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T-Mobile unveils 1st phone to use Google software

The first cellphone to use Google's operating system will feature Google Maps with StreetView, Gmail and YouTube, officials with T-Mobile USA Inc. said Tuesday.

The first cellphone to use Google's operating system will feature Google Maps with StreetView, Gmail and YouTube, officials with T-Mobile USA Inc. said Tuesday.

The device — Google's answer to Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry — is called the T-Mobile G1 and was unveiled at a news conference in New York City by T-Mobile USA. The company is the fourth-biggest cellphone provider in the United States and the first to roll out a phone using Google's open-source operating system, Android.

The phone features a slide-out qwerty keyboard and touch screen with drag and drop for all applications. It also offers multi-tasking, allowing users to read a web page while downloading e-mail, for example.

The  phone is set to retail for $179 US in the United States beginning Oct. 22, with two different data plans offered at $25 and $35. It will be available in the United Kingdom in early November with other international launch dates scheduled throughout 2009.

None of Canada's existing wireless providers have announced plans to make the Google phone available to customers. Still, some of the country's potential new cellphone companies — Globalive, Quebecor, Shaw, Bragg and Data-Audio Visual Enterprises — may offer them when they begin operations in 2009.

The phone's launch was widely anticipated because of its use of Google's open-source software, Android.

"We really believe that open source is going to drive the future," said T-Mobile USA's chief technology and innovation officer, Cole Brodman.

Android is intended to spur non-voice data uses of cellphones, including web surfing, e-mail and geo-location. Google has also announced the Android Marketplace, where users will be able to download software applications, many of them free, for their Android phones. These applications will range from games to navigation tools to travel guides and other reference software.

Meanwhile, market-watchers are already weighing in on the new phone. "Disappointingly, the phone is a bit thick and heavy," writes Business Week columnist Stephen H. Wildstrom.

"The screen slides up to reveal a keyboard, but the way the keys are recessed between raised areas on either side makes for slightly uncomfortable typing. And while the big touchscreen is nice, you can't resize objects simply by pinching or stretching them with your fingers. Once you get used to this trick on the iPhone, you expect it on every handset."

T-Mobile USA began work on the phone after Google bought Android in a surprise November 2007 announcement that aimed to extend its reach from the computer-based internet to the mobile internet.

Pundits had speculated that Google would follow the lead of Apple Inc., which created the iPhone, with its own mobile device, dubbed the "gPhone." Instead, Google said it was not producing its own phone, but would provide the operating system backbone for many phones.

The phone unveiled Tuesday is manufactured by Taiwan's HTC, which is known for making smartphones that use Windows Mobile software.

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