T-Mobile, Google, and High Tech Computer (HTC) unveiled the highly anticipated Android phone in New York on Tuesday, and I got a chance to try out the new handset at HTC's office in Taipei.
The applications on board are by far the coolest feature of the handset, especially Google Maps Street View, which on the handset, allows a person to view a snapshot of an entire street scene at any of several U.S. cities.
[ See related story "Android to debut in T-Mobile's G1 smartphone." ]
I chose 42nd Street in New York City at the Avenue of the Americas from Google Maps, and once the information downloaded from Chunghwa Telecom's mobile network, I was able to view the street on the handset's screen. It's cool.
There are three ways to navigate a street scene with T-Mobile's G1, or the "Dream" as HTC calls it.
The funnest was to hit the "compass" function on the handset and move it around by hand. You pan the G1 up and view the screen as if it's the LCD viewfinder on a digital camera, and you're looking at building tops or into trees. Pan down and you can see if anyone dropped some coins on the street. Pan around for an entire 360-degree view of the street from where you are, including taxis, buildings, or a guy walking down the street eating a sandwich.
I can't think of any useful reasons to use Street View -- Google Maps is enough to get you where you want to go -- but it sure is fun.
The other two ways to navigate on Street View are by using the touchscreen to look around or the trackball at the bottom of the phone.
Google is still expanding the Street View database to include more cities.
The applications aspect of the G1 may make it one of the most expandable handsets around. You can already find fun and useful programs from Android, many of them free. And applications are easy to find and download.
An icon on the desktop of the handset sends you right to an Android apps page, where applications roll across a panel at the top of the screen. You can use your thumb on the touchscreen to make the panel move left or right for more choices and then tap an app's icon to choose it.
I picked ShopSavvy because the demonstration of it looked fun and I wanted to see it in actual use.
Bargain hunters will love this program.
ShopSavvy turns the G1's on-board 3-megapixel camera into a price tag scanner. It starts to scan immediately when ShopSavvy is on, no need to snap a photo or anything. Just run a red line in the middle of the viewfinder over a barcode and it scans the information.
It took me a few tries to scan the barcode of the book, "Execution" by Larry Bossidy, which was one of the few things at HTC's office with a barcode. But once I got it, it only took several seconds to navigate to a site with a book review and other information, as well as suggestions on where to buy. It costs $21 new at eCampus.com, or $2.50 used at Half.com, while the retail price listed inside the cover of the book itself was $27.50.