Australians face long wait for Google phone

Australian technology lovers were among the first people in the world to get their hands on Apple’s 3G iPhone, which was released in July.

Australian technology lovers were among the first people in the world to get their hands on Apple’s 3G iPhone, which was released in July.

But gadget freaks keen to get their hands on the new G1 mobile phone, the first smartphone to be powered by Google’s Android mobile software platform, are not going to be so lucky.

No launch date has been set for the Australian release of the device, which goes on sale in the US on 22 October. Most Australian analysts are predicting the phone won’t land Downunder until the second quarter of 2009.

Google Australia spokesman Rob Shilkin could not confirm a launch date.

“As we have said publicly since we announced Android, our hope is that the Android platform will spur the development of thousands of different kinds of devices. The T-Mobile G1 is just the first step,” Shilkin says.

“It’s still too soon to tell what forms Android-powered devices will take, but we’re excited about the possibilities this kind of open platform will bring, and the benefits that users will ultimately enjoy.”

Meanwhile, reviews of the G1 are rolling in from the US and Europe.

The general consensus seems to be that while the G1 cannot match the iPhone’s sleek design and finish, the Android software platform is impressive.

“Google’s first Android phone may not win any beauty contests, but the smartphone’s software and advanced web browsing will give today’s current crop of smartphones, including the iPhone, a run for their money,” CNet says.

TechCrunch said the G1 comes very close to the iPhone package. “It doesn’t have quite the finish of the iPhone (both in terms of hardware or user interface), but it comes pretty damn close. And more importantly, it matches the iPhone on many fronts. It’s got GPS, WiFi, a touchscreen, an accelerometer, a camera, g-mail, Google Maps, a webkit-based browser (just like Safari on the iPhone), and an app market.”

InformationWeek, like many reviewers, says the G1 represents a starting point for the Android platform, which will develop over time. “Overall, the G1 appears to be a highly capable smartphone that doesn’t blow away the competition in terms of hardware or features. But the Android platform is all about the software, and only time will tell if Google and developers can make this OS better and more compelling than the incumbents.”

The Times’ review starts very simply: “The T-Mobile G1 is great. The iPhone is better.”

Of course, the G1 is only the starting point for Google-powered phones.

Google’s Android platform is offered free to phone makers. But while there are 30 manufacturers working on phones using the platform, only Taiwanese manufacturer HTC has actually succeeded in getting a handset – the G1 – ready for consumers.

For Google, the more of these manufacturers that build Android phones, the more opportunities for Google to role out its various applications, such as Google Maps, Google Chrome and Google Reader.

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