G1: First out of Google's door, and it's first-rate

The Google phone is now the second phone I've forced myself to put down so I could get some sleep.

The first was Apple's game-changing iPhone.

What remains to be seen is if the Google phone will have the same impact as Steve Jobs' beauty. I can say this: It deserves to be part of the same conversation.

Called the T-Mobile G1, it went on sale late last month.

The phone's debut is significant because Google, like Apple, has the muscle to change an industry. The G1 is the first of what is expected to be many phones using Google's Android open-source platform.

Is this G1 better than the iPhone?

The G1 is better if you like a physical keypad to tap out messages. If you're enamored by the iPhone's multitouch controls, the G1 may not impress you.

The G1 is an attractive phone, even if it is thicker and heavier than the iPhone. It's intuitive, too. In the week I've been testing it, I have yet to open the manual.

The G1 runs on T-Mobile's new 3G network and is largely controlled by a touch screen. There are three ways to navigate: touch, a keypad and a trackball. I completely overlooked the trackball at first. But when I handed the phone to my wife, a BlackBerry user, the first thing she did was use the trackball.

“BlackBerry users gravitate toward the trackball,” said Rhone Rarick, T-Mobile's senior brand manager. “Younger consumers gravitate toward the keypad because they like to text a lot.”

Four hard keys sit on the bottom of the phone. The keys are for making and ending a call, one for the home screen and a back button.

Activation was a snap.

The iPhone remains the sexier product. You won't buy the G1 because it wins the beauty contest. But as Google's first phone, it's impressive.