T-Mobile to launch first Google-powered phone

The first cellphone running Google Inc.'s mobile software looks something like Apple Inc.'s iPhone and has a large touch screen.

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September 24, 2008 12:23
3 minute read.
T-Mobile to launch first Google-powered phone

Google phone 88 224. (photo credit: )

 
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The first cellphone running Google Inc.'s mobile software looks something like Apple Inc.'s iPhone and has a large touch screen, but it also packs a trackball, a slide-out keyboard and easy access to Google's e-mail and mapping programs. Google made its debut as a cellphone software provider Tuesday at an event where wireless carrier T-Mobile said it will begin selling the G1 phone for $179 with a two-year contract. The device hits US stores October 22 and heads to Britain in November and other European countries early next year. The phone will be sold in T-Mobile stores only in the US cities where the company has rolled out its faster, third-generation wireless data network. By launch, that will be 21 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Miami. In other areas, people will be able to buy the phone from T-Mobile's Web site. The phone does work on T-Mobile's slower data network, but it's optimized for the faster networks. It can also connect at Wi-Fi hotspots. The data plan for the phone will cost $25 per month on top of the calling service, at the low end of the range for data plans at US wireless carriers. And at $179, the G1 is $20 less than the least expensive iPhone in the US. Like the iPhone, the G1 has a high-resolution screen, making it easier to browse Web sites that haven't been specifically adapted for a cellphone. Unlike the iPhone, Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerrys and most other high-end smart phones sold in the US, the G1 has a very limited ability to connect to corporate e-mail servers. That means the device's initial market is likely to be consumers. Google is giving away Android, the software that underlies the G1, for free and opening the operating system to third-party developers who can create their own programs. The software has been seen as Google's way of getting a foothold on the mobile Internet, which industry watchers see as a big growth area, and in particular as a way to make advertising on cellphone screens a viable business. In an interview, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said Google's aims were broader than mobile advertising. "Generally, we think if there are great [operating systems] out there that let people have great devices and great applications; people use the Internet on their phones much more," Brin said at the launch event in New York. "And whenever people use the Internet more, they end up using our services, and ultimately, that's good for our business. There's no secret plan to have ads pop up or anything." On the face of it, the G1 doesn't do much that other high-end phones don't already do. But Google is counting the device unleashing the creativity of software developers, who are free to write applications for it. "There aren't a lot of 'wow' features on it. I think what we can expect from it is that it's going to be a good Internet phone," said Lance Ulanoff, editor-in-chief of PC Magazine. Developers will be able to submit applications to an on-line store run by Google, which will apply minimal vetting. Apple launched a similar store for the iPhone earlier this year, but keeps much tighter control over what applications are available. It has blocked programs that compete with its own. Brin also revealed that he had personally written an application for the phone. "It's just very exciting for me as a computer geek to be able to have a phone that I can play with and modify and innovate upon, just like I have with computers in the past," he said. Brin's program uses the phone's built-in motion sensor to measure how long it takes for the phone to land when tossed into the air. He acknowledged that the wisdom of including such a program with an expensive phone is dubious. "We did not include that one by default," he said.

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