The new T-Mobile G1 phone (and what it means for travelers)

The “big” news in the world of gadgets today was of course the announcement of the T-Mobile G1 “Google Phone”. This new smartphone has been widely covered on all the gadget sites (I recommend the coverage from our friends at Engadget) so I’ll take a brief look at what this phone means to people that travel a lot.

  • The first important feature is that it uses 3G data; 3G refers to the third generation of mobile data networks, which essentially means “fast”. This is the first 3G smartphone for T-mobile, and by the launch date of the phone, they should have 3G coverage in almost 25 major metro areas. With 3G data, applications like Google Maps will load much faster. In areas not covered by 3G, the phone will switch back to the slower EDGE system.
  • The phone has Wi-Fi built in. With Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to connect to a hotspot and download your email, or browse the web, without running up a massive data roaming bill when you are abroad. Of course, when Wi-Fi is on (and cellular is off), you won’t be able to make or receive a phone call.
  • The G1 has a manufacturer rating of 402 hours standby time (which translates to a whopping 16 days). Naturally most manufacturers exaggerate a little with their battery life claims, but if the phone even manages half the rated performance, it will be quite impressive. The battery is also user replaceable, which means you’ll be able to pick up a spare battery without having to return the entire phone if the battery becomes defective.
  • T-Mobile has always been very understanding about their international traveling customers, and they have confirmed that they will unlock the phone after 90 days, for customers in good standing. What this means, is that once you have it unlocked, you’ll be able to take the phone abroad, and pop a prepaid sim card in it, greatly reducing your international call costs.
  • The G1 also features a decent quality camera; 3.2 mega pixels, with auto-focus. This is about the quality you’ll want for making basic vacation photos. The phone also has GPS built in, with full integration in Google Maps. It will also be the first phone to combine Google street view maps with a built in digital compass, which means you can point your phone at a building, and actually see the map turn with you.
  • The T-mobile G1 has 3 ways to control the device; using the touch screen, using the built in trackball, or through the slide-out keyboard. I’ve never been a big fan of touchscreen-only devices, so the ability to slide out the keyboard will be great for typing a long email.
  • The operating system is “open” – this means is that anyone who wants to write a program for the G1, will be allowed to do so, without Google or T-mobile being involved in an approval process. In essence, this means that the G1 should see the kind of applications that are being barred from appearing on the iPhone (like VOIP phone programs).Applications are delivered through the Google Android “store”, which makes getting your hands on programs much easier than many other phones.

All in all, a pretty impressive phone, at a nice price point ($179 with a 2 year agreement). I’ve got my order in, and I’ll get you a full review as soon as it arrives (October 22nd).