Android Dawning: Richard Hay Remembers 2008-era HTC G1

Written by Richard Hay

The Android HTC G1 was the first Android phone. Google employees got one in December 2008. Our editor and Google engineer Richard Hay remembers. — I remember the first Android phone. It was the Android HTC G1 “Dream” Phone on TMobile.  Google gave one to employees — me, included — back in December 2008.

It felt like a bizarre experiment at the time. Funny that it was just five years ago. An eternity, really. Here is the material that came with it. Find a deeper look at that first Android phone below the fold.


The Android HTC G1 was an interesting curiosity.  Back then, I knew a couple coworkers who had some of those sturdy — and heavy — first generation Apple iPhones. But I was carrying a Blackberry at the time.  In December 2008, I’d been working for Google for a year and a half. I’d inherited my BlackBerry from a post I held as a field engineer at the job before that. The BlackBerry was familiar. A known quantity.

My first impression of that first Android device — the HTC G1 — was that it felt experimental. A buggy first generation beta device, to be honest.  I definitely didn’t switch out my BlackBerry for it. So my G1 never got an actual SIM to run on a carrier network.  I was on call, after all, and I had to get messages in a timely fashion.  So I stuck with my BlackBerry. It remained a curiosity.  A toy not ready for prime time. Yet there it was.


It bore a touch screen.  It has a slide-out keyboard.  It had a chin-angled bottom where the buttons resided.

Looking back at it now, I see it as a quality first stab at the future — and a real invitation to experiment.  The idea that Android would dominate Internet device operating system tech at the time was nuts. Crazy talk.

Check out the custom back cover made for Googlers with the staple “bugdroid” prominently featured climbing the digital mountain.


And check out the hideaway keyboard.


So just for fun and in honor of the Bay Bridge Lights awhile back, I dug out that old phone and took some pictures.

Here are a couple of samples. It was latent — so you had to hold it still for 10 seconds or so to get a clean shot.

Here is what the shot looked like when I held it still …


Here’s what happens if you shift just a bit.


It is still kind of pretty.

Anyway, it has been 4 years and 4 months or so since this phone came to me.  And I thought it would be fun to share it with everyone since this is the device that started it all — Androidwise — for me and a lot of my fellows at Google.


For, I’m Richard Hay.

Full disclosure: I am an engineer at Google and I typically stay away from writing pieces about Google to avoid conflicts of interest.  However this seemed like a harmless nostalgic post so I wrote a bit about my experiences with the G1 phone.