So what’s the big deal about the new T-Mobile G1 cell phone with the touch screen and flip-open keyboard? Yes it supports 3G and GPS and has a nifty flip-open, five-row keyboard, a usable trackball and a responsive touch screen, but we’ve seen all of this before, right?
Right. But that’s OK. It wasn’t the phone that was the star of Tuesday morning’s well-attended T-Mobile/Google press conference in New York, it was Google’s new Android phone operating system, a software platform destined to make major ripples in the smartphone market.
The difference between Android and other platforms like Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, is that Android’s code and software development kits (SDKs) are available free to software developers, thus allowing them to create innovative applications at a lower cost.
As the first phone to use Android, the T-Mobile G1 is temporarily in a class by itself, the only phone able to use the dozens of applications already written for Android.
Tuesday’s press event was held under the Queensborough Bridge at Gustavino’s, a high-ceilinged restaurant located about as far east as one can go in Manhattan without getting wet, but that didn’t stop dozens of journalists from piling in for a first look at the new phone and operating system.
The phone features a 3.2-inch display, a 3.2-megapixel camera, a microSD card slot (a one-gigabyte card is included) and Bluetooth 2.0 wireless networking support.
One nifty Android application is ShopSavvy, a utility that allows you to scan product barcodes with the G1’s camera, send the data over the Internet, and get a list of stores that sell that product. Thus you could walk into Store A, check the price of a product on the shelf, scan the bar code and have the phone report back with prices for the same product at other stores.
Of course Google applications and services such as Gmail, Google Calendar, YouTube and Google Maps are fully supported by the T-Mobile G1.
The phone, while offering a partially iPhone-like experience, does not aim to be a direct competitor in all aspects. It has no headphone jack and can’t handle protected iTunes files, although it can play MP3s and other music formats.
As the last big cell phone carrier in the U.S. to build out a third-generation (3G) data network, T-Mobile now has a trendy phone that makes good use of it. It supports T-Mobile’s HSDPA and EDGE data networks and has Wi-Fi support as well. It can even switch between Wi-Fi and the data networks depending on where the better throughput is.
The T-Mobile G1 costs $179 with a two-year service agreement. An unlimited data plan with 400 free messages is $25 per month. For $35 per month, both Web access and messaging are unlimited. The G1 will be available Oct. 22, but can be preordered now.
For more information, see the T-Mobile G1 Web site.
Text and last photo Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features
Other graphics courtesy of T-Mobile and Google.