New Google Android Phone Unveiled
The Open Handset Alliance, comprised of Google and 33 other companies, unveiled the new G1 phone which operates on Google's open-source Android system. The phone will initially be released by T-Mobile for $179 (based on 2 year contract), and features a large touchscreen which slides up to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. Other features include mapping software using Google Maps, a web browser based on the same software as Chrome which can display web pages full-size, email and instant messaging capabilities, and its open-source software which allows for third-party add-on applications.
A few potential problems have been identified, though:
* Neither Google nor HTC nor T-Mobile will ship any sort of desktop-synchronization software with the phone, so your only way to get your address book and calendars onto the G1 will be to upload them to Gmail and Google Calendar. I can't believe that these companies are leaving a function this basic as a "third party opportunity."
* The G1, like the iPhone and T-Mobile's Sidekick, will have its SIM card slot locked to prevent the use of other carriers' subscriber-identity module cards. So if you don't like T-Mobile's network here or its roaming rates overseas, you'll either have to suck it up or hope somebody "jailbreaks" this phone in the same way that hackers have defeated the iPhone's SIM locking.
* The G1 will offer limited compatibility with some of the files you use most often. It will only be able to read Microsoft Office files, not edit them. And while its music player will be able to use MP3, Windows Media and AAC files, you'll need to wait for a third-party to provide some sort of add-on to sync your iTunes library to the phone. And iTunes Store downloads restricted with Apple's "digital rights management" locks won't play on the G1 (though the G1 is no different from other non-Apple devices in this respect; that's why you shouldn't buy Apple's DRM-ed downloads at all when you get the same music as an unlocked, open MP3 from Amazon's MP3 store).
* Its Bluetooth is as limited as the iPhone's. The G1 will initially support only hands-free kits, with "A2DP" stereo-sound output coming later on and, it seems, no plans for file transfer or other, more useful Bluetooth options.
The good news? T-Mobile doesn't have exclusive rights or ownership of the Android phone, so it should be available by your wireless carrier within the next year or so.