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HTC G1 Cellphone
Choosing a Pocket Computer

Jim Carter, 2011-09-12

I have had my HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1 with Google) since 2009-03-26, about 2.5 years, which is several generations in the world of cellphones. The current operating system version, Android-2.3 Gingerbread, will not even fit in its storage, and Android-3.0 Icecream is expected in a few months. It is time to get a new pocket computer. So which one will I pick?


A lot of pocket computer activities depend more on operating system support than on hardware components. However, the point here is to pick the hardware. The lists below are organized around the hardware that supports the activities rather than grouped by function, downplaying the very important responsibility of the operating system to use that hardware effectively.

Calling Plans

A key decision in picking the phone is to pick the carrier, which then determines the modulation style (GSM vs. CDMA) and frequency. This table of mobile phone frequencies was provided by, selling cellular antennas, amplifiers and repeaters.

Band Actual MHz Function
800 824-896 Traditional cellular voice
900 890-960 GSM Europe/Asia
1700-2100 1710-1755 UMTS Band 4 (T-Mobile 3G)
2110-2155 Split up/down lilnks
1900 1850-1990 PCS
1900 1920-1980 UMTS Band 1 in Europe/Asia
2110-2170 Split up/down lilnks

The 800MHz band is often referred to as 850MHz. Virtually all North American carriers use 800MHz and 1900MHz for non-4G service, except T-Mobile runs 3G on 1700-2100 (split). LTE and WiMax are on 700MHz, 1700-2100MHz, or 2500-2700MHz (for Sprint XOMH).

Conclusion on frequencies: any phone should work (2G or 3G) on any North American carrier's net except T-Mobile. Internationally, adding 900MHz GSM should be sufficient.

Here is an overview of carriers in the USA, ordered by the size of their networks.

Verizon Wireless

Their network is CDMA. They have 4 generations of CDMA: IS-95, CDMA2000 1x, EV-DO, e-HRPT. They are adding 4G/LTE in some areas. They are the biggest carrier in the USA and have coverage in the most places; in particular, their signal is good at our house and the places we frequently go, including Redmond. It's understood that carriers are all weasels, but Verizon's customer service is a bit less weaselly than others. Their prices tend to be higher than competitors. My wife uses Verizon and coordination with her could yield savings.

AT&T Mobility

Their network is GSM (GPRS, EDGE) with 3G UMTS and HSPA (inclding HSUPA); plans to upgrade to LTE. All protocols are available on both the 850MHz and 1900MHz bands. They are the second biggest carrier and are financially secure. Nonetheless, their signal is poor at our house; I can transmit reliably but I frequently miss incoming calls. They are the champion weasels in the business; they lost a sale (of my wife's phone) because it was impossible to get through to a human to discuss the terms of sale (whereas a satisfactory arrangement was negotiated with Verizon). I am currently using AT&T because of their favorable pay as you go plan, despite the mismatch of the HTC Dream's 3G modem, see T-Mobile.

Sprint Nextel

They have two subnets, using CDMA on one and IDEN (800MHz) on the other, the latter being unique to them. They are phasing out IDEN. Due to the IDEN issue I have not formerly taken them seriously. They have aggressively rolled out 4G (WiMax) in Los Angeles. They claim to be the third largest net in the USA (after Verizon and AT&T). Their pay as you go plans are handled by several wholly owned subsidiaries such as Boost Mobile. Their Boost Mobile subsidiary spends a lot for advertising in Los Angeles. Their coverage map alleges a good signal at my house and frequently visited locations including Redmond.

T-Mobile USA

Their network is GSM. They do UMTS band 4 (3G) on 1700-2100MHz (split), unlike any other carrier in the world. Their parent is Deutsche Telekom. At present they are bankrupt, and they were negotiating being acquired by AT&T, but the Justice Department nixed the deal. They have adequate coverage and their signal is marginal, better than AT&T, at our house. Their customer service is not too bad. They had a favorable rate plan for the Sidekick product, but when they blocked the HTTP port (requiring to go through their WAP server) and I could not work around that, I fired them. Weasels!

Here are the calling plans from the various carriers; I'm focusing on those suitable for a low-volume user.

Verizon (Prepaid)

There are two classes of plans: monthly and daily. The cheapest monthly plan costs $45/month for 450 minutes ($0.10/min); $0.20/SMS; data $1/day of use (unlimited quantity) or $30/month for unlimited data (effectively the same). The daily plans do not include data, so are useless for me.

Verizon (Family)

Our present plan with one line costs $35/month for voice (300 prime time minutes plus unlimited night and weekend) plus $30/month for data.

For the multi-line plan, voice costs $70/month for 700 minutes split between 2 lines ($0.10/min if fully used). SMS $0.20 each. Data $30/month for 2Gb; not clear if this is per line, or shared.


They are my present carrier. I'm currently using their GoPhone plan with voice $0.10/minute, data $15/100Mb (feature package lasts 1 month), SMS $0.20 each. Effectively I'm paying about $16/month. There is an alternative with unlimited voice and SMS for $2.00 each day you use it, not counting non-SMS data.

Boost Mobile (Sprint)

Checking their CDMA coverage map, they claim to have Best coverage at my house but no 4G. Places I'm at in Los Angeles generally have Best coverage. Coverage in Redmond is also Best. Plans I would be interested in include:

Boost Mobile offers the Samsung Prevail (Galaxy series) for $180. This is the first time they've offered an Android phone. Reviewers are underwhelmed by this phone.


Their pay as you go plans all include: use of their network anywhere in the USA; voicemail, caller ID, call waiting. International calling costs extra (duh). Voice: $10 gets you 30 minutes or $30 gets 160 minutes (expiring in 90 days). And up. SMS $0.10 each in and out. They do not offer any data capability.

T-Mobile's monthly plans include the same features. $30 gets you 1500 minutes plus SMS (e.g. 1300 mins chat plus 200 SMS, or vice versa) and 30Mb data, rate limited to non-4G speed. Not clear what happens if I use over 30Mb data. If you go over 1500 mins+SMS you can refill (pay more); refills can be any dollar amount but it's not clear what you get for the money. $50/month gets you unlimited talk, SMS and data (1st 100Mb at 4G speed).

Summary of plans, showing the monthly cost I would probably pay:

Carrier Cost/month Modulation Comments
Verizon $75 CDMA Best coverage, exorbitant
AT&T $16 GSM Poor home signal, champion weasels
Boost Mobile $12 CDMA Only 1 Android phone
T-Mobile $30 GSM Bankrupt weasels

Conclusion: I'm thinking of switching to Boost Mobile (CDMA), but not with the Samsung Prevail.

Evaluating Pocket Computers

The following lists are filtered according to my required features: 5 row slider keyboard, field replaceable battery, hotswap SD card. Probably I should restrict to displays bigger than 3.8 inch diagonal. Also I'm restricting to non-ancient phones: introduced starting 2010-06-01.

These features are expected on any such pocket computer: WiFi, Bluetooth, rear-facing camera, wired headphones, GPS, accelerometer, magnetometer.

These features are nice, but not dealbreakers if absent: Dual GSM/CDMA, ambient light sensor, front-facing camera, notification LED, mini-USB or micro-USB charger.

These features are important but are not likely to be discernable in a compact summary list: nice sunlight readable display; competent voice chat, rain resistance.

Mfgr Name(int) Name(ext) CPU RAM/Flash (Gb) Display Cell Comments
Wikipedia's List of HTC Phones
HTC Espresso MyTouch 3G Slide Qc 600MHz 0.5/0.5 3.4in HVGA GSM Keyboard 4 rows
HTC Vision Google G2 Qc 800MHz 0.5/1.5 3.7in WVGA GSM
HTC Speedy Evo Shift 4G Qc 800MHz 0.5/2.0 3.6in WVGA CDMA+Wimax
HTC Lexikon Merge Qc 800MHz 0.5/2.0 3.8in WVGA CDMA
HTC ChaCha ChaCha Qc 800MHz 0.5/0.5 2.6in HVGA GSM Front + rear camera; only 124 grams
HTC Doubleshot MyTouch 4G Slide Qc 1.2Ghz X2 0.77/4.0 3.7in WVGA GSM Front + rear camera
Wikipedia's Comparison of Android Devices
HTC Desire Z G2 Qc 800MHz 0.5/1.5 3.7in WVGA GSM + WCDMA 4 row Keyboard
Moto (?) Atrix 4G nV 1GHz X2 1.0/0.0 4in QHD GSM + WCDMA Front+rear camera
Moto Sholes Droid (OG) TI 1GHz 0.25/0.5 3.7in FWVGA CDMA Keyboard
Moto Targa (?) Droid 3 TI 1GHz X2 0.5/16.0 4in QHD GSM+WCDMA 184 grams
Front+rear camera, 5 row keyboard, issued 2011-07-14

Legend: Name(int) is the internal codename; Name(ext) is what the carriers call it. Processor vendor codes: Qc = Qualcomm; nV = nVidia; TI = Texas Instruments. Display sizes: HVGA = 480x320px; WVGA = 800x480px; FWVGA = 854x480px; QHD = 960x540px.

Check out the Dell Flash: 800MHz 512Mb/512Mb, 480x800px(?) LCD. Dell's Flash, Thunder and Smoke do not have the keyboard I want, but if they did, they look intriguing.

About the Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy S II: Both of them may have dual mode radios. The version of the Galaxy S for Sprint, called the Epic 4G, has a 5 row physical keyboard. A year ago this would have been a wonderful choice, but it was discontinued in 2011-02-xx. All Galaxy S II's and most Galaxy S's do not have the physical keyboard.

Motorola Droid 3

Of the above devices, the new Droid 3 from Motorola meets my requirements the most closely. Let's look closely at it, particularly for any showstoppers.

Motorola Droid 3 Review by Engadget

Review by Brad Molen, 2011-07-21. Mass 184g, kind of heavy. (The G1's mass is 159g.) Nice, durable construction: metal edge frame. Gorilla Glass on screen. Micro-USB charger and HDMI port on left side. Power button and 3.5mm phone jack on top. Volume buttons on right side. Rear camera (with LED flash) at top right. You can get an inductive charger, replacing the standard back cover. Easily field replaceable battery. SIM and SD slot are under the back cover but not covered by the battery. SD card can be up to 32Gb (card is not included); internal flash is 16Gb. Processor: TI OMAP 4430 (1GHz dual core), 512Mb RAM, 1540mAh battery. 2 cameras: 8Mpx rear, 640x480 front. Does not have LTE.

The reviewer liked the keyboard. Neither bouncy nor rubbery; he thinks they're natural to type on. It has separate number keys on the 5th row. It has actual arrow keys. All programmer's punctuation seems to be there. Backlit keys. Also has Swype virtual keyboard, which worked out well for the reviewer.

Camera: jimc says the shots of kids in a park at dusk came out very well considering the low light level. No dedicated camera button. Camera app had no way to jigger contrast or exposure, and had bugs. Autofocus took longer than the reviewer would like, causing candid shots to be missed. Reviewer felt the colors were washed out in sunlight, ill-defined under clouds, and shadowy in low light. The Samsung Galaxy S-II camera does better. (Comment poster says: pay $4 for Camera360 app.)

Software: Motoblur is gone, no registration required. Too many long animations in the UI (2 to 3 secs, yuck). They do obey the no animations UI setting, though.

Battery life: Play video continuously, it will run 4hr 15min. It lasted 10 hours in active use.

Posted comments: Almost everyone loves the phone. There is an extended battery available.

Motorola's hype sheet on the Droid 3

CNET's review of the Droid 3

The Droid 3 has a locked bootloader. Check carefully if CyanogenMod can be installed. Some people claim to have rooted their Droids. This is the Sholes (original), not the later Droid models.

Verizon's unlock policy is 60 days. That is, 60 days after purchase they are supposed to tell you the SIM unlock code, so you can use a non-Verizon SIM in it. This does not relieve you of the obligation to pay under your contract, nor evade the early termination penalty. Which is fair since they're subsidizing your phone with $200 at least, up to $350, and they deserve to suck your blood long enough to get that back.

Call quality: Their reviewer found incoming voice to be muffled; he could understand the partner but it muddied the overall experience. Partners were generally happy with the results on their end. Speakerphone did well, clear audio and enough volume.

Cyanogenmod Status

Web links:

Pricing and Availability

This is all as of 2011-09-16. Ordered by relevance. Our target model appears to be the XT862 (see Howards Forum posting below).

Conclusion and Strategy

I'm going to fixate on the Droid 3 (XT862) because it is superior to all others in the required features. However, I will wait a few months for a CyanogenMod stable image to be posted, before actually buying the pocket computer. If CyanogenMod is slow to appear (and I doubt it will be), then I will get serious with other models.

I particularly need hands-on experience with these points:

Etc. Etc.

How to Unlock a Droid 3

Howard Forums: How to unlock a Droid 3 XT862 (Verizon CDMA) to work on GSM. Networks that it will work on: offers unlock codes (for a price). Procedure:

Gorilla Glass

About Gorilla Glass by Corning: It is an alkali aluminosilicate glass, fabricated by Fusion Drawing (Corning proprietary process), kind of like the Gaia butterfly ribbons. Grinding and polishing is not needed, avoiding expense and surface micro-damage. Typical thickness is 0.5mm. It is soaked in molten salt which exchanges potassium for sodium ions in a thick surface layer, expanding it and putting compressive stress at the surface versus tension in the center. This is similar to verre d'Arques, but caused chemically rather than by the annealing schedule.

Samsung Prevail

Boost Mobile (Sprint) offers the Samsung Prevail (Galaxy series) for $180. This is the first time they've offered an Android phone. Here's a review of the Samsung Prevail by Stephen Tenerowicz dated 2011-05-12:

This reviewer thinks the Prevail is an extremely attractive buy for budget-minded users.

Engadget's review of the Prevail (Dana Wollman, 2011-04-25) is less favorable: she thinks Boost Mobile's $50/month plan is a great deal, but is underwhelmed by the phone. Particularly, the touch screen was overly sensitive and twitchy, causing clicking the wrong link or control. Chat partners said she sounded tinny while the sound she heard was distant and muffled. (Wacked codecs? Inferior mic and/or speaker?)

Samsung's product page for the Prevail is totally useless; for example, on the specs page they don't even tell the display dimensions in pixels, nor the battery capacity.


I suspect without confirmation that the OG Droid, code named sholes, is named after Christopher Latham Sholes, the inventor of the first practical typewriter and the QWERTY keyboard. See this Wikipedia biography of Sholes.