Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Android...Maybe We're Still in Robot?

In case you missed the Apple-like hubbub today, Google, HTC and T-Mobile unveiled the first Google Android-powered cell phone, the G1. On first glance, it looks very good: it takes cues from the successful phones on the market today, but improves. For instance, it includes a slide out keyboard, so Blackberry users who might have coveted an iPhone, but could not adapt to the screen based keyboard, should be happy. And it smartly integrates with Amazon's music store, so you can finally be free of the Apple imposed iTunes ecosystem, if you want music on your phone.

There are definitely some warning, signs, though, as illustrated in the chart from Gizmodo. For one, the price is deceptive. Yes, it costs $179, $20 less than the iPhone, but it only comes with 1GB of storage. Yes, it expands with additional memory cards, but that's an additional cost. Are you seriously telling me that you are launching an "iPhone-killer," without enough capacity to handle even the smallest library? Ouch.

Second, it does not have Exchange support, or even a migration path towards Exchange. Now, the 1st gen iPhone lasted a whole year without that, so you could argue that the market is already proven for that. But remember: when the iPhone launched, there was no other dominant media player phone. Now, launching a phone in this space, the early adopters have already gone for the iPhone; the hardcore smartphone users only started to migrate when Exchange support came. That means you have two strikes on you before you enter the market.

Finally, and this one baffles me, no true syncing. Yes, you can sync your Google contacts and calendar with Gmail and Google Calendar in a push fashion (very cool, by the way), but you can't sync the phone to a desktop. Transferring media and applications will be restricted to other cloud services or nonexistent. I'm a big hater of iTunes, but it does answer the question of how to sync to the desktop. The right move here, in my opinion, is to have Google whip up a web-based app to sync to the Amazon S3 powered cloud, ASAP. One touch backup and management. Look, you have until late October to get this done; market it as a beta, and sell ads on the space to make some $!

I haven't touched upon the fact that it's T-Mobile only, as that's too easy to pick on. I do think that the open-source nature will be the killer for this phone: watching Apple arbitrarily choke applications in the App Store with no explanation or communication will absolutely drive customers crazy. If Android offers a "Switch" campaign, with an easy way to get ported over, in 6-12 months, I see this as a way to get the early adopters onboard.

In any case, it does look like they thought a lot through. The taskbar at the top of the screen is incredibly smart and intuitive, as is the sync to Google applications. Let's hope they innovate like hell now, and bring some true market pressure to Apple.

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