Android getting virtual keyboard

One of the largest complaints that I have noticed is the lack of an on-screen keyboard on the T-Mobile G1. The answer to everyone’s prayers, an on-screen QWERTY keyboard, will be released in Q1 2009.

One-handed text messaging, email and instant messages will finally become a reality thanks to Android roadmap. One question that arises in our heads is, just how fast will you be able to text with an on-screen keyboard? The G1 does not support multitouch and we find that there is a little delay when using the dialer. Still, people who find the need to flip the G1 open each time they type rather annoying will love this shortcut. The site reads: “At the moment, Android does not support any virtual keyboard, but that may soon This feature will enable support for input methods other than physical keyboards, for example soft keyboards. IMF will also enable application developers to provide IME (see below) applications based on the framework. Input method engines (IME) IME will support soft keyboards, a dictionary of suggestions, and a suggestion algorithm. The Android platform may contain few reference IMEs, and developers can provide IME applications through the Android Market.” [Via HTC Source]

Android interface that did not quite make it?

It is always exciting to see what concepts and revisions current phones went through before they were released into the wild. Although it is a very rare occasion, one company that had a chance to work on an Android interface is showing one of their works of art on their website. Tat is a Swedish software technology and design company that enhances the experience of users mobile devices. They have brought the "WOW" effect to over 240 million mobile devices worldwide. Tat proudly shows their latest concept demos including a demo for Google's Android in their Show Room. We are still unsure if Tat had anything to do with the current Android design and layout, but it is sure fun to imagine. In this demo we see much of what we do now in the Current version of the Android operating system. A few tweaks here and there make the layout seem familiar to even iPhone owners, the "dock" at the bottom of the screen too closely resembles that of the iPhone. We want to know what our members think, is this real? Do you think Google should have gone with a interface more like this one?

Android Community Week in Review – Week 42 2008

What a week it has been for Android Community. We started off with a story about T-Mobile selling 1.5 million G1 handsets already in pre-orders. T-Mobile has refused to comment on these numbers, suggesting that they are far too high. Logically, if the actual numbers were the same as reported or higher, T-Mobile more than likely would have happily taken the credit. We also got the chance to put out the first ever exclusive Android Community hands-on G1 review!

We were really excited to be able to completely go through and test the G1 this past week. We found the G1 was very small and sturdy in your hands. The user interface was amazingly responsive and easy to navigate. Applications such as TuneWiki and ShopSavvy (formally known as GoCart) still have me in awe. However not everything about the G1 was something to celebrate. The battery dies extremely quickly, we have been led to believe that it is the lack of a way to end background processes such as applications. We have found that GPS does not work in all cities. We were able to quickly find our location in Scottsdale AZ, however the G1 was not able to locate positions in Manhattan NY. We are not sure if it is a firmware issue or network issue. Google has a killswitch in their operating system that can disable applications remotely "just in case". Unlike Apple with the iPhone, Google was very upfront with letting the public know about it. Motorola hinted that the new 350-member Android team is working on a social networking based Android-powered handset. Information about this handset came from an ad placed for a position on their Android development team. Microsoft may one day bring their Flash-equivalent to Android with their Silverlight program. This would be a large advantage for the Android platform over the iPhone which currently does not have Flash. Handango will be the first to bring both free and paid applications to the Android Market. This is good news for new G1 owners who are looking for popular applications such as Garmin turn-by-turn directions. Many mobile gamers will be happy to know that games such as Spore may be on their way to the T-Mobile G1 very soon. Not many people use Gmail to synchronize their contacts, the vast majority of people use Microsoft Exchange to manage their address books. Out of the box the G1 does not support Exchange synchronization, but it didn't take long for Wrike to create an application that will sync your Exchange contacts to your phone. Currently it only supports one way synchronization, but they promise to soon have two-way functionality. Here at Android Community we have had a lot going on, our community member Designdawg has created what now is our site banner. We were so impressed that we even made a few limited-edition shirts using the design. We are just about to wrap up our Golla G1 case giveaway. We have had 11 winners so far, the last contest winner will be announced on October 22nd, the day the G1 is set to launch. We also held the official Android Community G1 launch party in Texas, hopefully a real treat for our members; the lucky few close enough to take part got to meet the people behind Android Community and some walked away with some really nice prizes. Photo courtesy of Android Community member heyitsnan.

Android Community site updates

There has been a lot of growth with Android Community the last few weeks. Our members have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the first Android-powered handset the T-Mobile G1. The forum has just exploded with news today that the G1 has already been shipped and people may be receiving their G1 a little early.

We have been running several contests recently, the most recent of which is the Golla G1 Case Giveaway. We have been giving a case away every day from October 8th till the launch of the T-Mobile G1. We would like to take the time to thank our premier sponsor Smartphone Experts for sponsoring the Golla G1 Case Giveaway for us. Come on down to our Android Community G1 launch party on Saturday October 18th in the Dallas/ Fort Worth Texas for a chance to meet with Vincent, Ewdi and myself (refused9150) as well as many of our local members. We will be serving food and drinks as well as giving away prizes to our community members. There will be a few very important people attending this event with us, to celebrate the launch of the T-Mobile G1. As many of our users have noticed we have a new banner for our site with the logo "Have you evolved?". We would like to extend our deepest appreciation to DesignDawg for creating this for us. We loved his design for the Signature contest so much that we even decided to print a few limited edition Android Community shirts.

T-Mobile G1 Powered by Android Review

October 16th, and we're finally allowed to tell you what we've wanted to say for the past week: the T-Mobile G1 is a very good cellphone indeed. The first handset commercially available to run Google's Android platform and, with the exception perhaps of the iPhone 3G, the most anticipate mobile device launch of the year, the HTC-made G1 has a lot riding on it. Not only is it T-Mobile USA's flagship 3G handset, it's the first time Android has been seen outside prototypes and pre-production hyperbole. Can the G1 live up to it? Check out the full Android Community review to find out.

The form of the G1 is both familiar and new at the same time. Familiar because we've seen the gradual progression from part-glimpsed HTC prototype, because of the sense of familiarity with SideKick handsets, and new by virtue of its surprisingly clean design. It's 158g weight sits well in the hand, heavy enough to feel solid but not so much to feel cumbersome. Flip open the arc-curved side-sliding touchscreen and you'll find - or perhaps not even notice - that the handset has been weighted so that it doesn't topple backwards. That much-maligned 'chin' section, angled with the trackball and buttons, nestles into the curve of your hand and goes unnoticed. Under the hood, a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A processor lends the G1 its grunt, paired with 256MB ROM and 192MB RAM. HTC have given the handset dualband HSPA/WCDMA in the US (1700/2100MHz) or single-band in Europe (2100MHz), capable of supporting up to 7.2Mbps downloads (network depending), together with quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE. There's also WiFi b/g, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR and GPS, as well as a digital compass and accelerometer orientation sensor. Users are faced with a breadth of input options, including a full QWERTY keyboard, 3.2-inch 320 x 480 HVGA capacitive touchscreen and trackball. Get used to flipping out the keyboard, however, as Android v1.0 lacks an on-screen keyboard beyond basic the numeric pad for dialing. Thankfully the G1's 'board is well laid-out, five-rows of letters and dedicated number keys, together with useful shortcuts to key applications. Shortcuts can also be user-programmed, to any number or letter you so wish, whether a pre-loaded app or something downloaded from the Android Market. Our only criticism would be the keyboard backlighting, which could definitely do with being brighter. The touchscreen is even more of a success. Unlike other HTC smartphones it uses a capacitive panel, similar to that of the iPhone, responding well to even gentle touches. It's a shame, then, that it's not capable of multitouch, which remains an iPhone exclusive in cellphones at least. Still, the G1's interface is very quick, with no long load times or pauses as applications load. The home screen is neatly laid-out and straightforward to customize, and can be as complex or as streamlined as you choose. Here the G1 edges ahead of the iPhone, with Android's freedom to add any variety of contact cards, picture frames, apps and widgets to the home screen and its folders. Along the top of the display sits the notification bar, a well organized way to view SMS, MMS, email, IM and download notifications, among others, as well as a list of recent activities similar to that found at the top of the Start menu in Windows Mobile. Also similar to the Microsoft mobile OS, and an unwelcome decision at that, is the absence of a task manager to end background applications. Android promises to manage which software is closed and which stays open, but we'd rather it was more draconian for the sake of battery life. All those secretly active programs take their toll, via background processes, on the 1150mAh Li-Ion battery. As far as we can tell, the only way to shut apps down completely is to power-cycle the handset. In a way, the lack of manual closing makes the G1's absence of lag, even having opened several programs, all the more surprising. Anybody coming from Windows Mobile, used to watching their smartphone crawl to a sluggish halt as cycles and RAM are monopolized, will be impressed with how responsive the G1 remains. In fact, the only app crashes we observed happened well in advance of the G1 slowing down, with only a message warning of an instability that requires the program's restarting. Generally, though, for a first-generation device the G1 - and Android itself - is remarkably stable. Whether closed in the background or not, software picks up exactly where you left off, and the speed of start-up makes the transition around the OS pretty seamless. Google's search history (if you'll pardon the pun) has culminated in one of the most useful features of Android on the G1, in the shape of the dedicated search key. Accessible at any time, it makes searching for files significantly faster than straight browsing, and its consistency across applications means it soon becomes an instinctive action. There's no way to search cross-app, however, so you can't for instance browse through documents while in the media player, only media content. You'd also expect a Google-branded product to excel at internet browsing, and here the G1 is a mixed-bag. Based on the same open-source WebKit engine as the iPhone, Nokia's S60 browser and others, it's full-HTML compatible and handled most any site we pointed it at. Navigation is via a combination of the touchscreen and the trackball, with a Nokia-style magnification window (which shows the position of the current view in terms of the page as a whole) when zoomed-in. Magnification is neither as slick nor as smooth as on the iPhone, a point where the absence of multitouch is a real drawback. Instead, you swipe across the screen with your finger, which summons up a virtual lens with which to focus down on specific sections. It's workable, but nowhere near as intuitive as on Apple's device. Another shortcoming is the bizarre lack of integration with the accelerometer: rotating the G1 does not rotate the screen, you're forced to slide out the keyboard in order to do that. Finally, cut & paste only appears to work with URLs, not text anywhere on webpages, and there's no Flash support at present. Of course, Google's other forte is messaging, and the G1 ships with a full breadth of IM compatibility including Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live and Yahoo! Messenger, all of which can be logged-into simultaneously and remain so in the background. New messages are flagged up on the notification bar and done so relatively discretely, so as not to distract too much from whatever app you're currently using. Frustratingly, though, the different providers are all grouped separately, meaning your MSN contacts, say, are in a different list from your AOL buddies. That can be preferable on the desktop, where you're more likely to differentiate and organize your social groups, but on a mobile device we'd have preferred to see at least the option to integrate all contacts into a single online/offline list. Still, you can see the golden touch of ex-SideKick Andy Rubin in the IM experience as a whole, as it's one of the more - if not the most - successful on a mobile device. Different conversations are easily switched between, and the keyboard comes into its own for rapid pecking. That ease of use continues into the SMS/MMS client, where messages are threaded into conversations and send seemingly instantaneously. Photos are courtesy of a 3.2-megapixel camera with mechanical autofocus, the latter being something of a rariety in a mobile device. It lends the G1 a far more professional feel, more like a compact digital camera than an afterthought. Half-pressing the dedicated camera button focuses the picture, fully-pressing it fires off the shot. Images themselves are crisp, if a little on the light side, but decent for a cellphone; all the more frustrating, then, that in the absence of a flash dimly-lit areas are often impossible to photograph. At present the camera will only take still photos, not video. The G1 relies on microSDHC cards for storage, and is compatible with the latest 16GB models for iPhone-equalling capacity. The slot itself is hidden underneath the rear cover, as is the SIM slot, but unlike the SIM you're not required to remove the battery pack in order to switch memory cards. Some might prefer a more accessible microSDHC slot, but anyone who has accidentally dropped several gigabytes of content will confirm that, when it comes to memory cards the size of your fingernail, safety outsts a few seconds time-saving. Add a card and the G1 automatically locates any music, pictures and video stored on it. Choose a file and you're asked which app you want to play it with; if it's a video, you'll have to make a trip to the Android Market first, though, as the pre-installed Android media player can only handle audio files. Playback is via a wired stereo headset - which requires an HTC breakout dongle, as the G1 lacks a dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack. At this time, the G1 does not support A2DP stereo Bluetooth, but should after a future firmware update. We paired a number of different hands free Bluetooth headsets with the G1 and experienced no problems at all. A nice touch is that, when listening to music, you're given the option to search for the video in the standalone YouTube app; only problem is, switch away from the video and it automatically pauses, so you can't use it as a streaming music player in the background. We've mentioned the Android Market several times, and Google's answer to the Apple AppStore holds its own on the G1. The application database is intelligently managed; the entire list of available software isn't fully synchronized every time you open the Market, only the new titles, and it keeps track of which you've already downloaded and/or installed. Applications you download are installed to the pull-out menu on the home screen, in alphabetical order, keeping it both tidy and well-organized. Google seem to be taking a different stance to Apple in their management of the Android Market: unlike on the iPhone, apps will go through no vetting before being available to download. Instead, a review & rate system is being implemented, where users score and comment on downloads. The plus side to that is the range of titles (Apple have a habit of pruning out what they don't think is "suitable" for their cellphone) and the speed at which updates can be posted; the negative is the potential for malware or poorly coded apps to get onto at least a handful of devices until the software can be flagged up as harmful. When installing a new app, Android flags up which services - camera, network, GPS, etc. - it will use. That way, the user can judge whether the software is going to do what it claims it will, or something nefarious. It's useful, but it assumes a degree of understanding that many users just won't have. In a way that's unusual for Android, because you can tell Google have tried hard to make it approachable for entry-level users. The settings menu has easy-to-comprehend descriptions, and the synchronization summary clearly shows which items are up to date and which have encountered problems. Meanwhile the applications manager - with the frustrating exception of a kill switch - runs through how much space each program takes up and what it's properties are. It's an area that Windows Mobile, with its multple, convoluted settings screens and seemingly endless tabs, would do well to learn from. If a key motivation for picking up a new cellphone is the extent to which you can impress friends and family, you'll be pleased to know that the G1 has just such an app. Android obviously includes Google Maps for Mobile, but they've given it some extra wow-factor with compass-enabled Street View. Hold up the phone with Google's street-level photos loaded up and, as you physically turn around, the on-screen representation does so too. It sounds like a gimmick - and indeed it can be, if you're using it to justify your new purchase to your spouse or bank manager - but it's also a handy way of figuring out which way to go at an unfamiliar intersection. When you're finished panning around places you used to live, or stalking ex-partners, the GPS quickly locks on and gives straightforward, accurate directions. Of course, at its heart the G1 is a phone, and one intended to show off T-Mobile's 3G network to boot. Call quality is, thankfully, excellent, both normally and through the loud, clear speakerphone. T-Mobile's 3G network has surprising reach, too; although the carrier is only really promoting Phoenix and New York City as flooded with their high-speed access, we had no problem getting a 3G signal in San Jose, with next to zero dropped calls. In fact, it'll be battery life that curtails your use of the G1, not the network. Despite the sizeable power-pack, with heavy use the G1 only lasted 2-3hrs. That's a mixture of voice calls, internet browsing, GPS and media playback, but it leaves us doubtful that the handset would last a full day if used in earnest. Our suspicion is that it's background processes putting their demands on the battery, and we wouldn't be surprised to see a software update pushed out sooner rather than later which attempts to manage that better. Hopefully an aftermarket task manager will also make a speedy appearance. You can charge the handset either with the included AC adapter - which takes about an hour - or via a USB connection to your PC or Mac; the G1 shows up as a removable drive, to which you can drag media or document files. While we're talking about frustrations, the G1 is a real fingerprint and grease magnet. Like any phone with a large display, the glass smudges readily; however the entire G1 seems particularly prone. With no screen protectors to hand, we resorted to cutting up an iPhone protector and using that. In judging the T-Mobile G1, you're really coming to two conclusions. The first is of the handset itself, while the second is more about Android as a platform. That's going to make things tricky, and you'll no doubt read plenty of reviews and opinions basically claiming Android falls down because the reviewer doesn't like the G1. Happily, we've been impressed - and surprised, even - on both counts. The T-Mobile G1 certainly isn't perfect - you definitely need a second battery if you're a power-user, the capacitive touchscreen is great but, without multitouch, seems only half used, and the app management needs either a stern talking-to or a user-accessible way to kill running processes - but it's very, very good. HTC, T-Mobile and Google have said that they set out to design a true internet-enabled mobile device, and they've done just that. The G1 will inevitably be compared to Apple's iPhone 3G, but it represents a sightly different angle on the mobile experience. Where the iPhone is, by virtue of Apple's omni-present controlling hand, a relatively closed system (and no less successful, or attractive, for it, mind), the G1 panders instead to those who would prefer something more tweakable, more customizable. Android, meanwhile, has exactly what it needs: a device on which to showcase its features and tempt with the promise of what's to come. Again, it's nowhere near perfect, but it's also version one; think back to the first iPhone experience, back even further to the early stages of Windows Mobile, and then recognize that Google have poured - and will continue to pour - masses of investment into making this platform work. Owners of the first G1 handsets will undoubtedly profit from that investment, upgrading and taking advantage of new drivers, new software and new third-party hacks; in fact anything the open-source community can come up with. We're excited by the T-Mobile G1 in a way we haven't been by a mobile device in a long time. It might lack the drool-inducing instant allure of the iPhone 3G, but it counters that both with usable, thought-out abilities today and real promise for tomorrow. Android and the G1 are no iPhone-killer, but they're certainly a game-changer. Unboxing T-Mobile G1 (Birds eye view) [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RWdINrq_S0[/youtube] Setting up T-Mobile G1 [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOw65-jb1Xk[/youtube] T-Mobile G1 Hardware walkthrough [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak8gv5T84e8[/youtube] [gallery] Unboxing T-Mobile G1 (facing us) [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfcqCG-oulY[/youtube]

T-Mobile USA Update On T-Mobile G1 Pre-Launch Availability

Here's the latest official response from T-Mobile pertaining to the T-Mobile G1 pre-launch availability.  If you didn't pre-order the T-Mobile G1, you are now OFFICIALLY SOL.

Given the great anticipation and the heavy pre-sale demand for the T-Mobile G1 with Google, we nearly tripled the number of phones initially available for delivery on our Oct. 22 launch date, and have sold through them all.  However, to accommodate additional T-Mobile customers who want to pre-order a device, they now have the opportunity to place a pre-order through Oct. 21, for delivery at a later date.

Also, people can still pre-register on the T-Mobile G1 Web site to be notified prior to launch where they can purchase the device beginning Oct. 22.  Details are available on the T-Mobile G1 Web site, www.T-MobileG1.com.

UPDATE: T-Mobile customers who want to pre-order a device, they now have the opportunity to place a pre-order through Oct. 21, for delivery sometime in early November 10th time frame. Thanks Kristen, T-Mobile Spokesperson

China working on TD-SCDMA 3G Android Phone?

We have heard very little thus far on Android coming to other countries. The largest operator of mobile communication services in china, China Mobile Communications (China Mobile), may introduce the first Android to China. They plan to include outsourced production by Taiwan-based High Tech Computer (HTC) who made the T-Mobile G1.

China Mobile is the only mobile operator in China to join the Open Handset Alliance (OHA). China Mobile and Google, Marvell, China-based software developer Borqs International formed a technology alliance in September 2007 to promote a Linux-based open mobile system (OMS), integrating mobile applications specifically for the China market, the sources indicated. China Mobile had originally planned to have an Android-powered handset by the end of 2008, with Borqs developing OMS applications. The development of OMS applications has been behind schedule forcing China Mobile to postpone releasing a handset until the second quarter of 2009. Alternatively China Mobile may ask HTC to offer an Android handset by the end of 2008 before creating OMS handsets, these Android devices possibly will support China's TD-SCDMA 3G. HTC plans to set up subsidiary in China to promote cooperation with China Mobile. [Via Digitimes]

T-Mobile G1 pre-order has come to an end [Updated]

Update: Pre-order is back up.  Thanks A-Tron!  We heard from our friends at T-Mobile today and here's the official statement:

"The T-Mobile G1 microsite experienced a technical glitch this morning, and is now back up and running.  Since Tuesday's announcement, we've experienced heavy demand for the device.  A small quantity of T-Mobile G1s are still available at this time for T-Mobile customers. Please visit http://www.T-MobileG1.com for details." -thanks Kristen!

Note that there are only a small quantity of the T-Mobile G1s are available.  That means if you want a G1, you better hurry because T-Mobile is running out! With the overwhelming response to the announcement of the T-Mobile has run out of available devices for the G1 pre-order. Hundreds of people immediately jumped on T-Mobile's site to pre-order their device. So many in fact that the site was down for several hours.

G1 YouTube, AmazonMP3 and Settings video walkthrough

YouTube is very clean and easy to navigate. The dark interface gives a really nice touch when reading through descriptions of videos and looking through thumbnails to find what you are looking for. Video loading times seemed to be the only drawback of this application - possibly due to the WiFi and 3G networks in the test area being overworked - but were quickly made up for with video resolution and easy controls. There does not seem to be too much to rave about the settings menu other than the clear settings descriptions helping the user know what each setting category is about. The layout includes a symbol to the right of each option that quickly and easily informs the user as to wither a specific settings is on or not. The “about” page includes a lot of detailed information about your device and usage including Battery Status, Battery Level, Signal Strength, Network and Kernel Version to name just a few. Similar to iTunes for the iPhone, Google is offering a vast library of songs for download while on the go thanks to a collaboration with Amazon. Users who currently use Amazon will find the interface familiar; the layout is very simple in comparison to iTunes. Song descriptions include the artist, album cover art, album, song name rating. Amazon even allows a brief preview of each song before you purchase. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kngcp0ooDig[/youtube] [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSCOGxh5LEk[/youtube] [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3omdLHn6YM[/youtube]

G1 pre-loaded goodies: Demo Video

The G1 comes pre-loaded with many useful applications including Google Search, Maps, YouTube, Gmail, Contacts, Calendar and IM. Sing in just once with you Google account and it will automatically synchronize all of your applications. You can even protect your data with a secure “lock pattern”. A drag down status bar that holds all of your notifications is extremely useful without getting in the way. This bar displays new text messages, email, calendar events, instant messages and more. When a text message comes in, the status bar will give a brief preview of the message. Contacts are easy to search through and locate. A few simple clicks and you can locate a contacts address on a map for directions. You can the location in satellite or street view as well, making it easier to visualize an unfamiliar location. Navigation is made easier with a built in accelerometer, giving a compass option to help - turn the phone, and the mapping automatically turns with you so you always know which way you're facing. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7qbPa1O8Ys[/youtube]
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