This past Tuesday in New York, Google and T-Mobile unveiled the G1, the first Android smartphone. For the uninitiated, Android is Google’s brand new open mobile platform, first announced last November. After about 20 minutes of introductory remarks and a few teasers, we finally got to see the G1. The wait (in actuality almost a year) was, without question, worth it.
From looks, the G1 is clearly in the mold of the LG Prada, HTC Touch (HTC also makes the G1), and, of course, the Apple iPhone. [The iPhone was not the first touchscreen smartphone of its kind; LG and HTC beat Apple to the punch. Of course, the iPod wasn't the first music player either; it just turned out to be the coolest, easiest to use, and had the best infrastructure (iTunes) behind it.]
Features one would expect include a large touch screen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an over-the-air downloadable App store, slide-to-unlock, Google Maps including a brand new feature, Street View, which syncs with the built-in compass on the G1, allowing the user to view locations and navigate by moving the phone; a full-screen Web browser; and automatic screen reorientation when you turn the phone 90°. It also has key features that the iPhone lacks: a real keyboard (under the display), a memory expansion slot, voice dialing, and (very important) a real removable battery that you can swap (especially useful on long trips).
Most importantly, the G1 – as promised – is open. Open as in the anti-iPhone. The G1 runs on the open source Android operating system and since it’s open source, anyone can make changes to it without getting Google’s permission. The Android Market app store, unlike Apple’s, is open as well and the companies promise that they won’t keep some programs from the public, even if the program’s functionality competes with T-Mobile or Google. Best of all, after 90 days, you can unlock the G1 (it comes with SIM-locked to T-Mobile) and use a SIM from any mobile operator with it.
The G1 is not enterprise ready at launch; there is no current support for Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange but, since it’s open, anyone who wishes and who has the talent can write a program to provide such support. I have no doubt we’ll see lots of interesting enterprise-class applications any day now.
Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.