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HTC G1 Cellphone
Purchase and Setup

Jim Carter, 2009-03-30


Carrier Strategy

I am very unusual as a cellphone user. A girl in a cartoon once asked, Can I borrow your phone? I have unlimited minutes on my calling plan but I used them all up. I'm the opposite: if I use 20 minutes in a month I'm being unusually chatty. On the other hand, when I do make or receive a call it's important to me.

Before buying the G1, I had an AT&T GoPhone (pay as you go) account: voice USD $0.10/minute plus $1.00 on each day that you use the phone; data $0.01/kbyte; a payment of $25 expires in 90 days. Feature packages (lasting 30 days) are available that considerably reduce the cost of data. I used the data feature by connecting to my Nokia 6126 cellphone via Bluetooth (DUN) from the Nokia N810. Because of the multi-device coordination and the worry about expense, I only used this data path in unusual or emergency situations.

However, the G1 has an intrinsic data capability and I expected (correctly) that I would want that side of the phone's personality to be a pleasure to use. In fact, as this is written I have had the phone on the net for only two days and I've used more data than in an entire year via the 6126. Also, AT&T runs UMTS (3G) data in the 1900MHz band, unlike most world carriers which use 2100MHz. The G1 can do UMTS (3G) on 2100MHz and 1700MHz (T-Mobile uses both), but not 1900MHz. Thus on the AT&T net I am restricted to EDGE (2G) technology and speed. T-Mobile, as well as AT&T, has reasonable coverage in the areas I am often in. Therefore I have changed carriers.

T-Mobile offers a variety of full-service and full-price cellphone plans that include data service. They also sell a line of smartphones collectively called the SidekickTM. This is the kind of smartphone that the G1 and BlackberryTM compete with directly: within their walled garden they offer PIM-type services such as e-mail, contacts and calendar. Of course to use their servers you need an actual Sidekick running their software. Of most interest to me is the Sidekick to Go plan. The terms are USD $0.15 per minute for voice, and $1.00 per day for unlimited data including SMS. A SIM card costs $10.00 in stores or $6.50 online (AT&T gave me a SIM for free). This rate for data is almost the same as for a data add-on to a normal voice plan. Unlimited is limited to a few gigabytes per month. In 2008 the Sidekick to Go plan was almost the same except you got charged $1.00 only on days you used the phone.

The only question was, is the Sidekick truly a walled garden that forbids generic data transport? It turns out -- see below -- that at least with the data services I've tried, T-Mobile gives access to arbitrary ports on arbitrary networks. This is what I want, and so I'm going to stick with T-Mobile as my carrier.

Update: Starting about 2009-08-10, T-Mobile requires on the Sidekick plan that all web access (ports 80 and 443) be through their proxy, which does the WAP thing and also suppresses images, in line with the capabilities of the actual Sidekick. See Sidekick details here.

If I were travelling abroad I would probably not use the roaming feature; instead I would get a pay as you go plan from an in-country carrier. As an example for a future trip we're possibly considering, if I visited the UK, Vodafone UK offers a free SIM, GBP £0.20 per minute for voice (not exactly cheap), and an internet add-on plan on a nonlinear scale of £0.50 per Mbyte for the first 2Mbyte in a calendar day, free up to 15Mbyte, and £2.00 per megabyte over that.

The Purchase Process

Turning On the Phone

W Phone Open E
Compass Directions
(click for larger image)

First, some nomenclature. The G1 makes extensive use of X-Windows RandR (resize and rotate): when the display is closed it is in portrait orientation while when opened it flips to landscape. Thus, which is the top of the display? When I say east I mean the end of the phone where the buttons are; west is the end with the speaker slot and grille; north is the long side with the small camera button near the east end; and south is the other long side with the +- volume control rocker. Front is the face with the display and back is the other face.

Warning: To do the following procedure you must already have a SIM card for which generic data transport is authorized. It would appear that AT&T allows all customers to use data, but the cost is exorbitant unless you have a data plan or a feature package. I was not able to determine if T-Mobile has the same policy, but I made sure my SIM was pre-authorized and paid for.

Here's a summary of the procedure:

Following along in the setup guide: The first job is to install the SIM card and battery. Actually, the first puzzle is to get the back cover off. It covers the whole back of the phone and grabs on by hooks at each end and side. Open the display by sliding it north against spring pressure. Now the hook at the west (keyboard) end is exposed. Pry it away from the keyboard in a westerly direction and it will let go. It will help to wedge a fingernail in the crack between the keyboard and the back cover. Gently persuade the cover to separate from the body. There are additional hooks at the midpoints of the long sides (e.g. near the M key on the south side) and if you wedge a fingernail in the crack nearby, the cover will let go.

The cover is made of ABS plastic. There is a plastic film inside over the backside speaker holes, so if fluid were poured on them it would not go right in. This is not to say that the case is actually waterproof, nor that every aperture is sealed; in fact, the east end of the display looks particularly vulnerable to liquid.

Hold the phone with the open back facing you and north up (writing correctly oriented). At the northeast corner is a bridge over the SIM slot with an outline of a SIM card on it. Orient the card as the outline shows and slide it under the bridge.

Similarly orient the battery (with the HTC logo up) so the contacts will connect to the phone, and slide it into place. There is a cutout for easy fingernail removal. The battery likely has little charge when shipped.

Replace the back cover. Notice the camera and the cover's viewport for it; match those up. Connect the hooks at the east end (where the SIM card is). Then close the west end; it will attach easily, unlike getting it off. Finish by pressing down the hooks on the long edges, if they didn't grab by themselves.

To charge the battery: At the east end of the phone is a plug cover. Pry it off; it is on a little tether; be gentle with it. Both the 11-pin connector and the mini-USB power connector can be accepted. (Can a mini-USB data connector function? Yes, it does, both for data and for power.) Plug the charger into mains power. The quick-start guide says to charge for 3 hours. When the phone is charging a red light appears at the north end of the speaker slot at the west end of the screen, and it changes to green when charging is complete. It also flashes green when the phone feels frisky.

Initial setup procedure:

Links from Research During Setup

Revision history: