The big news in the technology press today is the announcement of the T-Mobile G1, the first cell phone to run Google’s open-source Android operating system. It is an intriguing product and it looks to me like Android could turn into a major player in the cell phone business, although I can’t say that I’m ready to jump on board just yet.
Generally, I like the design of the phone itself. It is made by HTC and, in a number of ways, it resembles the HTC Touch Pro, which I’ve previously mentioned as my most-likely next phone. I suspect that the combination of a large touch-screen and a slide-out keyboard is going to be a pretty common and popular design among those of us that aren’t as enamored with the iPhone’s touch-only interface. I’ve seen a few comments online complaining that the G1 isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing phone to come along, but I generally think it looks ok. Admittedly, it does seem to be designed more for functionality than as a style accessory, though.
While the screen shots and descriptions of Android look pretty good, my immediate impression is that this is definitely a very immature platform and I just can’t see jumping on board before it becomes a bit more established. Today’s announcement actually did a pretty good job of hammering that home as they openly admitted that such features as Microsoft Exchange and stereo Bluetooth support would not be available at launch but could be made available later via third-party applications. With the open-source nature of Android, I would bet on those features becoming available sooner rather than later, but it is anyone’s guess as to how long it will really take as well as how soon those features will have the stability and maturity of their equivalents on other platforms.
Sometimes, I am interested in being an early-adopter on new technologies and platforms, but I do also have to look at utility as well. The G1 is a pretty attractive product and I suspect that Android could have a significant future. The way that the cellular industry works with the subsidized phones in exchange for extended contracts, I expect that it will be at least 2 years before I give Android any serious consideration.