Video, music and internet are all well and good, but messaging is still the most used feature on cell phones (besides, you know, actual calls.)  The whiz kids at Google are well aware of this, they themselves offer a great SMS toolbox, and the G1 definitely does not disappoint on this front.  All the standards are there- SMS, MMS and email- as well as several IM clients and integrated Gmail.

Text and picture messaging, as you’d expect, is threaded.  The interface is simple and straightforward, and you can attach pictures and audio files.  AIM, Google Talk, Windows Live and Yahoo Messenger come preloaded on the G1.  The clients are good, though with large buddy lists it took a long time to update presence.

Gmail is of course preinstalled on the device and when you sign into your Google account at setup your Gmail gets pushed.  There is an email client as well, which lets you check other POP and IMAP accounts, including additional Gmail ones.  There is no Exchange support as of now, but there are no doubt several developers working it as you read this.  The interface is good, in fact in some ways we prefer the standard email interface to the on-device Gmail one.  With Gmail you have to scroll through the entire message to get to the reply options, which is a pain for long conversations, whereas in the general client they are static buttons on the bottom of the page.

As we noted earlier the keyboard is one of the better ones we’ve used.  The keys are flat and only slightly raised, but still easily distinguishable by feel.  The travel is shallow but good enough, and we were not only quick but very accurate from the get-go.  An onscreen keyboard would have been nice at launch, but we know it is coming.

Connectivity and Data:

The G1 is a quad-band GSM device that runs at up to 7.2Mbps on the down link and 2Mbps up.  The US version has HSPA on the 1700 and 2100 MHz bands, the former band is shed for the European variant.   For those not blessed with 3G coverage from T-Mobile yet the G1 offers Wi-Fi as well.  Bluetooth 2.0+EDR is available, though only the HSP and HFP 1.5 profiles are supported.  We’re a bit perplexed as to why they didn’t offer more support, especially A2DP, at launch.

We tested the unit in an EDGE market, and all things considered the speed wasn’t that bad.  Pages rendered excellently and the overall browser interface was good.  Safari still tops our list, with Skyfire and Opera Mobile 9.5 close behind, but the Android browser (Chrome lite?) definitely belongs in the discussion.  We prefer Opera and Skyfire’s double-tap zoom to Android’s magnifying glasses, but we like Android’s overview better.  When in full view the user can grab the little four way arrow in the bottom right and the page smoothly transitions to overview mode.  As you drag the box over portions of the page they enlarge, and releasing zooms in on that area.  It is nice for larger pages, such as PhoneArena.

With no desktop sync everything is handled in the cloud.  Contacts and calendar sync over the air in both directions, and email is pushed directly to the phone.  To the user the experience is seamless.

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