HTC is officially first to market with a smartphone based on Google’s Android operating system. It is the antithesis of the iPhone and will be available in South Africa soon. Meet the HTC Dream G1…
Google has nailed mobile as a priority focus for the company. Not only has it adapted its search, advertising and application offerings for mobile platforms, but Google is driving the very platform itself with Android – an open source operating system designed for mobile phones and developed with the help of the Open Handset Alliance. Where the iPhone is closed, Android, which is based on Linux, is open. Where BlackBerry says 'trust us', Android says, 'do what you want'.
The brave network to bring the phone to market first is T Mobile in the USA. The company has launched the phone with an unlimited bandwidth package and prices that compete closely with the iPhone. Unlike the iPhone and BlackBerry, however, networks will have a tough time controlling what happens with that bandwidth. For example, it is impossible to tether the iPhone, which means connecting through the phone with your laptop, for example, is impossible. But because Android is an open system there is little anyone can do to stop you from tethering through the Dream G1. T Mobile acknowledges this and will try to prevent people from tethering in its terms of service instead.
Emulating iTunes store
Like the iPhone, the Dream G1 is also being launched with an application store. However, where developers need to have their applications approved by Apple before offering them to iPhone users, the Android store is a free for all. There is merely a registration required so that the powers that be know that application developers are who they say they are and can trace them if they misbehave, presumably. The store is also optional, and Android users will be able to get applications directly from third parties.
On the hardware front the Dream G1 has all the bits and pieces you would expect from a top smartphone – HSDPA connectivity, built-in GPS, slide out qwerty keyboard, WiFi, camera, and the quality that HTC usually pours into its devices. The operating system is the real differentiator, finally offering HTC users a robust alternative to Windows Mobile.
The Android has been confirmed for South Africa and will be available from early 2009 via Vodacom, the same network that brought the iPhone to local shores. At time of writing it is, however, impossible to say what the local contract will look like.
While the HTC Dream G1 is an awesome piece of gear I get the feeling that Android is still heavily in the early-adopter stage and, as such, should be reserved for geeks only. If you want to be first on the block with an Android phone and enjoy messing around with new technology – especially of the open variety – then you’ll want one. But if you want something that just works then you’ll probably be better served by waiting for the next incarnation of Android and some more maturity in the open smartphone space.