Google's Android team Dec. 5 quietly announced the Android Dev Phone 1, a SIM-unlocked and hardware-unlocked device on which programmers of the open-source mobile operating system can test and debug their applications.
Programmers can use any SIM card in the device, so that users can use it on any network that will support it. Network providers lock the SIM cards to restrict the use of these phones to specific countries and network providers, one of the many ways telecommunications giants control their destiny in the industry.
The unit costs $399 and is available in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, India, Canada, France, Taiwan, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Poland and Hungary.
Those registered as an Android developer (there is a $25 registration fee, putting the phone cost at $424) on the Android Market site can buy the smart phone by logging into their developer account on Android Market. Google is allotting a limit of one device per developer account for now to make sure people don't hog all the hardware.
The release comes after T-Mobile formally unveiled the G1 based on Google's Android mobile operating system. At that Sept. 23 event, Cole Brodman, chief technology and innovation officer for T-Mobile, told the crowd that T-Mobile would not be unlocking the G1, the first smartphone based on Android.
The device ships with a system image that is fully compatible with Android 1.0, so it will work with any programmer's applications, allowing users to poke around on Android without having to buy a G1 and rely on T-Mobile's network (though the G1 is $179, less than half the cost of the unlocked gadget).
The bootloader on the Android Dev Phone 1 does not enforce signed system images, according to Google's Android team.
While some reports say T-Mobile could be shipping 1 million-plus G1 units by Jan. 1, the unlocked gadget is sure to come as more welcome news for programmers who don't belong to or don't want to be tied to T-Mobile's network.
In fact, Google warns that Android Dev Phone 1 devices are not intended for nondeveloper users, noting, "Since the devices can be configured with system software not provided by or supported by Google or any other company, end users operate these devices at their own risk."
In other Android news, Google has released Android 1.0 SDK Release 2. This release enables developers to write applications compatible with Android 1.0 devices, such as the T-Mobile G1.
However, as with most iterative platforms, this new release fixes a few bugs, wrote Dan Morrill, an Android developer advocate for Google.
While SDK 1.0 Release 1 enabled programmers to write technically illegal code by using the Java Reflection APIs to access private or protected fields and methods, Release 2 squelches that by enforcing private/protected visibility of items accessed via Reflection.
In the meantime, the Jan. 1 deadline is hurtling toward us. How many G1s do you see shipping? Enough to put it in the same league with Apple's iPhone, which shipped its first million units in 74 days?