These days we are spoiled for choices when choosing a new smartphone. Especially if you are looking to get an Android phone. It seems a new phone is always coming out every day. However, if you were out shopping for a new smartphone back in September 2008, you only had the first iPhone and Android’s only HTC Dream, or as popularly known as the T-Mobile G1 in the US.
The HTC Dream was the vehicle that brought Android (stock Android) into the world of electronics consumers. It was the first real competition Apple’s iPhone had; the first iPhone being launched a year before (2007).
The phone came with a slide-out keyboard, dedicated phone buttons, trackball, and sloped chin. It was quirky compared to today’s Android smartphones. However, it was these quirky features that made the cornerstone of what Android has morphed up to be these days. A flexible operating system that can adapt to a wide range of hardware to meet any individual’s needs.
The HTC Dream was born out of necessity
In the few years leading up to 2007, it dawned on Google, that the world is increasingly becoming mobile. As much as people were running internet searches on their desktop computers, they increasingly wished they could have the information on mobile devices while they are on the go.
Google made its best attempt to make its services available on mobile devices that dominated the market then, the Symbian, Windows Phone, RIM, and iOS. That business model was cumbersome for Google, as the company’s CEO Larry Page explains it:
“We had a closet full of more than 100 phones and were building our software pretty much device by device. It was nearly impossible for us to make truly great mobile experience.”
Apparently, that model was not sustainable, and Google decided to marshal up all the smartphone OEMs at the time and in November 2007. Established the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), which is a consortium of major stakeholders in the mobile industry who work together to “accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience.”
It is then that Google came up with the open-source mobile operating system Android, which was free for all, and the OEMs in the OHA program took it up to power their devices. Then Google services was centered at the heartbeat of mobile devices coming out of OEMs who signed up for the OHA program.
The first prototype Android phone to come out of the program were the likes of BlackBerry-esque Sooner. However, Apple’s iPhone was becoming a hit in the market, and the few Android phones simply could not much up to the competition. It became clear to Google that the market was leaning towards touchscreen devices, as opposed to the physical buttons the likes of BlackBerry were producing.
That is when Google and HTC partnered up, and the Taiwanese manufacturers released the HTC Dream. A phone that brought together Google, HTC, and T-Mobile. Google was handling the software, HTC the hardware, while T-Mobile made sure the phone was compatible with the complex cellular data networks that were existing in the US.
Come September 23rd, 2008, The HTC Dream or T-Mobile G1 was released to the world. When you think about it, this phone was the first Nexus phone, the precursor of the now Google Pixel handsets. It came with pure stock Android, and Google was directly involved in making its software from the ground up.
Also, it was the G1 that brought the following features to the mobile computing world:
Copy and Paste
3rd party keyboard (after the Android 1.6 update)
Predictive typing (also after Android 1.6 update)
Home screen widgets
Believe it or not, the iPhone at the time did not have most of the features mentioned above. Even the basic ones like Copy and Paste, home screen widgets. HTC Dream gave the iPhone a fierce run for its money that Apple had to copy these features just so they can keep up.
No doubt the specs were horrible, comparatively speaking. Today’s Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium has 4.25 times sharper display than the G1 (806 ppi vs. 180 in G1), the OnePlus 6 has 42 times the RAM capacity, and the Razor Phone has four times the battery of the G1. Interestingly, you can fit up to 27 screenshots of the G1 into a single screenshot from today’s Google Pixel 2 XL.
The slide-out keyboard and mechanical buttons are extinct in today’s smartphones. The trackball met its natural death about the same time T-Mobile MyTouch 4G came out (that was the last flagship phone with a trackpad).
These days the craze is all about the screen size, so much so that OEMs are competing to produce as bigger screen as possible with as little bezel as possible. The G1 has a 1.5-inch bottom chin, compared to the now bezel-less smartphone, that seems like a lot.