The world changed five years ago when the HTC G1 launched

by: Andrew GrushOctober 22, 2013


On September 23rd we officially celebrated Android’s 5th birthday, as it was on that fateful day that Android and the HTC Dream (aka G1) were unveiled to the masses. Let’s not forget the significance of October 22nd, though.

One month after the announcement of the first Android handset, the Dream would arrive to T-Mobile’s 3G-enabled markets as the HTC G1, and the mobile world would never be the same.

When tech reviewers first got their hands on the HTC G1, most reviewers came to the same conclusion about the first “Google phone”: The phone itself was a decent enough device, though nothing particularly amazing either. The real excitement was in the long-term potential of the Android platform.

CNET probably puts it the best in their original review of the handset back in 2008:

Though we’re not in love with the design and would have liked some additional features, the real beauty of the T-Mobile G1 is the Google Android platform, as it has the potential to make smartphones more personal and powerful. That said, it’s not quite there yet.

How right CNET was. The HTC G1 was a door opener and marked an important shift in the mobile world. It’s hard to believe that only five years ago Windows Mobile, Blackberry and the iPhone were considered the de facto leaders in mobile.

While many folks knew that Google was about to change the world, few would have guessed that Android would not only overthrow every other mobile OS, but that it would become a powerful platform that would exist on multiple different types of consumer devices including phones, tablets, set-top boxes, watches, televisions, micro-consoles and even car navigation systems.

Today Android has been activated over a billion times. Sure, that’s not the same thing as a billion active Android users, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Even more amazing is that Android’s growth seems to be expanding, not slowing down.

Android then, Android now

Nexus 5 press image

Google’s upcoming ‘flagship’ Android device, the Nexus 5

When the HTC G1 arrived, it ran on a primitive version of Android that featured the Android market, basic Google services and a layout that wasn’t exactly user friendly in the way that today’s stock Android is. In fact, it was interface shortcomings that really allowed custom launchers and themes (like Touchwiz and Sense) to take off.

Hardware was also considerably weaker, as to be expected. The G1 represented the “flagship” Android experience and ran on a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A CPU with a platry 192MB RAM, and 256MB internal storage. In these days, the ONLY camera on the device was a 3.15MP shooter, and you could forget about extras like IR blasters and NFC – though there was GPS and an accelerometer.

Compare that to the upcoming Nexus 5 flagship or any other high-end Android device, and you’ll quickly realize that much truly has changed in such a short amount of time. Not only has the hardware running Android evolved dramatically, but so has Android’s feature set and UI.

The T-Mobile G1 might have been an important step forward, but it’s hard to deny that both its hardware design and software were ugly, buggy and nothing like the beautiful operating system that we see before us today.

The big question now is where will be in five more years? How will the Android – and the mobile landscape in general – have evolved? Will smartphones still be prevalent or will devices like smart watches and Google Glass steal their thunder? We may not know the answer to that question, but we are certainly more than excited to watch it all unfold.

  • MasterMuffin

    The big question is off-topic: will you do a big comparison between Note 3 and Lumia 1520? Maybe even Z Ultra and One Max too, a big phablet showdown! BTW I know that Lumia isn’t an Android device, no need to comment that people :)

    • Grman Rodriguez

      Lumia isn’t an Android device c:

  • asdf

    Honestly in 5 years, Google will either mess up and Android will become like symbian OR Google will get it right and Android will be the dominate operating system for smartphones and computers.

    • NeedName

      do they really have to “get it right” in order for it to be the dominant operating system? I mean, I don’t see how Windows was every “done right” and it dominated.

      Pretty sure it has to do with:
      A. marketing
      B. price of entry to customers and OEMs

      • asdf

        its kinda opinionated, but every other windows version was pretty much getting it right

  • Victor Meira

    And there you have it! The first Nexus.

    • alleyway

      We need Android birthday celebration to be held all around the world every September 23rd. :D

  • Yoni Infante




  • Junaid Ansari

    It’s funny. I’m using this phone as a spare phone at the moment while I wait for the Nexus 5

    • Alex

      My friend bricked his newer Motorola phone and had to go back to the G1 for a moment until he unbricked it. He is also waiting for the N5 haha.

  • Jesus Domingo

    Come on guys, mobile world changed by this device? Android is awesome and all, but let’s not kid ourselves. I think the “changed the mobile world” belongs to Apple.

    • Cesar Ortiz

      Because iOS has changed so much over the yearsss!! right…

      • Jesus Domingo

        That’s a really solid argument there. It’s so right to the point I have to give up.

        • Cesar Ortiz

          Thanks for recognizing my argument. I know you don’t have anything to say.

          • Cretu


          • Cretu

            And to specify, Cesar would be the moron here. Get your facts straight. What you said is opinion.

          • Cesar Ortiz

            Calling me names and trying to correct me in something that it is actually an argument. But if it makes you feel better, Why not?

          • IOS is for winners

            Who let you out of your cage again?

    • adam evans

      True! The original iPhone and iPad change the world . but then apple did little else exciting . I think the best iterations are the 1st iPhone for setting the standard for all modern smart phones. The next would be the 5s because they finally added a new feature and finally make the is look less crappy !

  • joser116

    Let us not forget that, with those 1 billion Android activations, Google does not count all of the Android phones activated in China, where Android is number one in marketshare (Google only counts devices with access to the Play Store, and Chinese Android devices lack the Play Store).

    • Andrew Grush

      Very good point.

      • joser116

        I just noticed you were the writer of this article. I have done a little research. Latest numbers from IDC indicate Android owns 90% of the Chinese smartphone market. The Chinese market is currently made up of more than 464 million users (this is a July number from the China Internet Network Information Centre). Using basic math, I have estimated that there are currently over 417,600,000 Android users in China.

  • n11

    I thought iphone was supposed to win and the only thing that road-blocked that was the exclusivity with AT&T?

  • Thorsten Hollander

    I still have my G1 and hold it dearly. Of course I don’t use it any more, but I would never give away the first Android phone ever. I loved the keyboard, and the screen flipout mechanism is fun and rock solid.

    Unlike my later Android phones, I never rooted this one or put a more modern ROM on it, and there was just one update, from Android 1.5 to 1.6. Makes me wonder, are there any recommendations for a lean and mean Gingerbread ROM for the G1?