At 117 x 55.7 x 17.1 mm the T-Mobile G1 is hardly the most pocketable phone you can imagine. It's even a bit bigger than say the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1, which certainly wasn't the most compact handset we have seen. On the other hand, it's a tad slimmer than the HTC Touch Pro so we guess the QWERTY keyboard does take its toll and that's that.
The weight of the T-Mobile G1 is the formidable 158 grams. Again, that stacks right between the XPERIA X1 and the Touch Pro to give you the first idea of how the phone fares in terms of size and handling.
As we already mentioned, the T-Mobile G1 has rather extraordinary design, not quite like anything else on the market. The tilted chin and the peculiar side sliding mechanism are the most notable design aspects. And by the way that's exactly where the whole design thing came to a complete stop. Whether it's a conscious choice to go low key and not distract the audience from what's inside, the G1 is as simple as it gets. And well, big enough to make sure it won't go unnoticed.
Most of the front panel of the phone is taken by the 3.2" 65K-color capacitive touchscreen. Being one of the key ingredients of the package, the display will be discussed in more detail a little later in this review.
On top of the display is the earpiece, while the chin below accommodates five hardware keys and a trackball.
The crowded (in touch phone terms) navigation deck includes call and end keys, home and back buttons and the menu key. Our only grudge with those keys is that they are a bit too small and flush with the surface for our big hands.
The trackball is certainly one of the most comfortable navigation solutions, even if it has its flaws too (in gaming for example). The trackball on the T-Mobile G1 is pretty good thing but just a little short of matching the comfort recent BlackBerry devices offer.
The thing is that the G1's trackball feels quite small and thus somewhat fails to match the lightning fast response of the BlackBerry Curve 8900 for example.
On the positive side, the G1 fared a lot better than the Samsung i550 which happens to be the only other trackball device we have tested in the recent months.
The sides of the T-Mobile G1 are pretty plain with less controls than we are used to. Starting from the right the only element of interest we find is the camera key, which is located just above the bottom edge of the device.
The left side hosts the volume rocker and the microSD card slot. While we are pretty happy with the volume controls, usability-wise the card slot is one of the worst bits in the phone's construction. It has a small lid over, which can only be lifted up (quite difficult too as the finger rest is really slim) when the slider is open. Furthermore, even when you manage to open it somehow the card is located too deep for a comfortably reach (unless you have inch-long fingernails).
On the positive side, in our test the T-Mobile G1 card slot handled a 16GB memory card like a breeze.
The top of the G1 brings nothing but the battery cover release… or something like that. The fact is, opening the battery cover is a pull-and-pray job where you pull as gently as you can and hope it won't crack.
The miniUSB slot is located at the bottom of the T-Mobile G1 hidden under a small plastic lid. The cover takes care of keeping the dirt and grime away.
Here might just be the place to mention a really peculiar behavior we noticed with the G1. Its touchscreen kept freezing every time we connected it to a computer by anything but its very own miniUSB cable or the one of the HTC Touch Diamond we had lying around. We suspect this has something to do with the proprietary 11-pin miniUSB port by HTC but the really strange thing is the HTC Touch Diamond itself never had such problems with non-proprietary miniUSB cables.