Android takes more than a leaf out of Apple’s book

Web giant Google has shown its hand. At an event in New York City this afternoon, representatives from Google, T-Mobile and HTC showed off the first commercial device based on the Android platform – the T-Mobile G1.

There wasn’t much to reveal about the hardware – an HTC unit with touchscreen and trackball as well as a slide out QWERTY keyboard. 3G HSPA, EDGE and wifi provide the connectivity along with GPS, while the camera weighs in at 3 megapixels.

The software wasn’t much of a surprise either. The G1 comes packed with Google apps including Google Maps with Street View, Gmail, Google Talk and YouTube, as well as a full HTML web browser and Amazon’s MP3 store.

One of the cool features was the way Google Maps syncs with the GPS to allow users to view locations and navigate 360 degrees by simply moving the phone in their hand.

On a negative point the email client only interfaces with Gmail, naturally, as well as most other POP3 or IMAP mail services, leaving corporate email using Exchange etc. out in the cold. When questioned, Google said this leaves plenty of room for “third party development”.

The biggest surprise, but probably an obvious one in hindsight, was the announcement of the Android Market, which is a similar platform to Apple’s iPhone App Store.

The Market is accessed directly from the handset and allows users to browse for and download new applications. Initial offerings include a comparative shopping application, ShopSavvy, which allows users to scan the UPC code of a product with the phone’s camera and instantly compare prices; and a couple of geo-aware apps, which allow users to track their movements and plot new routes.

The gadget hits shelves in the US on October 22 and consumers are able to pre-order the device already. It will cost $179 with a two year voice and data agreement.

The other surprise was that the G1 will also be available in the UK in November, and across Europe in the first quarter of 2009, with confirmed countries including Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

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