Yesterday my colleague Arik Hesseldahl got a hold of the T-Mobile G1, the first phone to be powered by Google’s Android operating system. I played around with it and, despite the criticisms that are coming out today, I found it more appealing than I expected.
Is it as elegant and game-changing as Apple’s iPhone? Not quite. But it is a nice-looking device that has a lot to recommend. First, the G1 has a large color touch-screen that swivels out to reveal a full keyboard. Second, the software and Web browsing works pretty well, better than most cell phones I’ve seen, letting users download games and tools from an online bazaar akin to the Apple App Store. And it only costs $179–$20 cheaper than the iPhone.
Bottom line: While it will take Android a while to build market share in the cell phone world, the G1 suggests that Google’s operating system is the real deal and will be a factor to contend with over the next few years. Motorola, LG and Samsung are expected to launch Android models worldwide in 2009. My colleague Olga Kharif wrote a story reporting that analysts predict that G1 manufacturer HTC will sell 200,000 to 400,000 units this year, once the device becomes available on Oct. 22 in select markets.