The G1 (also known as the HTC Dream)
was the first production mobile phone to run the Android operating system. It was announced by T-Mobile at a launch event in New York. The device was made by Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, who was best known for producing Windows Mobile-powered devices.
The phone’s journey began when Google announced the creation of the Open Handset Alliance and its Android software platform in November 2007. In less than 12 months, the company had produced its first handset, in partnership with T-Mobile and HTC.
At the time, Android was regarded as a platform on which Google could develop highly integrated applications, such as Google Maps, Street View, Gmail and YouTube, to access its services on mobile devices from different manufacturers. Few people envisioned how successful Android would become.
Although the G1 has gone down in history as the first Android smartphone, it was actually the second device designed by the Android team. The original plan was to offer a BlackBerry-like device in late 2007 which was known internally as the HTC Sooner. However, following the unveiling of the first Apple iPhone in January 2007 the team realised that a device with a small screen with a qwerty keyboard below it would not be competitive.
The G1’s hardware design got a mixed response, and certainly did not threaten the iPhone or other flagship products at the time. That said, it was clearly designed to compete with the iPhone and it was offered with very similar pricing.
The G1 followed a similar design to several Windows Mobile devices at the time and Danger's Hiptop
(also branded as the T-Mobile Sidekick). The design was perhaps to be expected, given HTC's heritage as a maker of Windows Mobile-based phones.
Although the G1's three-megapixel camera compared well with the iPhone's two-megapixel sensor, it fell short of the five- and eight-megapixel resolutions of other products available at the time with similar prices. Furthermore, the G1 did not support video capture, and the lack of a headphone jack was surprising, given the inclusion of an Amazon music store application on US devices.
Similarly, although the G1 supported POP3 and IMAP e-mail services in addition to Gmail and instant messaging services for AOL, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, it lacked software to synchronise directly with e-mail, calendar and contact information on PCs or to integrate with Microsoft Exchange.
However, the G1 was a promising start for Android and in April 2009 it was reported that T-Mobile had sold over a million G1s, accounting for two-thirds of the devices on its 3G network.
Google clearly had the financial resources to take on its competitors and drive Android forward. History has shown this to be the case as the Android operating system has gone on to dominate the smartphone market.
An interesting story associated with the launch of this phone was related to the built-in accelerometer and a specific app available in the Google Play Store called “Power Punch”.
HTC spent several weeks talking to Google’s Android team trying to get them to remove the app from the store, as it was worried people would use it to measure the strength of their punches and the phones would get broken when they flew out of users’ hands.
The Android team refused to remove the application as they did not want to censor applications in the Play Store. In an effort to avoid unexpected costs, HTC asked for Google to support returns if they was high due to accidents relating to using the app, however Google refused. In the end, HTC’s fears did not come to fruition, but this story reflects an unusual concern that resulted from a new capability, the accelerometer, being added to a mobile phone.
The T-Mobile G1 was designed by Mike Simonian and Maaike Evers who run an independent design studio, Mike and Maaike