Google's Android: Looking Good ... But What's The Cost? - InformationWeek

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11/14/2007
03:55 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Google's Android: Looking Good ... But What's The Cost?

In my earlier blog post about Google's Android, I wondered if one of the fruits of that labor would be a phone user interface that didn't leave those of us not buying a phone that starts with the lower-case letter "i" out in the cold. Then I saw the videos on the Android Developer Channel and had a hard time not

In my earlier blog post about Google's Android, I wondered if one of the fruits of that labor would be a phone user interface that didn't leave those of us not buying a phone that starts with the lower-case letter "i" out in the cold. Then I saw the videos on the Android Developer Channel and had a hard time not jumping up and down with glee. I just hope I can afford the phones that may end up using it.

First, take a second and check out the videos if you haven't already.  They're more than worth a peek, even if you're not doing any kind of mobile application development. If the actual products we get from the phone vendors are anything remotely like this, it will be more than worth it. Especially, and this is the key thing for me, if it means we see baseline phones that are Android-equipped and not just higher-end smartphones.

By "baseline" I mean whatever phone you can get from your provider that you're not going to shell out a ton of extra money for. That's what I went with when I renewed my contract with T-Mobile, a Samsung handset that does the job, but some of the features, like instant messaging, are so horribly implemented that I don't use them unless a loaded gun is pointed at my head. The Android demo linked to above showed, among many other things, a wonderfully logical way to deal with instant messaging (the demo shows it better than I can explain it). If instant messaging was like this on my phone -- even if it was only implemented in a rudimentary way -- I'd use it a lot more often, and would gladly pay the few extra per-message charges on my phone bill for it.

That brings me to the flip side of my enthusiasm, which is me wondering how well Android's features and specifications will scale to lower-end devices. I doubt I'd see anything like the Google street-level navigation features on my el cheapo Samsung (at least not for a while yet!), but I have a hard time seeing how things like their handling of instant messaging couldn't be implemented on it.

Yes, I'm being a bit selfish here. I want to know how, or if, this open-source phone stuff is going to benefit me -- a guy who neither has, nor can really afford, nor particularly wants, a $300+ phone.  If open source can put operating systems, Web servers, databases, and desktop applications into people's hands at little or no cost to them directly, surely it can give me a marginally better phone than the one I have now? That, I suspect, is not up to Google alone, but the handset makers and phone companies -- from whom I have come to expect terribly little.

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