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The elusive first phone to use the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android platform now has a name and a face. Say hello to the T-Mobile (NYSE: DT ) G1, a modern-looking smartphone with full sliding QWERTY keyboard and all the bells and whistles we've come to expect in the iPhone era.
The G1 (nee Dream), made by Taiwanese handset designer HTC, comes with a high-powered Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) microprocessor, a 3-megapixel camera, and a 3.3-inch screen. You're not likely to find a bigger display on handsets not marked Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) . The battery comes with 1150 mAh of juice, again second to the iPhone's 1400 mAh battery rating. If there is one specification item that disappoints the fanboys, it's the scrawny 64 megabytes of internal memory, only half of what the iPhone 2.0 or Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) MotoQ can offer.
So the G1 runs a close second to the most obvious competition in a few respects. As for the thin memory worries, high-speed RAM is not the workhorse memory inside today's smartphones, as much of the working data gets pushed out to the bountiful flash memory instead. And the battery life depends as much on the system's power hunger as it does on raw battery reserves, so the jury is out on that point. The full keyboard might make up for the slightly smaller screen in many cases.
But obsessing about minor hardware details is plain silly, especially since we're just looking at the first of many Android handsets. The main thing is the software; Android provides easy programming access to every part of the handset through well-defined and well-understood Sun (Nasdaq: JAVA ) Java hooks and a small virtual machine manager. It's buzzword-loaded, sure, but also friendly to developers and ultimately to users.
The proof is, as always, in the custard -- and the dessert cart comes around in just a few weeks. If Google's development program pans out as planned, there should be a massive pile of applications available for download at launch, and Apple has already shown us how enriching that app store can be. Expect a few stale lemon tarts among the first few Android devices, but I think the sweet, sweet tiramisu will come around soon enough. Apple and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) both better watch out. Google may have found its first offline cash cow already.