Android fans will soon have plenty of handsets to choose from, as Google expects there to be at least 18 Android-powered smartphones by the end of the year.
At the Google I/O conference, Andy Rubin, senior director for mobile platforms for Google, said that number could creep up to 20 handsets. Rubin said these devices will be made by eight or nine different manufacturers, although he did not name the companies.
HTC has the only commercially available Android handset with the T-Mobile G1, but Samsung has shown off an Android smartphone that's expected to be released in June. Companies like Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and Asus-Garmin also are expected to release smartphones with the Linux-based operating system.
Rubin said because Android is an open source OS, these handsets would come with a variety of user interfaces and features, and Android will be offered to manufacturers in three options. The first is an obligation-free one where the cell phone maker downloads Android and loads it onto the handset. Companies that go this route cannot preload popular Google applications like Gmail or Google Calendar, though.
The second option will have a few strings attached, as manufacturers will have to sign a distribution agreement to have Google's apps preloaded on the device. The third version is dubbed the "Google Experience," and the manufacturer has to agree to preload certain apps on the smartphone, as well as offer unfettered access to the Android Market. These types of Android handsets also can have the Google logo on them.
Rubin said he expects five or six of the upcoming smartphones to have the "Google Experience," but the majority of handsets will utilize the second option. This option gives carriers and cell phone manufacturers a way to differentiate their smartphones from other Android devices while still retaining the platform's strengths.
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