T-Mobile may be partnering with cell phone handset manufacturer HTC to deliver the first smartphone running Google’s Android platform, according to reports. An article in the The New York Times cited unnamed sources briefed on T-Mobile’s plans who said the carrier could announce the phone as early as September — and would almost certainly have an offering out in the wild as early as October, in time for the holiday selling season.
A Wired.com report goes a few steps further: It cites an unofficial T-Mobile blog that claimed the new phone, to be called the “G1,” would launch Sept. 17 to T-Mobile customers only at a price of US$150. The following week it would rise in price to $250 to $400 and be available to new T-Mobile customers.
The link to the blog provided by Wired.com, however, currently results in a page with a “403 Forbidden” access error.
Possible and Plausible
HTC is widely expected to be the manufacturer, as the company has expressed interest and support of Android and is a member — along with T-Mobile — of Google’s Open Handset Alliance. Are the rumors likely to be true?
“As to the T-Mobile rumor, I really can’t comment — but Android has been due for sometime now,” Sean Ryan, a research analyst for IDC’s Mobile and Wireless Group, told LinuxInsider.
“Q4 delivery of an Android product would make sense, and HTC does seem to be the most likely device manufacturer to deliver a first Android device,” he added.
There was a bit more bullish response on the rumors from Chris Hazelton, a research director of mobile and wireless for The 451 Group. “I think it’s likely,” he told LinuxInsider.
“HTC is good at developing UIs (user interfaces) and touchscreen interfaces — and also at working with a complex operating system like Windows Mobile. I have pretty strong faith in HTC’s ability to work with Linux and Android and roll out a device that … T-Mobile, HTC, Google and the Open Handset Alliance will be happy with,” he added.
Official Vagueness Abounds Thus Far
A Google spokesperson declined to comment specifically about T-Mobile and HTC but did note that the first Android-based handsets are still on track for delivery in the second half of 2008. T-Mobile also had no comment. As of yet, neither organization has openly confirmed the rumors. Sprint is also part of the Open Handset Alliance, but the company hasn’t announced definitive plans or release dates for Android-based phones.
T-Mobile, HTC and Google may be waiting on approval from the Federal Communications Commission before they announce anything specific.
Google’s Open Mobile Play
Google’s Android is an open platform for development, but its overall aim is ensure that Google has a wide playing field for the mobile Internet, which is where the company expects to earn its next generation of advertising profit.
While Google is a powerful Internet force, and the company’s backing can help drive adoption of Android, the success of the fledgling operating platform isn’t a given.
“There have been complaints on the developer side around the SDK (software developer kit). It is also facing competition from other OSes (operating systems), namely the LiMo Foundation’s flavor of mobile Linux. Nokia, the No. 1 seller of smartphones, has also announced its intent to offer the Symbian OS royalty-free. And we can’t forget about BlackBerry, the iPhone and Windows Mobile devices,” Ryan explained.
“Android is late to the party and will have a tough time gaining significant market share in this crowded marketplace. But at the end of the day, Google wants more openness in wireless networks with greater access to the Internet from mobile devices — this is happening,” he added.
Developers May Be Holding Back
Third-party developers might still be holding back, Hazelton said.
“With Android, you don’t have one device that you can use as a frame of reference,” he said. Android can work with multiple devices with varying screen sizes and interfaces, so it’s not like developing applications for the Apple iPhone, which is the only core point of reference.
“A large number of developers don’t know what it [an Android phone] is going to look like or how popular it’s going to be … I don’t see or hear a large number of developers that are developing for Android yet,” he explained.
“I think the device will resonate with users in terms of UI and native applications, but third-party applications will probably come slower than on the iPhone,” he added.