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G1 phone buyers like the 'open' Android software

Android fans enthused about open apps possibilities (see video below)

October 22, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Judging by the smile on Jacek Ambroziak's face, you would have thought he won the lottery. For him, being the first in line to buy a new G1 phone at the T-Mobile US store here was better than winning the Mass Millions prize.

"I got it and was the first in line at 6:30," Ambroziak said, holding up the device and grinning from ear to ear.

Ambroziak, an independent developer, said he has been using an online emulator for eight months to build applications for the G1, which uses Android software supported by Google Inc. and the Open Handset Alliance. Today was the first time he actually pressed the buttons of a real G1.

Inside the T-Mobile store, sales representatives offered demonstrations of some new applications that can be downloaded to the G1. One Google application using the phone's camera as a bar code reader so that a shopper can scan a product's bar code and find similar products and pricing at nearby stores. (See video below.)

Ambroziak praised Google for working to build an open Android platform so that people like himself could build applications for the G1 and future Android smart phones. "I'm a garage developer, the kind they talk about in the open world," he said. "But I don't actually work in my garage. It's a room in my house in Cambridge."

One of the applications Ambroziak is developing will put a mobile telemedicine diagnosis application from ClickDiagnostics.com onto the G1, he said. The application could be used by dermatology patients in emerging countries with little access to doctors and hospitals. With the camera on the G1, a patient could take a photo of a skin problem, send it to a doctor for a diagnosis, and receive care the next time the doctor or health professional was in the area.

Ambroziak said he is also working on a G1 browsing capability for Craigslist, which he is calling CraigDroid, and a social networking program that is paired with GPS, tentatively called uSonar.

If the Android was not open to developers, Ambroziak said he could not be doing the work he finds important. Many developers like himself are building applications for no pay but out of a humanitarian interest, he added. "Some of the people working at ClickDiagnostics are like saints," he said.

Ambroziak said a big draw of working with Android is recognizing it will be adopted by many phone makers, especially with the backing of a large company like Google.

Google's involvement with G1 was also important to another buyer, Steve Schultze, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University who arrived before the Cambridge store opened. "I feel Google's not going away soon," Schultze said.

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A T-Mobile rep demonstrates the new G1 phone, including application downloads. One download turns the camera into a bar code reader, which could be useful in comparison shopping.


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