opinion


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.

The fact that so much was known about the device already, probably robbed it of much of the hype that normally surrounds a launch such as this. There was also a distinct Apple-y feel to the promotional video that was used to showcase the gadget – and that’s not where the similarities stopped. But more on that later.

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.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the SideKick when I saw the device in action, which given its heritage, isn’t surprising, even though it is made by HTC. But by this token, I can’t imagine it doing particularly well in Europe. It has too much of a ‘North American market’ look to it.

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.

But all of this is superfluous to what the platform means to Google, particularly in light of the recent launch of the Chrome PC web browser. It’s just another pipe for Google to push its services – and hence its adverts – down. And in this respect Google probably doesn’t give a monkey’s what it looks like, or how much manufacturers rip off Apple. As long as there’s many and varied devices out there serving up app and ads, all is well.

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.

Another 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.


Android G1


4 comments

  1. Avatar sadoway 23/09/2008 @ 10:02 pm

    oh i want one so bad. but im on telus in canada

  2. Avatar Manuel 24/09/2008 @ 2:42 pm

    How long will the battery last?

  3. Avatar CAT 24/09/2008 @ 8:49 pm

    Sidekick, yes a good point on that.
    I found it to look much more like a Nintendo (Gameboy or the “Braintrainer” gadgets from Nintendo) at least for the white one 😉

    This is also something probably very appealing in Japan, but (including the braintrainer after the Gameboy hype went away) hardly visible in Europe.

    As there is no German or other European language (even Spanish! Big Mistake in California ;-/) supported by the 1.0 Android OS (and unless the virtual keyboard, it won’t be on the keyboard either 😉 Apple may not have to worry for a few months at least.
    Let’s see, what some of the leading HW vendors like Samsung, LG, Texas Instruments or Motorola all OHA members do later this year or after Christmas?
    Sure some people might feel tempted, but neither are there enough devices on stock, nor is it really mature enough yet to call it more than a POC and early prototype (those who buy it are more or less “Early Adopters”, “Friendly Customers” or “Pilots” like Nokia calls them in a program I wrote there similar to the Marketplace and App Community 😉

  4. Avatar willyharbs 25/09/2008 @ 8:16 am

    How about instead of the superfluous physical key board, do like nintendo did with the DS and have 2 touch screens which would mean you could have a customisable keyboard to suit every application.

    still- it may not solve the problem of not being able to see the keys on tiny mobile key boards.

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