Requiem for the G1

Today saw T-Mobile finally retiring the venerable G1, forerunner to the ongoing Android revolution. I’ve been using a G1 since launch, so this is an emotional moment for me. Let’s just take a quick trip down memory lane out of respect for a solid phone.

The HTC G1 had its first peek in technical drawings back in August of 2008. Its pricing and availability was rumored a few days later, and it was spotted in the wild and leaked by T-Mobile a few days before the official launch. We philosophized, we tested, and eventually we reviewed.

I bought one right away; I was due for an upgrade and I was using a Samsung Trace at the time, not exactly smartphone material. Maybe I was falling for the hype — but at least I didn’t buy a white one. Two years later and those things still look dorky. Unlike many others, though, I was of the opinion that the G1 was a decent-looking phone. A little thick, sure, but I thought the keyboard was great, the buttons were well-placed and responsive, and the screen never failed me.

Of course, it shipped with what we all think of now as practically pre-beta software. There were bugs, it was ugly, transitions were disabled to save CPU cycles, and there was hardly anything in the way of apps. Oh, and the battery life was pretty awful. But it didn’t take long before a few OTA updates brought improvements to this larval smartphone OS.

Before long I was running 1.6, and looking forward to 2.0 — little did I know that I’d hit the end of the line (unless I felt like ROMing it, which many have done). But you know what? I haven’t minded one bit. The apps I needed worked well, and many of the cool improvements rolling out from Google trickled down. Now’s not the time for an ode to Android, but it has been fun watching it grow.

The handset itself, I have to say, has exceeded my expectations. Everyone thought that this thing was going to fall apart. The sliding screen had everyone rattled, but mine is still as springy and snappy as the day I bought it. The keyboard, which some people didn’t like, I have always found comfortable, though I’ll be the first to admit that the chin does get in the way; you can tell a pro G1 user by the lopsided thumb-work. It’s also one of the few phones that can stand on its head, though I only discovered this a month ago:

One thing that did fail was the USB port cover. Why they felt it needed a flimsy rubber cap is beyond me, that thing broke off like a year ago. The MicroSD flap would have too if I took it out more than once a month. But none of the many falls, skids, and crushings ever did anything but take a bite or two out of the bezel.

And now the poor thing is being put out to pasture (replaced by the capable, but gauche, MyTouch 3G Slide). It may still have life left in it for Android fans and hackers, but nobody in their right mind would pay a nickel for one today at the T-Mobile store. I feel it had a hard life — neglected by the tech elite for its palpable lack of panache, and feared by the public as a phone for nerds, it was unfairly maligned yet loved by those who took the chance. Farewell, sweet G1! You will be missed — as soon as I find a decent replacement.