Tuesday, April 14, 2009

T-Mobile G1 Survival Guide (Part 1)

There we were, minding our own business. We called T-Mobile customer service to simply find out what our service date was and what the cancellation fees would be. We didn't plan on canceling, we just wanted to know. We were immediately shuffled off to customer retention... to make a long story short, Eva and I both received G1 smartphones to replace our T-Mobile Dashes for half the price of one. 75% savings was too sweet a deal to pass up.

Having owned a Windows Mobile (CE, PPC, etc.) device of one sort or another for about 10 years, I was excited to finally be able to try something new. I could finally bid goodbye and good riddance to the anemic web browser known as Pocket IE. Gone will be the Today screen that I have had to endure since leaving behind my Pocket PC loaded with PPX desktop UI. While waiting for the G1's to arrive, I browsed cyrket (an online view of the Android Marketplace) to find the apps and games that I would want to install.

My excitement was tempered when the G1's arrived. Most of the android marketplace apps are more accurately described as somewhere between "proof-of-concept" and "2nd round beta". Not all of them, but most. I was also disappointed with the lack of preloaded apps on the G1 for specific offline/disconnected use. I will admit however that disappointment is a bit misplaced since this is a phone "powered by Google" after all and connectedness is the focus.

I'll save a review of the G1 device for another day (since there are already so many reviews). But rather, I want to point out some "must-have" applications for the G1 that will significantly improve the capabilities of a very nice device.

CadreBible LE (Bible Reader) - This is a very capable reader with a nice variety of Bible translations, dictionaries, and commentaries. The developer is working on arrangements to make popular modern translations available for it. I'm a NKJV person myself, and while it isn't available for Cadre, the UKJV version that is freely available is a nice placeholder.

JJReader (eBook Reader) - There are a dozen or so apps on the marketplace that claim to be book readers, but they are all woefully inadequate in features or buggy. FBReaderJ looked very promising (along with auduaReader). But they have serious filesystem bugs. Although jjReader only supports .txt files, it works very well with no noticeable bugs or glitches. It provides bookmarking capabilities as well as full customization of font style, size, color, and background color. It's a nice small tool for displaying text files stored on an SD card.

Cinema (Video player) - One of the first things that I do with a gadget is attempt to play videos on it. The G1 does not come preloaded with a video player. The majority of the players on the android marketplace have a variety of limitations. It does a great job of playing .mp4 video files (that also play on the PC, Zune, iPod, PSP, and PS3). Videos that I created with Handbrake for the PSP played as-is on the G1.

DataViz's Documents-to-Go (Office Suite) - Another one of the glaring omissions of the G1 is the lack of a word processor and spreadsheet. Although there is no free alternative, DataViz's Documents-to-Go does an amazing job of browsing, editing, and creating MS Word and MS Excel documents. All of the MS Office 2003 Word docs that I tried were displayed correctly. Apparently some graphics formats are not supported and so there is a rectangled "X" as a placeholder. The Excel module was able to handle files with multiple worksheets. They are currently running a sale on Docs-2-Go ($19.99 instead of the regular $29.99). Although I haven't performed an exhaustive test, what little I've used of the tools prove that it is well worth the money.


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