Applications & OS News
Google Android Has Landed; T-Mobile, HTC Unveil G1
Andrew R. Hickey
The T-Mobile and Google teams announced the G1, formerly known as the HTC Dream, at a press conference in New York City, which was broadcasted live via the Web.
The G1 is a slick slider handheld that combines Web 2.0 services, mobile Internet and a host of applications in a compact device based on the openness promised by Google Android and its Open Handset Alliance partner, ecosystem.
The G1 takes a form-factor somewhat similar to T-Mobile's popular Sidekick line -- a slide out device that reveals a full QWERTY keyboard. The handheld features a touch screen with four keys below the display bookending a navigation trackball.
The device will operate on T-Mobile's expanding 3G with dual-band UMTS network. It will also work on 2G and Wi-Fi, as T-Mobile continues to grow its 3G coverage.
According to Cole Brodman, T-Mobile's CTO and CIO, T-Mobile offers 3G services in 16 mass markets. Once the G1 goes live, 22 markets will have T-Mobile's 3G network and by mid-November, that number will grow to 27 markets.
The touch screen, which bears striking similarities to the Apple iPhone, features swipe technology, enabling users to move between applications and features with short or long screen taps and swipes. Photos and other applications can be dragged and dropped to the home screen and the device features one-click browsing, playing and purchasing of music through Amazon's DRM-free digital music store. The embedded music player lets users find related material and other music options.
The G1 also offers multitasking options that enable a "window shade" to be pulled down to move between applications without closing them down. Additionally, the G1 offers GoogleMaps, directions, traffic views and StreetView, enabling users to map directly to an address by taping it in their contact lists. A new "compass mode" uses the device's screen as a guide and lets the 3D street scene move as the user does.
The HTML Web browser, called WebKit, which is similar to Google's new Chrome browser, lets users view Web pages as they are intended and zoom in on certain areas. The browser also enables users to view multiple Web pages at once. The keyboard features a dedicated search button to launch a Web search at any time. The device also supports "one-click" contextual search which lets users search for anything just by typing something into the keyboard.
On the email side, the G1 supports push email for Gmail users and pull email for other POP3 and IMAP email services. Currently, there is no integration with Microsoft Exchange, but Brodman said the development community will likely create Exchange integration in the near future. Despite not working with Exchange, Brodman said the G1 is capable of reading Microsoft Office documents.
Initially, the device won't offer a desktop application or be able to act as a tethered modem, because the device was "meant to be used as a mobile device" and "all synchronization will be handled on the back-end."
The G1, which will be SIM-locked to T-Mobile's network, will be available in the U.S. starting Oct. 22 for $179. It is available now for pre-order for T-Mobile customers. Data plans start at $25 for unlimited Web and some messaging to $35 for unlimited Web and messaging.
And while the sleek device was the crux of the announcement, it's what's under the hood that garnered the most attention in New York on Tuesday.
Christopher Schlaffer of Deutsch Telecom said the device and the Google Android platform were designed to "open up the wireless mobile Internet" and "move away from walled gardens and closed portals."
Schlaffer said the mobile Internet will drive the mobility industry and opening it up on the Google Android platform will put the mobile Internet in front of more consumers.
"The T-Mobile G1 is a milestone to open up the mobile Internet to the mass market," he said.
Andy Rubin, Google's senior director of mobile platforms, said the device is "future proof," meaning developers can use it as a platform to build, modify and offer applications.,
Peter Chau, HTC CEO agreed.
"HTC, Google, T-Mobile; we share the same vision to make the mobile Internet, practical, usable and fun," he said, adding that the G1 brings to market an "iconic design" that is unlike anything else that will "appeal to a broad variety of people."
Chau said the G1 and Google Android are "nimble, flexible and powerful" and represent "a fundamental shift in how and where people consume the Internet."
With the launch of the G1, Google and T-Mobile also unveiled the Android Market, an application store comparable to iPhone's Appstore. Early applications available include ShopSavvy, an application that lets users scan UPC codes of products with the G1's camera and instantly compare prices with other stores; BreadCrumbz, which lets users create step-by-step maps using photos; and Ecorio, which lets users track their carbon footprint. Other applications include games, one of which T-Mobile and Google displayed is the original PacMan.