Google's G1 smartphone breaks cover

In Wednesday's IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches Google's new G1 Android smartphone -- iPhone killer or bulky dud? Not to mention things that look a bit like a duck...

Nancy Gohring reports:

G1
The first Android phone looks a lot like the fuzzy pictures that have surfaced online for months, with a touch screen similar to the iPhone's and a full slide-out keyboard.

T-Mobile Inc., Google Inc. and HTC Corp. unveiled the long-awaited G1 Android phone at an event in New York [Tuesday], revealing pricing, availability and some of the initial applications available for it. They emphasized that the software is open source.

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Starting Oct. 22, U.S. consumers will be able to buy the G1 for $179. Users can subscribe to a limited data plan for $25 a month or $35 for unlimited data access.
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John Brandon calls it, "Smartphone 2.0":

Where the iPhone drops the ball (open source smartphone software), the G1 picks it up, runs for a touchdown, and dances a little smartphone jig ... the OS is highly extensible and open-ended, meant for developers to pretty much have at it in terms of ... creating really inventive apps that trump the more commercial offerings on the iPhone.

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The phone has a 3 megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, a built-in Amazon MP3 store, YouTube feeds, and Google Maps ... The big news is Android Market, a store with Web 2.0-like attributes where you can search for applets and a rating system to help you weed out the undesirables.

It's also very Web 2.0 in that there is no desktop mode at all, and no desktop syncing. Everything you do, you do on the phone. Of course, the Google browser mirrors the ease of use to their recently released desktop equivalent, and there are all the typical contact, schedule, and mail applets included out of the box.
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But Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols asks, "So what?":

OK, I'm really pleased that Linux does so well in the mobile phone space. I'm very happy to see Google's Linux-powered Android phone make its first appearance. But, come on, who buys a phone for its operating system?

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I'll bet that most people still buy phones because of the plan price than any other single factor. Of course, there is the one exception: the Apple iPhone.

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What does Android have to offer that's different? Well, it's an open platform and open source so it will be easier for developers to write program for it. But will they? After all, it all comes down to how many people will actually buy Android-powered phones. If you don't have enough users, it's not worth a developer's time to make applications for them.

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I want Android to be a hit, but I just don't see enough 'new' here for it to attract anything like the horde of customers that have adopted the iPhone. I hope I'm wrong, but I fear I'm not..
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Séth Weintràub disagrees:

Something today hit me that might scare a few Apple fans. Google's Android's platform is very similar to the Windows model that smashed the Mac Platfrom in the 90's.

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Today, Android  was released to a huge media audience in a form that was so clunky that it reminded me of Windows 3.1.  But the clunkieness isn't the only reminder. In the same way that Windows would play with any hardware vendor out there, the Android will work with any hardware vendor and eventually on any carrier.

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The iPhone has started a new era in which smartphones are actually "Cloud browsers".  No one understands the Cloud better than Google.  They have the best shot at taking on Apple and getting significant marketshare.
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Walt Mossberg occasionally muses:

Most importantly, the G1 complements its touch screen with a physical keyboard, the lack of which has made the iPhone a non-starter for some users. The G1’s keyboard is revealed when you slide open its screen. The keys are a bit flat, and you have to reach your right thumb around a bulging portion of the phone’s body to type, but it’s a real keyboard. And there’s also a BlackBerry-like trackball that supplements the touch screen navigation.

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The G1 won’t win any beauty contests with its Apple (AAPL) rival. It’s stubby and chunky, nearly 30% thicker and almost 20% heavier than the iPhone. It’s a bit narrower — more like a standard phone than a “smart phone” — and longer, but has a somewhat smaller screen.

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But the software is slick ... quick and responsive ... [It] has a couple of other things the iPhone omits: copy and paste functionality and a so-called MMS program, which sends photos to other phones without using email.
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But Matt Buchanan offers an obnoxious picture:

The list of catches for Android and the phone are quickly piling up—some that might very well be dealbreakers. Topping the list, it's tightly integrated with your Google account—so tightly that you can only use one Google account with the phone. If you want to switch to another account, you have to do a whole factory reset.

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There is no desktop syncing app. It's all about the cloud—your Google contacts and [calendar] are considered the masters ... No multitouch ... lack of a headphone jack.

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Finally, it's locked to T-Mobile. A Googler lamented that as well since it goes against the openness of Android, but said that in the long run, that won't matter, since there will be a ton of devices. But like everything else, in the meantime, developers can step in and release an unlock app. On the Android market, even.
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James Kendrick runs with it:

We've all heard of these unlimited data plans that turn out to be capped in some way, that's nothing unusual.  But T-Mobile is really outdoing themselves by globally touting the "unlimited" data plan while the very fine print about the plan paints a greatly different picture.

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If you exceed 1 GB of bandwidth in any given month then T-Mobile may throttle your unlimited 3G plan to 50 kbps.  Yes, you read that correctly.  If you exceed 1 GB of bandwidth in a month, something that is not hard to do if you just do the activities that T-Mobile lists in that same image above, then they can throttle your data usage to slow speeds worse than EDGE.  How is that not deceptive?
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And finally...

Buffer overflow:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 22 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.


Previously in IT Blogwatch:

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

 
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