G1 Android phone coming October 22 for $179


T-Mobile's Android-powered phone is ready to rumble. At an event in New York, the company's chief development officer, Cole Brodman, said that it will launch on October 22 and cost $179.

Existing customers of T-Mobile can order it now and get it shipped as soon as it becomes available. T-Mobile's usual voice and data plans apply, though its fast mobile internet system will be available in only 27 markets by November. That's "all of the large metropolitan markets in the U.S.," Brodman said.

HTC's Peter Chou, credited as the technical mind behind the handset, thanked his colleagues and said that it was a good day in New York, which hosted the launch event. HTC, based in Taiwan, is manufacturing the phone itself.

"We share a vision of making the mobile internet practical and fun," Chou said. "I've been working in this industry very long time. The Android phone is nimble, flexible and powerful. ... it's a fundamental shift in how people use the internet."

Explaining the motivation behind the system, which combines hardware from HTC, services and the open-source Android operating system from Google, and T-Mobile's small but growing 3G network, Brodman said that U.S. consumers overconsume everything, which is "why we love them." Given that, he lamented the lack of domestic broadband penetration, and blamed it on the lack of open standards and partnerships.

"This new open alliance will drive in the coming years and array of devices ... to really embrace the mobile internet," Brodman said.

Google's Andy Rubin said that on the launch date, the entirety of the operating system would be open-sourced.

Demonstrated live, the G1 sported a fully-featured, desktop-style browser described as "Chrome lite," and showed snappy response to touchscreen commands. And it's all-Google, preloaded with apps and syncing data to its servers, a la T-Mobile's Sidekicks. Also shown was Flickr and an implementation of Pac-Man.

Programs will be found at the "Android market," similar to the AppStore accessible to users of Apple's iPhone. There will also be an on-the-go MP3 download service hooked up to Amazon's DRM-free library.

"Trust me, it's a lot of fun," Brodman said.

By being open-source, Android is expected to avoid some of the rancor associated with the tightly-controlled software ecosystem around the iPhone, against which Android is seen as a potential dethroner.

The executives also fielded reporters' questions. Here are some of the answers:

• The data plan will require a voice plan. You can't get a "dry loop" and use it for VoIP only.
• It can read Word and PDF documents, but no exchange capability until a third party developer writes it.
• It will be SIM-locked to T-Mobile. Asked how tightly they would enforce that, Brodman said "The device cost a lot more than $179 from a purchase perspective."
• On the PC desktop: there's no app for syncing with your computer. It will sync like Sidekicks, with a server. In this case, Google's.
• It will be available in markets outside of 3G, but Brodman is pretty down on the idea of it: "The best experience there will be on WiFi."
• The browser uses the same base as Chrome, WebKit. "You can think of it as Chrome lite."
• "This device is going to have mass appeal. We expect it to be more of a consumer device, rather than enterprise, but people ... will use it for those reasons as well."
• It will offer a "robust" Gmail experience. People can plug third-party services into the front-end used to display it on your G1.
• It will work with any non-DRM audio files.
• No Skype yet.
• It's quad-band, the device will work on "essentially any GPRS/GSM network in the world."

The event also saw a surprise visit from Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who said he'd written an Android app that calculated how long the G1 remained aloft when thrown in the air.

"It's good to have a phone that I can play with and modify," Page said.

Here's a short clip from the demo video:

And here are a couple of stills from it:

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Photo (top right): T-Mobile

About Rob Beschizza

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