Lackluster launch for Android

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.

The Android Logo

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.

 

What we were promised vs what we got

What we were promised vs what we got

 

 

 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).  

"In my loft, on the interwebs.  I'm just like those hackster kids!"

"In my loft, on the interwebs. I'm just like those hackster kids!"

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!

Comments

  1. Schmidty says

    But, that fact aside… It sounds like you are hating on the G1.  “Haven’t seen any sort of Synch capabilities?”  Your contacts and calander ARE sync’ed with your Google account… automatically!  And as far as apps being available for it, we will have to wait and see what the community does for it.  And maybe I’m a little biased towards Google.  But they are a different beast, and I HAVE done my homework.  You won’t find any other company or set of products/services just like them.  What could be better in a phone than the entire OS being synced with what you do on your desktop computer?  Sure, that’s not exactly what it’s doing now, but I see Google (or something similar) as the future of computing.  Google is going in the right direction.  So I applaud the release of the G1 with fervent passion.  I want one.  And I want my wife to have one.  So it’s a little clunky.  Big deal.  It’s about as big as an iPhone with a protective jacket on.  Doesn’t seem to bother the other 2 million+ iPhone users.  
  • says

    You are correct; I should have specified that Android has been out and in the public for a little under a year.

     Please note that I never said Android was “teh suxors”.  I said I was disappointed with the launch.  I think it’s capable of quite a bit, but HTC and T-Mobile botched it.  I even specifically state that none of the phone’s shortcomings are Android’s fault.
    The fact of the matter is this:
    • THIS PHONE has no 3rd party apps already installed on it
    • T-MOBILE has not introduced an easy way to get homebrew apps onto it
    • HTC has missed the mark by not including a 3.5mm jack or stereo bluetooth in the hardware specs (or even bundling a headphone adapter with it)
    • HTC couldn’t even be bothered to put it in a nice looking body, and we’re left with rough plastic circa 1999 VoiceStream flip phones.
    • Google accounts are not “synch’d” with the phone so much as they are “pushed” to the phone, similar to a Blackberry or Microsoft Exchange.  This is great for casual users, but doesn’t help enterprise customers.  Palm’s success was based upon their Synch capabilities.  Please note that I simply said we had not seen desktop synch capabilities yet.
    You want one of these because you can program for it, and that’s fine.  But most people don’t care about that function because most people with cell phones don’t program.  For Android to have really had a good launch, it should have had a phone that really did it justice and wow’d the crowd.  Instead, HTC literally just shoved it into a phone they were going to launch anyway (the HTC Dream) and renamed it.
    While I do love the Google Maps Street View on the phone, I think I’ll be holding out for the Pearl Flip instead.
  • Schmidty says

    I understand.  This phone definitely will fill a unique niche.  And maybe all the hubbub will die out within the first week.  But my excitement is in what it means for the future of Android.  Just getting Android onto a phone is a huge step.  It’s something that the original founders of Android dreamed of, but were never actually expecting it to surface.

  • zohner says

    I’ve been hearing buzz surrounding this release for quite a while now.  In fact, because T-Mobile is one of my company’s clients, we were hoping to be able to beta test it.  (We didn’t.)  I think though that Zuke brings up some good points with the lackluster release of this, especially with what phone they put Android on.  One of the things that people love about Apple is how cool their devices look.  I’m a Mac hater so I’ll never get anything with a half-eaten apple on it but I have to admit that the iPhone looks very cool.  This does not.  The “1999 VoiceStream flip phones” comment is very appropriate here.  I’ve played with iPhones a bit and Apple did a good job.  (That hurts so badly to admit.)  With all of the resources at Google’s disposal, I think that people just expected… more.  

    In an age where technological gadgets are signs that you’re cool, Google really dropped the ball on this.  Conversely though, there is tons of potential for the true geeks of the world with this phone.  I predict that it will eventually become a niche device that only the true nerds will own.  Once this is discovered, Google will pretty it up and make the Paris Hilton’s of the world want one.  But I could be wrong….  

  • says

    Well, I think it’s important to point out that this is NOT Google’s phone . . . this is HTC’s.  Google made the OS, but it seems like the rest was out of their hands.  Regardless, yes, we did expect more.

  • says

    Not only Google maps, but it uses the onboard GPS and compass to also give you StreetView.  It also gives you access to Google Documents.