Media outlets today are heralding the next coming of the T-Mobile Android phone, the gadget that was going to help Google set the mobile applications world on fire.
Well, maybe the G1 didn't live up to the hyperbolic expectations. In trying to be everything to everyone, the device came across as big and clunky compared to the unparalleled iPhone.
But T-Mobile did manage to ship more than one million of the devices in eight months. This number was, depending on whom you listened to (sometimes me when I was feeling bullish), about what was expected over the course of a year. Net-net, the G1 has done well.
In comes the myTouch 3G. The device will cost $199 with a two-year agreement, with general availability set for early August. Current T-Mobile customers will be able to pre-order the handheld beginning July 8.
TC'S MG Siegler tells us the myTouch basically is the same gadget as the HTC Magic released in Europe and the Google Ion phone Google gave to attendees of the Google I/O conference in May.
Siegler said the myTouch will boast much customization, including menus, wallpapers, icons and a range of other things, as well as the inclusion of Sherpa, an application built by Geodelic that learns more about the myTouch user's preferences from their phone use.
In Web 2.0 parlance, this is "behavior recognition." Siegler wrote:
"So, for example, if you're searching a lot of Thai food, Sherpa should recognize that as something that you like in the future. And it uses your location information to give you tailored results for what it believes you will want based on what you're around."
This is exactly the kind of application that can help mobile Web application providers, in cohorts with advertising giants such as Google, Yahoo make money from the largely untapped mobile ad arena. We don't know how well the behavior recognition app will work, or whether or not users will be able to turn it off.
This is the type of software that's liable to scare privacy advocates to death, but maybe I'm just projecting too far ahead. Maybe Sherpa will suck and won't be able to help a coffee addict find the nearest Starbucks.
As widely expected, the myTouch has no physical keyboard, relying on the Android 1.5 "Cupcake" OS software. A virtual keyboard is table stakes for phones wanting to steal some of iPhone's magic. Siegler notes the myTouch boasts a bump in specs compared to the G1, including 512 MB of internal memory, or double that of the G1, as well as superior battery life.
A big difference between the myTouch and the iPhone OS is also the fact that the Android OS lets third-party apps run in the background. Now that we have an Android-based phone that is physically more similar to the iPhone (e.g., no physical keyboard, rounded edges instead of a square design), the true test to help Android phones distinguish themselves from iPhones may be in the applications Android enables.
Perhaps Android will be the difference maker for the apps that run on top of it and in the background. Google needs this to happen.
An Android evangelist could argue that Google needn't worry about getting Android to perfectly power smartphones because the OS will start to power TVs, laundry machines, refrigerators, and God knows what-all devices under the sun.
But if Android won't provide a quality performance on smartphones, what manufacturer in its right mind would install Android as the software platform on which its consumer electronics devices run? This isn't '80s or even the '90s when computer makers relied on Microsoft Windows to power their PCs.
So we need more Android phones, hopefully as promised from Verizon Wireless Motorola. With the emergence of the new phones, Google needs to improve the Android user experience.