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T-Mobile launches first Google Android Phone at long last

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

T-Mobile has announced the launch of the first smartphone to be powered by the Google Android operating system but the phone will not be available to customers until early November 2008.  Android is promoted as open source with plenty of room for customization, but the new T-Mobile G1 phone is less 'open' than the promotional hype would have you believe.

The T-Mobile G1 dual-band phone offers 3G broadband and EDGE network connectivity, Wi-Fi, and GPS. A slide out QWERTY keyboard complements the touch screen. The phone features access to Google Maps Street View, games, and other features. The 3-megapixel camera in the phone can work with applications that enable barcode scanning.  The phone is powered by a Qualcomm dual-core MSM7201A chipset offering 3D graphics and GPS.

As far as VOIP capability is concerned, Google’s GTalk will work at launch as an IM client but users will not be able to use it to make any voice calls. Since the OS is open, Google claims there are no restrictions on VoIP applications. T-Mobile has no restrictions on VoIP over Wi-Fi, but it has no plans to support VoIP on its 3G mobile network, which is consistent with the line taken by Apple and AT&T.

Google will “validate” all the apps before they can become part of the Android marketplace but it is currently providing no details about how that will work and the approach seems very similar to Apple.

T-Mobile says it’s boosting its network so that 94 percent of its US subscribers will have 3G access. It will use 3G in the US and Europe and US users will apparently be able to use the same US device on European 3G networks, which will win some fans. Google and T-Mobile say there are no bandwidth limitations or caps on the phone and that all plans will come with unlimited data, but this seems at variance with T-Mobile's own web-site. 

The G1 phone itself is not the thinnest or lightest phone in the market but it display all the hallmarks of being designed and built by HTC, with a Blackberry-like trackball instead of D-pad navigation controls.  The UI looks well-designed but it is too early yet for user feedback. There appears to be some confusion about pricing and the level of subsidy available, which is likely to be sorted before the product actually becomes available to customers early in November 2008.