Image by Aaronage via FlickrMy T-Mobile G1 finally got the over the air update from T-Mobile about an hour ago today. The changes are subtle but welcome, prettier icons and refined colors which nice use of shading and 3D effects—particularly in the notification and launcher drawers. The locked screen now displays the usual carrier, time, and date information on top of your wallpaper instead of over a black background. In the phone application, the Call log, Contacts, and Favorites items look a little better and are slightly better organized. Adding and editing contacts has always been fairly clunky on the G1 and the Edit dialog box addresses this problem by adding plus and minus buttons which allow you to quickly add and remove information which was previously buried under sub-menus.
The most noticeable additions would seem to be the virtual keyboard and voice search. The virtual keyboard works about as well as you would expect, which is to say not particularly well but it's nice to have it for quickly entering a few characters without opening the G1's physical keyboard. Voice search has mixed results at best, a search for "palm pre" was interpreted as "palm tree" and "cancrete" while searches for "t-mobile" and "sprint" were interpreted correctly.
One nice improvement is the improved use of the G1's accelerometer. Before, the only way to get the G1 to switch from portrait to landscape mode was by opening the keyboard. The web browser also had a menu item for switching the orientation. Now, with Cupcake, there is a global system setting which allows the G1 to flip its screen orientation automatically in most applications when you physically rotate the phone. This is great for the web browser but does not work with the desktop or the dialer (it does however work when editing contacts). While the automatic orientation switching is a fraction of a second slower than opening the keyboard, it is far more convenient.
It's still too soon to say if this new system software makes the G1 any faster or more stable but the improvements it brings are definitely welcome and make the T-Mobile G1 a better phone.
Update: I just discovered another great feature brought by the Cupcake update. The browser has now enabled copy and paste. Hit the "Menu" key and select "More." Then tap on "Select text." Highlight the text you want to copy and it will automatically be copied to the clipboard. Outstanding!