I don't want to kill anyone's Black Friday shopping buzz, or discourage you from buying the G1 as a holiday gift. But I have dedicated a lot of posts to pointing out the benefits of this phone, and it's operating system, Android. I think it's time that I cover some negative aspects of the device.
Most design problems become apparent over time, and may not be recognizable during an in-store test. They're not the kind of thing you want to be surprised by. So consider this a warning list of qualifiers from someone who is very happy that he bought the G1.
The chin gets in the way when you're typing. It is unavoidable... and annoying. I have the bronze version of the phone, and its silver keyboard has some issues that the black one doesn't. The light blue color used to label the keys is difficult to see in well-lit areas whether the back-light is on or off. The red color used for symbols is hard to see in moderate dark. So, outside of a pitch black room, pretty much every environment leaves some part of the keyboard invisible or hard to see. The keys are also too short in relation to the panel surrounding them. Touch typing is difficult, but I have made progress. If you are a hard-core texter, you may be frustrated by this odd QWERTY.
The camera is painfully slow. A lot can happen between the moment you press the button and the time the image is captured. On top of that, the shutter stays open too long; probably to compensate for the phone's lack of a flash. I usually can't achieve a clear picture without sitting down and resting my elbows on something. Even then, it sometimes takes me a few tries to get a shot without blur. The final product is good enough for messaging, emailing, or loading into the frame that sits on the Android home screen, but not much else. That level of photo quality is good enough for most of what I (would) use it for, but the shutter delay is a serious problem.
EDIT: Please see my comments on battery life after the post.
I can drain the phone's battery in a few hours. I can make it last all day as well, but not by using the features that make the thing worth owning. It's like having a stereo that doesn't sound good until you turn it up loud enough to blow the speakers. Even when I'm not pushing the G1, I really feel some pain there. This is probably my biggest complaint.
EDIT: Please see the user comments on adapters after the post.
The charge/data transfer jack is also shared for audio output. This is a lovely design for simplicity's sake, but a significant problem for me. Because I run down the battery so quick, I like to have the G1 plugged in whenever possible. I use it in bed every night, watching videos before I sleep. If I forget to unplug the headphones and plug the charger in, my alarm might not go off in the morning. Are there any adapters that split wires out to separate jacks for each function? I can't find one. I'd use bluetooth for audio but it wouldn't be in stereo, and that's just one more thing to charge.
The microSD card may be hot-swappable, but it's very difficult to access.
There is no task management application. The user can switch between apps, but cannot end one. If you used the browser for 5 minutes last Thursday, it's probably still running, unless you've rebooted. Android decides when it needs more memory and closes applications appropriately--at least that's the concept.
In reality, when the G1 has been used for an extended period, it lags. I'll hit the home button, and see my wallpaper for 5 seconds before the icons appear. That's how I know it's time for another reboot. It happens far too often, even if I am a "power user." Too bad, really. I'm smart enough to know whether or not Tetris should be constantly running in the background for days on end, and I should have the option to kill something when Android won't.
I still think It's a great phone
Just in case I've destroyed your holiday, I'm going to close the list with one major strength of the G1 (in addition to the countless pros listed in every other G1 post I've written).
I can't tell you how many phones, MP3 players, and even external hard drives I've purchased that are supposed to function as a USB mass storage device, but don't. Most of the time, I get home from the store to find some proprietary Windows setup utility, and realize that the gadget is totally inaccessible without Windows XXXX or some tedious hacking. The G1 truly operates as a USB mass storage device. I plug it in, and it is painlessly mounted as a drive. It doesn't matter if I'm running Windows Vista or Ubuntu Hardy Heron. I haven't tested on a Mac, but Google says it just works.
I bought the G1 because I couldn't wait to see what Android felt like. I looked past the flaws I knew about and accepted the fact that more would turn up. It came down to the screen, because that's what stands between the user and the OS. The G1 has a *killer* screen. If you or your giftee is super-excited about Android, buy the G1 for Android, not for the hardware... but only if you need it now. The next "G-phone" can't be too far off. I have some very minor qualms with the software, but nothing a new body couldn't make me forget about until a major software update.
EDIT: Thanks to user feedback, I will be following up on this post once I've had some time to test out the suggested solutions.