Android’s First Offering: The Full Scoop on G1

Google’s first foray into the mobile world is finally upon us. T-Mobile, HTC, and Google showed off the Android G1 — formerly known as the Gphone and the Dream — at a media event Tuesday. So does it deliver? Check out the specs and decide for yourself.

The Phone

The phone itself, as had previously been rumored, combines an iPhone-style touchscreen with pull-out QWERTY keyboard and a BlackBerry-like trackball. It’s not nearly as ugly as some of the early leaked shots had suggested, either (click images to enlarge):

The Music

Some of the strongest criticism against the G1 phone has included its lack of iTunes support compared to, you know, that other phone on the market. To counter that, Google has built-in integrated Amazon MP3 options. Instead of iTunes, you can conduct one-click ordering through Amazon’s music service and then use the Android music player to listen. It has integrated Google and YouTube “more information” options for any playing song, too.

The Network

The iPhone, of course, has come under fire for its 3G-related problems. How will T-Mobile stack up? The company says its newly built network will be live in 22 U.S. markets — all the major metropolitan areas, it says — by the time the G1 launches. The phone will also have support for T-Mobile’s EDGEnetwork and regular WiFi. As far as comparative reliability, though, only time will tell.

The Price

The G1 comes a bit cheaper than its competitor, with initial prices at $179 (with a two-year T-Mobile contract). Data plans run either $25 a month for limited messaging and unlimited Internet or $35 a month for unlimited of both. Though the savings there seem significant over AT&T’s iPhone options, note that you are required to sign up separately for a T-Mobile voice plan.

(The phone, by the way, will be in U.S. stores on October 22, with pre-ordering available soon for current T-Mobile customers. The G1 is expected to hit the U.K. in early November and then spread throughout Europe early next year.)

The Programs

The Android OS comes with a number of unique options from Google. As you might expect, services such as Google Maps, Google search, and YouTube are integrated throughout the platform. There’s a dedicated Google search button on the keypad. The most interesting option, though, is the Street View compass mode. That lets you get a real-time, moving image on street level that’s matched with your own location.

More from the Google team:

Other programs built into the phone include instant messaging (Google Talk, AOL, Yahoo, and Windows Live), a Chrome-like browser optimized for mobile use, and Gmail synchronization. Microsoft Exchange options are not offered by default; however, third-party apps are expected to cover that soon.

More on the WebKit browser:

The Apps

Android has some pluses and some minuses compared to Apple when it comes to apps. As of now, Apple’s App Store certainly has a wider offering, given the newness of the Android platform. Where Android gains points, though, is in its open system. The Android Market, as it’s being called, will let developers sign up and upload programs in a matter of minutes — no involved approval process required. What’s more, uploaded apps will appear instantly and will be ranked based solely on user ratings. Given all the anger surrounding Apple’s banning of apps lately, this may prove to be a strong positive for Android. Reps insist the companies will never moderate or ban any programs from the store.

As for availability, you can get an idea of some of the early offerings at the Android Developer Challenge Gallery. We won’t really see the full scope of what could come for several more weeks, though.

The Killer Question

So will the G1 be an iPhone killer? The Inquisitr’s Duncan Riley predicts no, and he may be right. Apple has built quite an empire with its brand, and it’s not about to be toppled in an instant. At the same time, though, I’ve gotta say that the first Android offering has an awful lot of appeal. It looks to be a pretty cool device with some intriguing and unique options. The inclusion of the QWERTY keyboard along with the touchscreen is a big plus for me, personally, and I’d be just as satisfied with an Amazon-based music option as I would with iTunes. The built-in Google functionality will be a strong selling point, and the lower pricing won’t hurt, either. The open nature of both the OS and the app store are also pleasing to me on both a principle level and a practical level, with the increased innovation that could result down the road.

So for me, yeah — from what I know so far, I’d consider a G1 before I’d consider an iPhone. Will everyone else? Of course not. And hoards of iPhone users likely won’t jump ship on October 22. But all together, Android’s first offering is a decently impressive package with the potential to provide the iPhone some real competition. It may not have the power to make an immediate kill, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it make a good-sized splash — and as it expands over the coming years, that splash could just grow into a fairly fierce wave.