The HTC G1 launched today for T-Mobile (though the phone itself won’t be available in stores until October 22nd). For anyone who wasn’t paying attention when it wasn’t announced, this is special because the phone uses Google’s mobile operating system, named Android.
And what a botched job it was. Don’t get me wrong; I love Google, and I love HTC. I also have T-Mobile service. So why am I disappointed with this first phone? Well, namely because it seems like too little fanfare for something that could potentially be huge. Or, maybe because too much hype has been generated for what it isn’t doing yet. I’m not entirely sure yet.
Android has been in the works for a little under a year now. It’s an “open source” SDK with an Java based architecture that is supposed to offload much of the processing requirements from any hardware, thereby allowing it to run much faster than traditional operating systems. This is especially important for mobile devices since they don’t have the same horsepower as your laptop or desktop will have. Conversely, they also don’t need all the features that your PC does, so it can run much leaner than Windows Vista or OS 10.5 and get away with it.
The main downside to it is that it IS open source. While Google itself is a huge company who could throw endless resources at making a mobile phone, they wouldn’t get very far in the commercial market. For this reason they partnered with HTC, T-Mobile, Amazon, and who knows who else to get their system out there. I get the feeling that a lot of concessions were made in the process, since we are NOT looking at the iPhone killer that many people were expecting.
And the really dumb thing is that none of it is Android’s fault! If you look at the G1, it looks like any other HTC phone! It operates like it’s the Touch, and even has a similar menu system as both the Touch and the Shadow. The system menu (the load of icons) looks more like a Blackberry or Windows Mobile 6 than it does anything else, the only apps that even exist for the thing are either Google’s or Amazon’s (in an attempt to sway the iTunes Store users), and the thing is downright clunky.
Apple released the iPhone to a stunned crowd, and for good reason; it’s a shiny toy. Apple learned how to sell anything by simplifying it and making it an accessory. Don’t believe me? The iPod is more status symbol than actual device nowadays, the iPhone (as much as it failed in many of its original objectives) is still immensely popular, and the iMac I’m using to write this post is more designed for loft-dwelling hipsters who can’t afford both a TV and a computer (so why not have a computer the size of your TV).
This is not a bad thing though (it’s not a great thing either). However, it’s not really easy for other companies to duplicate, and HTC going on about their new phone and how it’s going to have all the same interface “shinys” of the iPhone was probably the wrong way to go as it gave people unfair expectations. Does Android seem to stand up to Palm OS? Well, hard to say since we haven’t seen any sort of Synch capabilities. Does it stand up to Blackberry OS? Seems to, though 3rd party support isn’t there yet. Does it stand up to Windows Mobile 6? Oh yeah. And then some.
But see, all of these mobile operating systems are actually USEFUL! They aren’t toys and they aren’t accessories. This isn’t a Sidekick we’re talking about here, it’s an actual smart phone. They could have launched it as just another HTC phone, and people would have been happy with it. Instead, they drummed up that it was using Android and therefore was about to rock our world!
Well we’re left rather non-rocked, looking at a phone that can does what every other smart phone already does, wondering where all the apps are for it.
But hey, at least this thing can cut and paste!