantly. 

The Android Market, Google’s key application into finding the apps that you need, is also down here in the mediocre section.  While it’s implemented very nicely with descriptions, images, ratings, and sorting by popularity/date, the actual apps you find on the G1 aren’t anywhere near App Store level.  While some of the apps — like the one good RSS reader — are useful, the problem is that there is no selection.  Furthermore, the other essential apps like the video players, music players, and even most of the games are mediocre at best.

Gripes

Contact management.  While Google has tried to give your phone a connected feeling, they have totally failed at the implementation.  On import, it loads every single one of your contacts from Gmail.  People you have barely know, people who you talked to once — and most likely, don’t want to talk to — all get imported and are stuck in your Contacts.  With a long-standing Gmail account, this was one of the greatest pains ever.  Of course, with a properly managed contact list, the concept is rather nice.  It has capabilities to call/IM/SMS/e-mail/charter a map route to any of your contacts – even through Gmail.  It’s just the actual management of the contacts is the problem. 

Apps.  We mentioned the lack of apps, but the gripes section needs an actual mention.  First, the lack of Google apps, which we really wanted, is noticeably missing.  Even more so, do we really have to resort to a third-party video player?  It’s just plain annoying that many of the essential apps for the consumer aren’t there.  It’s quite a big gripe considering this was a phone geared towards the consumer.  Heck, if we were more whiney, we’d complain about the lack of PC sync, lack of exchange server support, and document support.

Another gripe about this phone is its battery.  With a full day of 3G data usage, calling, Wi-Fi connections, mapping with Street View, and a few games, you’d be out by about dinner time.  This is unfortunate, because we actually thought that this battery looked the coolest, with its sleek ‘htc innovation’ tag line.  

Finally, the damned ExtUSB port.  Give it to HTC to falter in letting people use a standard 3.5mm audio jack.  The stock headphones are ugly and subsequently forces us to bring our own iPods for media..  Thankfully, HTC is providing free adapters for new purchases (ours didn’t have one unfortunately).  Moreover, sideloading music and movies (although a rather pointless endeavor), is a little slow for our tastes.  The only redeeming factor is that your standard Mini-USB connectors plug in fine for both charging and PC connections.

Conclusion

What Google has done here is lay a foundation for what they envisioned a great phone to be.  HTC focused on delivering a navigational machine.  T-Mobile put its effort on making sure its 3G network was up to snuff and that enough people knew about the upcoming T-Mobile G1.  On the three fronts, we believe they succeeded.  However, a GREAT phone needs to be more than the sum of its parts.  And in that regard, the G1 doesn’t come very close to it.  It’s a great phone to use and serves as a good source of entertainment, but the forced Google integration, lack of Google apps, lack of media integration, horrid contact management, lack of a great Market, and the bland aesthetics, makes the device feel like it’s still in its beta stage.  But then again, Gmail has been in ‘beta’ for more than four years.

phoneWreck Score: 8 out of 10 wrecking balls

 


T-Mobile G1 Teardown

Note: We have aggregated information from various articles to aid in our teardown.  These include Bob Widenhofer’s article featured on TechOnline, Nikkei Electronics Teardown Squad featured on TechOn, and of course, our own sources (Thank you!).

The T-Mobile G1 was a mind-blowing experience to crack open.  There’s an insane number of parts, and the way they put it together seems, well, complex.  Make sure you give the sliding mechanisms a peek near the bottom.  For starters though, we introduce to you, the block diagram.

 

The Qualcomm MSM7201A, which was previously used in later US iterations of the Touch Diamond and the Touch Pro (teardown coming!), comes full force in the G1.  Similar to the BlackBerry Storm, the GPS and audio processing components are embedded into the processor.  Fortunately, HTC has had much experience using the processor, although it runs a brand new OS.  Running alongside the processor is the transceiver and power management ICs, Qualcomm RTR5285, and Qualcomm PM7540, respectively.

For the actual PCBs, there are two main PCBs housing most of the components.  The main PCB is shown directly below, while the ‘Chin’ PCB that’s literally housed in the chin section, is shown underneath.

 

As shown above, Avago makes an appearance, providing amplifiers for both GSM and UMTS power amplifiers (ACPM-7381 & ACPM-7391), and TriQuint comes with its usual GSM power amplifiers (TQS 7M5008).  The NAND Flash + DDR SDRAM is handled by a Samsung MCP.  SMSC provides the USB PHY handling the connection from the processor to the PC.  Asahi Kasei makes an interesting appearance with the first (to our knowledge) appearance of a compass IC.

Texas Instruments takes care of the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chips (both on the ‘Chin’ PCB, shown above).  The trackball, as noted by other teardowns, is the same module as the one on nearly every BlackBerry (except the upgraded trackball found on the Javelin).  Another interesting thing is the two vibration motors included.  One on the display module, and one on the main PCB.  The display panels are shown below.

 

This part is pretty cool, because housed within the screen casing is four large parts.  On the front of the actual casing (image above, below left) is the capacitive touch panels, with Synaptics handling the controllers and everything else touchscreen-related. 

Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  The back of the casing (shown below), showcases swooping action (we’re seriously too in love).

 

The translational springs on this puppy are strong as hell.  But it needs to be so, since it has to drive a large screen around an arc.  It’s interesting to note how much effort HTC seems to have put in to produce a clean swooping action.  Perhaps we’re overthinking this.

With everything set to go, here’s your aggregated image!

If you have questions, comments, concerns, humorous anecdotes, be sure to let us know in the comments or through e-mail ([email protected]).  Also be sure to visit the wiki for more pictures (http://www.phonewreck.com/wiki/index.php?title=T-Mobile_G1)!  Thanks!

(Via phoneWreck.)