The T-Grid: T-Mobile’s G1 Android Phone vs. the iPhone

A first pass at figuring out how the superphone archrivals stack up.

By  |  Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 9:48 am

It was all but official for what seemed like an eternity. Now it’s just official, period: T-Mobile is releasing the G1, the first phone powered by Google’s Android operating system. It’s essentially impossible to not instinctively compare it to the iPhone 3G. With phones more than almost any other technology device, the devil is in the details, and the best thing about the iPhone–its incredibly refined user interface–needs to be experienced to be appreciated. So a real comparison of the two superphones will need to be a hands-on one.

Still, there’s some value in a simple features comparison. Here’s my first stab at one, with data from sources such as Gizmodo’s writeup of the G1. (What’s a T-Grid? It’s an at-a-glance comparison in this format, and we’ll be doing them on other topics as appropriate.)

Want to avoid reading the chart? The bottom line is that the phones share lots and lots of features. But the G1 is chunkier but has a real keyboard; it has a little memory (1GB) in the form of a replaceable MicroSD card rather than the iPhone’s generous fixed memory; and it’s much less evolved from a multimedia standpoint but does offer the Amazon MP3 store, which sounds good. Oh, and it’s based on Google’s open Android operating system rather than Apple’s decidedly non-open OS X–a fact that’s likely to be a defining characteristic, but it’s hard to say exactly how until third-party apps start to appear. And it’s clear that the iPhone 3G benefits from being a second-generation product–the Exchange support, for instance, only arrived with the iPhone 2.0 software.

[UPDATE! This chart is, I hope, full of answers; this post is full of G1 and Android questions I still have–and which might be on your mind, too.]

Without any further ado…

The phones
T-Mobile G1
Apple iPhone 3G
Google’s open Android OS
Apple’s proprietary OS X
October 22
Now, although supply is occasionally spotty
$179 with 2-year contract
$199 for 8GB model or $299 for 16GB model with two-year contract
Data plan
$25 a month for unlimited data and “some” messaging; $35 for unlimited data and messaging
$30 a month for unlimited data; $5 a month extra for 200 text messages
Yup, to T-Mobile
Yup, to AT&T
Brown, black, and white
Black (8GB and 16GB); white (16GB only)
Size and weight
4.60” by 2.16” by 0.62”; 5.6 oz.
4.5″ by 2.4″by 0.48″; 4.7 oz.
Screen size and resolution
3.17″; 480 by 320
3.5″; 480 by 320
Touchscreen and QWERTY under slide-out screen
Touchscreen with on-screen keyboard
Headphone jack
Proprietary (ack!)
Standard 3.5mm
MicroSD slot accepts up to 8GB cards; bundled with 1GB card
8GB and 16GB models available; no memory expansion
3.1 megapixels; no video
2 megapixels; no video
Quad-band GSM
Quad-band GSM
3G (UMTS with HSDPA, if you want to get technical) over T-Mobile’s 3G network, which is just rolling out
3G (UMTS with HSDPA, if you want to get technical) over AT&T’s less spotty but still limited network
Use as tethered modem?
T-Mobile sez no
Violates AT&T’s terms of service; tethering plan is rumored
Wi-Fi and GPS
Done and done
Ditto and ditto
5 hours talk time; 130 hours standby; removable
5 hours talk time; 300 hours standby; not removable
Web browser
Web-kit based browser
Webkit-based Safari
Web searching
Yes, via Google with dedicated button
Yes, via Google or Yahoo
GMail; other services supported through IMAP
MobileMe, GMail, Yahoo Mail, AOL; other services supported through IMAP
Microsoft Exchange support
Not yet
Instant messaging
Yes, Google Talk
Only through third-party apps
Yes, with Google Street View “compass mode” that shows street images that follow your movements
Turn-by-turn navigation
Apparently not
No, but may be coming from third party developer(s)
Music player and Amazon MP3 Store
iPod player and iTunes Store
YouTube; other options unknown
iPod player, YouTube; movies through iTunes Store
Yes, synching with Google Calendar
Yes, synching with MobileMe
Desktop synching
Yes, through iTunes
Application store
Yes, the App Market
Yes, the iTunes App Store
That’s my first pass–additions, corrections, and questions welcome. I’m adding and amending as I think of stuff and new information comes in…

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22 Comments For This Post

  1. jim Says:

    who cares?

    People are more concerned with their finances, job security etc… in the current credit crunch/meltdown…

  2. Damien DeBarra Says:

    No video recording? WTF?

    Anyone know what video formats are supported?

  3. Brian Says:

    A lot of people care. Its not the apocolypse yet. The majority of people still have their jobs, it turns out. Buying products helps stimulate the economy, anyways.

    What I *do* care about is: The G1 doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack (not compared). Also, what are GPS/Navigation features on the two? Does it do turn by turn directions and auto-update as you are driving?

  4. Harry McCracken Says:

    Brian: Good point on the headphone jack–I updated the chart. As far as I know at this point, the G1 doesn’t have turn-by-turn GPS directions…

  5. Dave S. Says:

    The Amazon MP3 store is really a killer feature for me. I use their service all the time. However, having to drop $30 on an SD card just get the same capacity as my iTouch is a little irksome.

    However, it really doesn’t seem like this device is meant to be an iPhone killer at all. For example, the whole set of your data basically lives in the cloud. It’s really the first major Cloud Computing phone. This intent is evident from the lack of desktop syncing software. Your contacts? Synced to Google. Mail? Synced to Google. Calendar? Synced to Google. Get the idea?

    I think that is really the big bet here. I’ll also be interested to see how the Android market grows. iPhone had a huge marketshare by the time they released the App Store, so when they announced it in February, developers were chomping at the bit to get their hands on the SDK. Android, however, released the SDK before the phone came out. This means that Google and T-Mobile will have to grow both developer momentum AND marketshare at the same time. This is a very bold, and interested move I think. Google’s name may be enough to excite people and get them interested (especially if they start featuring Android developers on their site, e.g. the front page), however it’s still a gamble. Man, I should write a post about this…

  6. Rob Says:

    Great list. I like the Amazon Store. Too bad that will never make it to an iPhone.

  7. mklp Says:

    Here ’s a video demonstration of the Android operating system and some of the applications from Google which are on it.

  8. Siamak Says:

    Harry, nice chart, but you may want to also mention Bluetooth and the fact that (as with the iPhone) there seems to be no support on G1 for Stereo Bluetooth headsets or Bluetooth keyboards.

  9. Relyt Says:

    So the G1 isn’t a revolutionary device. Fine. It is, however, a great start to Android. Finally Android will be on a phone and not just on a phone in-the-making! Android looks very promising, and Google I bet sez so too. AmazonMP3 is a great addition, although the non-standard headphone jack is a huge drawback. Overall it seems the iPhone and G1 shape up well to each other, although their specs are not exactly the same.

  10. Gary Says:

    Thanks for the table. I’d like to see a G1 Android versus the latest Windows Mobile HTC. That’s where I think G1 plays today. The Iphone no doubt is the consumer market ring bearer but I don’t see the G1 playing into the same market. It’s missing the music player and video slickness (based on reading today’s stories) – along with the obvious style attraction. It will get interesting if and when Samsung, LG, etc choose Android over WiMo or proprietary for their higher end devices.

  11. number1manfan Says:

    I don’t like that phone. It’s ugly, and bulky and slider type phones are just plain wierd. Try again T-Mobile. I won’t be wasting my money on this thing.

  12. TheCritic Says:

    The Tmobile G1 (android) has a wicked selection of blue tooth headphones aswell as bluetooth speakers very remarkable!! Also, the Android will have more software that’s way more advance than the I Phone which i currently own. It’s design is impressive and nice. With 3G and Edge both running simulataneously until 3G is fullfilled in every city. Also, a turn by turn voice map is being created, the price beats the IPhone contrary to the features, they’re now hooking up with Direct TV (a major killer) and their music player is friggin awesome, especially the gwerty board feature! This is only the beginning to what they have in store, but when it comes down to it… google softwares from android market place will be destroy the I Phone and it is a very revolutionary device that I will give up my IPhone to get after doing exclusive research!! Wow. Tmobile you’ve really done IT!!

  13. 1 Serious Advice Says:

    I saw the headphone jacks for the Tmobile G1 and it was awesome! I’m sorry IPhone, but you really have a serial killer on the loose!! The Tmobile G1. Go to this web address:

  14. Jason D Says:

    You should update the headphone jack part again.

    It’s not proprietary, it’s USB mini. Proprietary makes it sound like it’s that weird plug that the Samsung Upstage has that’s ONLY for Samsung. USB mini isn’t proprietary.

  15. Scott Says:

    iPhone and Android SDK terms prohibit turn-by-turn navigation. I hope that will change soon. This is what i really miss at both phones. Guess I have to stick to my Nokia N95 (Symbian) for navigation.

  16. TheGoodLife Says:

    This phone looks great…i am excited for the release…i dont listen to music on my phone…that is what ipods are for…so i dont get whay people complain about something so small…but thats ok i guess…the iphone may be a great phone…but it does not fit my needs at all…i really dont like it at all…the G1 is more of my type of phone…i text alot…so the keypad will work out well for me…also…the G1 supports picture messaging…which i do alot as well…so that fits me perfectly…in my opinion…this phone is directed more towards a younger audience with all of its messaging type features…this phone looks perfect for me and it is at a great price….i am really excited for the launch of this G1 phone…i am going to cancel my exsiting line with verizon and i will pick on of these up around the holiday season……….also..i am not compairing this phone to the iphone at all…i really dont care about the iphone at all…the iphone has its features and it fits some peoples needs…it does not do that for me…this G1 looks absolutely perfect for me and im excited for it…GO G1!!!!!!!!

  17. sarah lee Says:

    The features on this phone are pretty good but I wish it had AIM, aol messager. yahoo messager, and Msn messager. Than I think the phone would be a big hit.

  18. David Says:

    The most important is that G1 is using open source software! Do you know what it means guys?!!!

    it means in literally few hours Garmin, Tomtom etc will have their turn by turn navigation in shops!

    it means a lot of features to be developed and offered without asking anyone!

    its been a 6 month iphone 3g came out and still no deal with garmin and tomtom?! not even sign that apple will allow any! Why? Apple is banning it! asking for 70 percent profit!

    its time for apple to wake up! 3g will be the last phone they produced!

  19. Brandon Says:


    Just read your comparison and I like it better than some because it doesn’t seem as iPhone biased as the others.

    However, I found an error in your chart.

    I don’t know about the first gen devices, but the newer ones support up to 16gb of memory. Please update that so that no one gets confused.

  20. New Android Owner Says:

    Good comparison chart. My T-mobile contract was up for renewal so I went back and forth whether to get the iPhone or the G1. I went with the G1 partly because I didn’t want to switch carriers, but mostly because of a few key features:

    GPS – Big one for me. Why go by a TomTom or Garmin if you only use it once and a while anyway? The phone that had GPS in it meant getting more bang for the buck.

    ShopSavvy – This app and the others like it are awesome, I can price shop/compare items right in the store. It’s incredible. People get a kick out of seeing it work too.

    Google Integration – I use Gmail, and the other Google services quite a bit.

    The expandable to 16gb now is nice although it’s too bad it only came with a 1gb card in it.

    It’s a good phone, and I’m excited to see what the updates will entail.

  21. Anon Amos Says:

    I’m still deciding which one to get once I get enough money… They both have pretty good music players (good enough for me =p), 3g speeds are about the same, g1 is open source when iphone is not, iphone has normal headphone jack (not THAT big of a deal, because compatible headphones are included), g1 and iphone market are both about equal, iphone has better video player.

    Prices of service:
    Iphone: T-mobile G1:
    unlimited messaging and data: $50/month $35/month

    Theres a lot of rumors going around about the G1, that, when you go over 1gb bandwidth in a month, they bump your speed down to 50kb/s or less… Is this true?

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