Google Android heads for the shops

T-Mobile and Google launched the G1 today, the first mobile phone to run Google’s open source Android software platform.

T-Mobile and Google launched the G1 today, the first mobile phone to run Google’s open source Android software platform.

Aimed at heavy mobile internet users, the T-Mobile G1 smartphone, made by HTC to a joint Google / T-Mobile design, will be available in the UK in November on contract-only for £40/m, which includes unlimited internet time.

Richard Warmsley, T-Mobile’s head of internet and entertainment, said one of the first applications users can download from Google market is a price comparison tool. This uses the three-megapixel camera to record the barcode of a product, and uses that image as a search term in Google to scour the net for the same product.

Another is a real-time carbon footprint calculator that uses the built-in GPS, accelerometer and compass to track location and details about transport mode to work out the owner’s contribution to global warming.

Google spent £5m on a competition to encourage software developers to write application for Android.

Warmsley said applications such as Google Talk, Email, Maps and Calendar are loaded on the phone. Google Apps such as word processing and spreadsheet are available via an internet link. A slide-out qwerty keyboard will make these easier to use than predictive texting.

He said there was no special targeting of business users at launch. “That would happen as customer demand drove application developers in that direction,” he said.

He said the G1 is the only Android phone with Google branding. He expected more Android phones to appear in the new year.

Network operators usually subsidise the retail price of phones, recovering the cost over the life of the contract or from higher fees for pay as you go phones.

Current proposals from Vivane Reding, the European communications commissioner, would slash mobile call prices, leaving a cash flow gap in T-Mobile’s roll-out plans.

“We have to run a responsible business, so we are watching that,” Warmsley said. He said a simplified pricing regime and lower prices would, in the long run, grow the market for smartphones. But he said initial customer interest was intense, and G1 phones are likely to be hard to come by. He did not disclose T-Mobile’s initial orders from HTC.

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