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Jan 07

How Many Androids Do We Need?

Posted by meggebrecht in Nexus OneMotorolaGoogleDellChangeWave ResearchAT&TAndroid


I don't know about you, but I'm suffering from Android burnout. Yes, I know it's just an operating system, which makes that not unlike saying I have Windows 7 burnout. But then nearly every hardware vendor and wireless carrier isn't hyping a new device that runs on Windows 7 this week, are they?

On Tuesday, Google kicked off what might as well be called Android Week with an announcement that wasn't exactly what it had been hyped to be. Observers had expected that the new smartphone Google is pushing, Nexus One, would be designed by Google -- making it the first real Google Phone. But Google was quick to point out that the heavy-lifting was done by HTC, and it just pitched in to ensure that the phone took full advantage of Android's potential.

So what makes Nexus One more than just another Android-based phone, albeit a very nice one? In terms of the physical device, it's not really clear, though the reviews thus far have been good. Walter Mossberg of All Things Digital called it the "best Android phone so far," and David Pogue of the New York Times said that it "is an excellent app phone, fast and powerful." Pogue added, however, that the device is "marred by some glitches and missing features -- a worthy competitor to the Droid, if not the iPhone."

What's new about Nexus One -- and your mileage may vary on how "new" this idea really is -- is that Google will sell the phone through a new online store, independent of the wireless carriers. You can buy it unlocked from Google for $529 and then select your own carrier for the device. Of course, the only option you'll have at first is T-Mobile (Verizon is set to offer the phone in the spring). Or you can opt to pay $180 for the phone with a two-year contract from T-Mobile.

As many pundits have pointed out, companies like Nokia and Sony Ericsson already sell unlocked phones. And there are some doubts about whether a substantial number of people will be willing to pay $350 more just to pick their own carrier.

Nexus One, though, was only the start of this week's Android news avalanche.

Motorola, maker of the Android-based Droid, available through Verizon, on Wednesday introduced a new Android phone, called Backflip. As its name suggests, the phone's QWERTY keyboard flips behind the screen instead of sliding out, which is by all accounts a neat trick. The phone is slated to come out this quarter, but Motorola isn't yet saying which carrier will cover it and how much it will cost.

Motorola says that Backflip is only one of a wave of new Android-based phones that it will be introducing this year. Its Droid phone has sold 1.2 million units, according to Oppenheimer & Co., a number that has exceeded expectations.

AT&T, meanwhile, has announced that it will roll out five Android phones in the first half of this year. The phones include one from Motorola (the Backflip maybe?), an HTC phone and Dell's first smartphone. That means that Android will now have a presence on every major carrier. It also suggests that AT&T is preparing for life without an exclusive iPhone contract.

And lest you think that the Android fever has been contained to smartphones, Dell, which is introducing  the Android-based Mini 3 phone on AT&T, is also planning to launch a tablet computer (this week's other craze) that runs on Android. The tablet has a five-inch screen, though Dell was mum on the details.

T-Mobile and Innovative Converged Devices announced an Android-based tablet of their own, called Vega, which uses a Nvidia Tegra 250 processor and has a 15 inch, 1080p HD screen. The tablet, which should come out in the first half of 2010, is being pitched as a "family" device.

And HP, which made some news Wednesday with a Windows 7-powered slate computer, is launching an Android laptop, which has a 10-inch touchscreen display.

I'm sure I'm missing some of the slew of new devices, but you get the point. Android is everywhere, and it's only going to spread. According to a new survey by ChangeWave Research, 21 percent of people planning to buy a smartphone in the next three months would prefer to own an Android device. In September, that number stood at 6 percent.
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