Fight Night 2008: Diamonds vs. Androids
Remember a few weeks ago when I reported that my Samsung Blackjack had an unfortunate run-in with a clumsy waiter and a glass of water? If so you will probably remember that I was taking suggestions for new phones to purchase. Being the undecided gadget enthusiast that I am, even after I decided to pick up the HTC Touch Diamond from Sprint, a company which I loathe, I decided to pick up a T-Mobile G1 as well. I figure if I am going to be stuck with one of these devices for the foreseeable future, I better put them to the test and see which one comes out on top and in the process expand my mobile gadget horizon.
After playing with the T-Mobile G1 since I first picked it up bright and early at 8:00am and playing with the HTC Touch Diamond all day yesterday and today I can easily say hands down the T-Mobile G1 is so much more usable than the HTC Touch Diamond. There are some things I really like about the Touch Diamond and the TouchFLO 3D interface truly is beautiful. Unfortunately I have found the TouchFLO 3D interface to not be very practical and the device itself to be fairly unusable for my needs. After using a Windows Mobile Standard device for years on end and being accustomed to the streamlined layout which allowed me to get to whatever I needed with one hand quickly - jumping over to the cluttered and highly frustrating old school Windows 95 tap based interface of Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional just filled me with pure rage. Why in the world does everything that triggers a reaction in the operating system have to be so darn small and hard to press?! Can someone PLEASE explain that to me!? Even with a stylus I spent a large majority of time thinking to myself "Really? Someone thought this was a good design idea…Really?"
I spend a lot of time emailing and texting on the go and even though I didn't realize it at the time, looking at my bill I seem to be the type of person that uses over 1500 SMS messages a month. Who knew? Seeing as how I am always emailing and texting, I quickly realized that the Touch Diamond was going to take some getting used to. I often found myself hitting the wrong key and taking more than twice as long to hammer out a SMS than it would have taken me on my Samsung Blackjack. I know the Samsung Blackjack had a really tiny keyboard, but after using it for the past two years I could crank an email like nobody’s business. Touch based keyboards are good in theory; as they help keep device size to a minimal, but they are in no way whatsoever a true replacement for something you can physically feel the different key heights and textures.
The T-Mobile G1 on the other hand includes a very snazzy keypad which is actually really pleasant to use when the device is not charging. Once you connect the USB cable into the bottom of the device, using the keyboard can be a bit of a pain but is nowhere near as slow and tedious as using the HTC Touch Diamonds on-screen QWERTY keyboard. Out of every QWERTY keyboard enabled device I have ever used, I would rate the T-Mobile G1 up there with the Motorola Q9(insert random letter here)
Screen and Size
Both devices have a very bright and vivid screen that just jumps out at you. The T-Mobile G1 has a larger screen, which is to be expected with a phone of that size. While the T-Mobile G1 is also a pretty hefty device, in images and in person, it is actually not too shabby. It has a good weight and it feels fine in my pocket. Not too big, not to small and not to heavy. The HTC Touch Diamond on the other hand is in my opinion the perfect size. It is small and compact and as you can see from some of the comparison images below, it is not that much bulkier than my current Samsung Blackjack if you include the Samsung Blackjack's camera into the equation. It feels a little heavier in my pocket, but besides that the size is absolutely perfect.
[The T-Mobile G1 in the flesh... or plastic!]
[The HTC Touch Diamond. Image is probably larger than actual device. This device is tiny!]
To be completely truthful, when I original saw just how tiny the HTC touch Diamond was, my jaw dropped a little. Sure we have all seen images of this device online but you have to see this device in person to truly understand how tiny and perfect it is. You just can’t tell from images because no one ever puts the devices next to anything for scale… besides maybe another device that you might not be familiar with in person. This is why I snapped some pictures of the T-Mobile G1, HTC Touch Diamond and my Samsung Blackjack all next to one United States dollar. See for yourself, this thing is tiny!
[HTC Touch Diamond and T-Mobile G1 side profile]
[HTC Touch Diamond, T-Mobile G1 and Samsung Blackjack required stacking picture]
[Size comparison of T-Mobile G1, Samsung Blackjack and HTC Touch Diamond in relation to the a US Dollar bill.]
EV-DO vs. HSDPA vs. Wi-Fi
This really doesn't have anything to do with the devices themselves, but their respective networks that they are on. I constantly hear people going on all the time about how fast EV-DO is. I would like to go on the record and state that while EV-DO might be considered "speedy," it is still ridiculously slow when compared to HSDPA, even on T-Mobile's newly launched HSDPA network here in Portland.
However if you can hop onto a local Wi-Fi network it doesn't matter which carrier your handset is on. Wi-Fi connectivity is blazing fast on both handsets and really easy to set up. If it wasn't for the fact that it eats away at your battery's power supply like crazy on both devices, I would just recommend leaving it on all the time.
Web Browsing and Services
Since I am discussing speed and the Interweb, I would like to point out that both devices were on par when it came to browsing the web. So much so that minus this tiny little blurb I won’t go into it at all. If you’ve used a Desktop web browser before, than you are pretty much familiar with using the browser on either of these devices. Both browsers, Opera on the HTC touch and WebKit on the T-Mobile G1, are the top of their respective classes.
Both devices have easy access to services such as YouTube, but I did find it incredibly amusing that the RSS reader that is included with the HTC Touch Diamond is already programmed to pull the RSS feed from Pocket PC Thoughts! It saved me the time of loading it up in there. Whoever was the genius that did this, you deserve a pat on the back! Good job!
Both devices took some pretty acceptable pictures but the HTC Touch Diamonds camera so far has blown the T-Mobile G1 out of the water. The images taken with the Touch Diamond are a little washed out but really nice for images taken by a camera phone whereas the T-Mobile G1's images have that classic "drown everything in orange" thing going for it like HTC cameras of old. It is nice to see that some things from HTC haven't changed over the years.
[A picture taken with the HTC Touch Diamond]
[Same picture taken with the T-Mobile G1 in the same lighting conditions]
Battery and Power
So far I appear to receive great battery power on T-Mobile's HSDPA network with the G1. The HTC Touch Diamond on the other hand is a completely different story. I played with the HTC Touch Diamond for a good half hour after turning on the device for the first time until I was notified that I needed to charge the handset. Unplugging the fully charged Touch Diamond from the wall this morning and using the device to check my email - which is just painful in the touch based version of Outlook Mobile - browsing the web and doing my usual routine of reading news, my battery was down to 73% in less than an hour! So far I have charged it twice today. Once at 11am after unplugging the device at 6am and once at 3PM. I don't know about you guys, but I work for a living and cannot afford to stop what I'm doing every few hours to charge my phone. This is just unacceptable HTC!
The T-Mobile G1 on the other hand lasted a good 2.5 hours on the initial programming charge that comes with new devices with me doing more web browsing and emailing then I was capable of doing on the Touch Diamond.
I won't know for sure which device gets better battery life until I have played with them for a few more days to a week, but so far the T-Mobile G1 appears to trump the Touch Diamond many times over in this department.
The HTC Touch Diamond is slick and pretty but the fact of the matter is Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional is just downright torturous to use, at least for me. Sure it works, but working and being usable are two totally separate things. For starters, for the life of me I could not get the darn alarm on this device to snooze this morning. No matter what I pressed or where I tapped/slapped/hit/screamed at, it would not be quiet! I eventually had to navigate to the alarm system menu and uncheck the alarms I set just to get them to shut up. Now granted, it would have probably been easy as pie to figure this out if it wasn't 6AM, but when it is that early in the morning and you're half awake in a pitch black room, is it too much to ask for a few brightly colored giant buttons that say "snooze" and "dismiss?"
I just do not understand why you can press a slew of buttons on the Windows Mobile Standard side to shush your device when it is annoying you but you can't do the same thing in the Professional version. This right here is one of the biggest flaws with Windows Mobile. Even experienced users cannot easily transition from one platform to the other. You would think some project manager over there in Microsoft would have thought that it would be a good idea to make these operating systems more similar than different, but apparently they decided to spend all their time making incredibly small and unusable check boxes and "OK" buttons in the top right hand corner of the screen. Smooth move Microsoft!
Now the T-Mobile G1 isn't perfect by a long shot. For starters, there is no Exchange support which means I had to import all of my contacts from Outlook to Gmail via a CVS export. Not to terrible, but extremely annoying. Also if I want "push" email, I have to use a Gmail account... which is stupid since it doesn't really push at all but that doesn't stop T-Mobiles staff from telling people it does. There is however an application that will allow you to sync your Exchange contacts with Gmail but no matter how I set it up, it tells me my username and password is wrong - which they are not. My guess is this is because my Exchange server isn't the Exchange 2007. Also from what I can tell, there is no task manager at all. The Android platform is suppose to manage all of your system resources for you since consumers do not want to mess around with that kind of stuff... but not including a task manager that can allow you to kill an application on an open source platform where a lot of the applications I have downloaded and tried are fairly buggy and crazy and cause the device to slow down or the application to crash just seems downright stupid. Sure, it is an open source platform so someone will build a task manager eventually, but you would think due to the nature of the device and the encouragement of tinkering with it that they would provide you with a kill switch to save yourself from something stupid that you might do.
Google does have the upper hand in building their operating system from scratch with current advances in technology and design in mind so companies such as HTC do not have to put together brand new resource intensive user interfaces to have the deal with the dated user experience of the Windows Mobile Professional operating system. Once again I pray to the Windows Mobile 7 Powers That Be to please step up to the plate and do something, anything, to make windows Mobile Professional easier to use. I just don't understand how Microsoft can create something that is fun to use like Windows Mobile Standard and completely fail on the touch screen aspect of it. The differences in usability between the Standard and Professional platform is just confusing. Would it really be that hard to integrate the research that was used to make the Standard platform usable and easy to manage with one hand into the Professional platform? They’re based off the same base code for Pete's sake! Why do they have to be so different?!
Like I mentioned before, I haven't had that much time to really sit around and play with both devices, but from what I have seen, even with the flaws that are currently present, the T-Mobile G1 just feels like a more put together operating system and is way more polished usability wise than the HTC Touch Diamond, which makes me really sad since I have been pining over the HTC Touch Diamond since after it was released. The HTC Touch Diamond feels like a sandwich with way to many ingredients stacked on top of each other and spilling over the edge. It is still an incredibly tasty sandwich but it is just too messy for me to want to eat everyday for lunch. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Microsoft addresses all of these problems with Windows Mobile 7, but I am not holding my breath. In the meantime, I do plan on keeping my water damaged Blackjack around as I really love the Windows Mobile Standard platform.
Oh and I almost forgot - the HTC Touch Diamond is a smudge magnet. You can't even look at this device without it smudging up somehow. That might not be important to some users, but if you hate smudges with all of your heart like I do this could be a huge deal breaker for you.
Rocco Augusto is the Managing Editor of Smartphone Thoughts and owns and operates Skimbee Studios - a small Web Development studio based out of Portland, OR. When Rocco is not up to his elbows in gadgets and technology, you can usually find him trying to keep up with his incredibly peppy and energenic daughter who he has lovingly given the nickname of "Tiny Tornado."