The anticipated Google Android phone is set to come out by the end of 2008, as planned by the search giant last year. The G1 on T-Mobile will be the first handset, released on October 22 in the U.S. and in November in Europe.
Android is an open platform that can be customized for a carrier’s or handset manufacturer’s own portal or service. In turn, developers can use the open platform to create programs to run on Android either as free applications or for sale on the Android Marketplace. The storefront will likely be analogous to the App Store for the iPhone.
The G1 handset, made by HTC, was unveiled at an event in New York City Tuesday. Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin made a surprise appearance to give their stamp of approval. Brin described the first application he wrote for the phone: an accelerometer. “You throw your phone up in the air and it measures the time until the phone hits the floor.”
Page quickly suggested the application is not one that will ship with the phone next month. He did ask the audience to do a Web search and report how long it took to get a result using the device. “Speed difference between using a phone and a laptop is pretty big. Being able to do a search with that fidelity that you used to have with your laptop is very exciting — having computer-like functionality with your phone, having an open ecosystem,” he said.
Google services on the phone include Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps Street View, and GPS-assisted location-based services. Google’s instant messenger platform G-Talk is also included, in addition to other IM clients such as AIM, Yahoo, and MSN. The Street View has a compass mode where users can physically turn the phone to move the view of its surroundings.
Page suggested geo-targeted applications were only at the early stages. “Location-based services, you already see that with maps, and I think you’ll see very interesting things.”
T-Mobile invited two application developers. Price-comparison site ShopSavvy, created by Big In Japan, lets users scan bar codes of items, such as a DVD, book, or G1 phone to get a list of prices from various sellers. The results include both online and local prices; local results can link to map directions from a user’s current location.
Not much was said about marketing for the G1, however a spokesperson for T-Mobile said there will be a large television and print campaign. Already, T-Mobile has a Web page set up for the G1, and is running sponsored links leading to the page from Google searches for “t-mobile android.”
The G1 handset will be locked to T-Mobile service. It will be priced at $179 in the U.S. with limited data plans set at $25 a month or $35 a month for unlimited data access. Existing T-Mobile subscribers can pre-order the G1 starting today.
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