The Google phone (2008), also known as the Android phone, the gPhone or the T-Mobile G1, is a mobile phone that is the brainchild of Google. It is Google’s answer to Apple’s iPhone. It is, in fact, the first mobile phone to go head-to-head with the iPhone.
The G1, which goes on sale in America on October 22nd 2008 and in Britain a few weeks later, is merely the first of many Android devices to come. Or so Google hopes. Samsung and LG are set to come out with Android phones of their own in 2009.
Android is the name of the software platform that Google built for mobile phones. It remains to be seen whether it will catch on in a big way: Google is not the first to try to build such a platform. Android is built in the Java language running on the Linux operating system. Linux is what the TiVo and Google itself run on.
The Android phone is not a me-too copy of the iPhone. Where the iPhone is a Mac computer shrunk down to fit in your hand, one that can make telephone calls and play music, Google sees mobile phones as Web devices – as pocket computers that can go on the Web (and see Google ads!). The thinking is that mobile phones will become one of the main ways people will go on the Web.
The G1 is a first rough cut at what Google has in mind. It is not as nice as the iPhone nor is it as easy to use, but it holds promise:
- Google made it easy for computer geeks to write programs for it. That means in the long run Google phones will be able to do cooler things than iPhones.
- Android is not tied to particular hardware, so it will be easier to get it to work on newer and better phones as they come along.
- It is designed to be a part of the Internet.
Unlike the iPhone, the G1 has a built-in keyboard, which you can see if you slide back the screen.
On top of being a mobile phone, the G1 has:
- Google Maps with built-in GPS so it knows where you are,
- email (but it can handle only one Gmail account),
- instant messaging,
- a music player (it can download music from Amazon, but it has no headphone jack! You have to buy a separate USB adapter for that),
- a camera (that cannot zoom or record video), but no media player yet,
- a touchscreen (that can handle only one finger at a time),
- the Web (even with a working YouTube, but no Flash).
It has no Bluetooth and there is no easy way for it to talk to your computer. But, unlike the iPhone, it can do cut and paste.
The battery only lasts 12 hours or less between charges.
The G1 runs on T-Mobile’s 3G network, which by October will be in 22 American cities.
The price: $179 (14 crowns), but you also have to sign up for two years with T-Mobile for at least $25 a month (2 crowns a month). An iPhone these days is $199 (16 crowns – way cheaper than when it first came out).
- The review of the G1 in The Register
- CNET’s blow-by-blow comparison between the G1 and the iPhone