Incoming Android

The first smartphone based on Google’s Android mobile operating system is being launched on September 23 2008, on the same day as the Apple iPhone media launch in South Africa. Available on the T-Mobile network internationally, the HTC Dream G1 should soon be available on local cellular networks.

The device is designed and marketed by Taiwanese company HTC. According to the HTC Dream website, the phone sports the following features:

  • Large touchscreen with haptic feedback.
  • Full QWERTY keypad.
  • Keypad that either slides or swivels for easy typing/texting.

Other features listed by HTC include HSDPA connectivity and a built in compass for use with Google Streetview. The device also has a 3.1 megapixel camera and was submitted for FCC testing in the USA for WiFi and Bluetooth. It does not appear to have a GPS chip however – but the compass approach combined with Google Maps is intriguing. Unfortunately Google Maps coverage of South African roads is currently very poor and this will initially limit the device’s use for navigation in the country.

The launch of the dream G1, which has been designed as a direct competitor to the Apple iPhone, has analysts buzzing around the mobile space.

“The G1 is the first device coming to market supporting Google’s operating system Android. Although this will give us a taste of what the platform will be able to do, we are expecting some limitations given this is the first device,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner. “There will be more to come in 2009 when manufacturers such as Samsung and LG will deliver their devices. Android has the potential to become the de facto operating system for Linux and we expect sales to reach around 10 percent of the smartphone market in 2011.”

Stafford Masie, country manager for Google South Africa, says that Google’s intention is to drive smartphone adoption.

“What we’re trying to do with Android is bring iPhone-type functionality to the masses at prices they can afford,” he says, speaking on a recent episode of the ZA Tech Show podcast.

Android is an open source operating system for mobile devices and is based on Linux. It is developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance – a consortium of 34 hardware, software, and telecommunications companies working to advance open standards for mobile devices.

The smartphone arena has been screaming for openness in a market where walled platforms, such as the iPhone, rule the roost. It will be interesting to see where Android goes over the coming months, given the ease with which third party developers are able to provide applications for the platform. The HTC Dream G1 is the first of a series of Android devices from a number of vendors that are slated for launch over the coming months and reaffirms Google’s commitment and drive to mobile.

Look out for my article in the October issue of Net.Work where I explore the mobile space, and smartphones in particular.

I'm a writer and broadcaster who also designs apps and strategies for disruptive startups in the financial world. Find out more on my about page.