Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Android Powered T-Mobile G1 Launched

Google, HTC, and T-Mobile announced the G1 Android  handset today. Here's what we learned:

  • US. The G1 will be available in the US from October 22. Existing US T-Mobile subscribers can register to upgrade their phone via the T-Mobile website as of now.
  • UK. "Early November" is the date to watch if you're in the UK, you can register your interest with T-Mobile to be alerted with updates as we get closer to that date.
  • Europe. European users will need to wait until "early in Q1 2009"
Pricing and Locking

US price is $179, with the choice of $25 or $35 per month plans for 2 years. The $35 plan includes some text messenging allowance. Both include unlimited data.

No pricing was given for the UK or European launches,though TechCrunch is reporting it will be free with a £40 / month plan.

Word from T-Mobile is that the phone won't be available un-locked, but that's likely to become a moot point pretty shortly after launch.

Device and Application Details

Between the leaks and the SDK emulator there weren't a lot of surprises on the day. It wasn't a total recap though, with a couple of tidbits announced:
  • Presence. Instant messaging presence is fully integrated directly into the contact manager and Gmail.
  • Backlit Keys. The keys on the handset are all backlit so you can use it in the dark.
  • Gmail. You need to have a GMail account to use the phone. Once you're signed in, this will be used to authenticate with all Google services you use.
We also got some direct questions answered for once:
  • Can it be Used as a Modem?. No. Well not out of the box anyway. Look out for a 3rd party app to do the job.
  • MS Exchange?. Not native. The official response is that this is an "opportunity for a 3rd party developer".
  • Office Support?. Yes. The phone will read Word, Excel, and PDF files natively.
  • Push Email? Yes for Gmail, standard POP/IMAP for everything else.
  • Desktop Sync. No. The idea is to sync everything with the cloud rather than a desktop application. Contacts sync with GMail, calendar entries with Google calendar, etc.
  • Bluetooth. Profiles for Bluetooth headset are currently supported. Everything else if v2.
  • International support. Dual band 3G and quad band GPRS makes it compatible with most countries.
Included Applications

Exactly which applications will ship with the first handset is still something of a mystery, but we were given a peak at some of the likely inclusions. The native Google apps are listed at the Android mobile site.
  • GMail. Strangely wasn't demo'ed, but will be partially web-based as it's build using Android's WebView classes.
  • Amazon MP3 Store. Amazon have provided a native iTunes rival that lets you purchase DRM free music from the Amazon MP3 store direct from your mobile. You need to be connected to WiFi to download tunes.
  • Music Player. Looks like the player used in the emulator. Not demoed in detail but looks solid (if no iPod killer).
  • Android Marketplace. You can download and install new Android applications using the native marketplace app. You can also install apps from other web sites, using the SD card, or the USB sync cable.
  • Maps. Google Maps is a killer mobile application. As well as the features already available on iPhone, WinMo, and Blackberry, the Android version supports Streetview that uses the phone's compass to automatically rotate your orientation.
  • YouTube. Wasn't demo'd, but as you'd expect.
  • Search. Context sensitive search will search depending on what you're doing (contacts, map, web, etc.). The device has a dedicated 'search' button.
  • Calendar. Wasn't demo'd. Tightly coupled with Google's calendar application, all appointments are automatically synced between the phone and Google Calander
  • Talk. GoogleTalk instant messaging and presence is available. Looks pretty basic, but that's what you want from a mobile IM client.
  • Contacts. The contact manager as shown in the SDK emulator. Features presence and auto-sync with Gmail contacts.
Professional Android Application Development

If you're interested in developing your own Android applications, my new book -- Professional Android Application Development -- will be available on Amazon from November 17.

Monday, September 22, 2008

London Google Developer Day Android Wrapup

Tomorrow promises to be a big day for Android with most media outlets promising an announcement on the first Android handset.

Last Tuesday I was lucky enough to attend the Google Developer Day in London. As you might imagine, most of my interest this year was on the keynote and morning sessions on Android.

Mike Jennings, London's own Android Developer Advocate was on hand to give the first live European demo of the forthcoming Android-powered handset. From what we could see, the back handset looked pretty similar to the pictures posted around the internet and featured in earlier demos.

Mike's 'Blue Ball' demo indicates accellerometers will be included, and we were shown once again that GPS will be featured.

The user interface looks just like the one featured in the latest 0.9 Beta SDK, so no surprises there. As Mike ran through some of the demos the device seemed 'snappier' than the software emulators I've been using to test my sample applications, so that's a good sign.

Tech Talks

The Android tech talks on the day were introductory sessions targetted at people who new little or nothing about Android as a development platform. Both sessions were packed and through up some interesting questions -- not all of which had easy answers.

With the veil of secrecy still very much in place over all things Android a lot of questions went un-answered, but the following tidbits were covered

  • Application Installation. Users can install Android applications using any of the Micro SD card, USB cable, or Android Marketplace
  • Revenue Share. Google will pass on all revenue for applications directly to developers without taking a cut.
  • Carriers. When signing on, OHA member carriers agree to openness standards that prevent them artificially blocking the installation of any applications on user devices. The agreements let carriers modify the handset 'chrome' with their own branding, and select which applications to preinstall, but won't modify the software stack to restrict user choice after-market.
  • Push Email. Push email from a number of providers (not just GMail) will be supported.

More news tomorrow!