The “GPhone” rumor has been circulating the internet for ages, with technophiles getting excited at the prospect of a phone from the company who has simplified everything from internet search to advertising. Speculation had it that Google was producing a phone to rival the iPhone; surprising, since Google collaborated with Apple in creating the iPhone’s Google Maps application. Some analysts predicted that Google was working on a cheap, advertising-supported mobile phone that would allow users access to their online suite of office-like applications. Further speculation centered around Google’s involvement in the purchase of the 700 MHz radio communications spectrum.
On November 5, Google revealed its plans to the world. Instead of spearheading the initiative alone, Google formed the Open Handset Alliance, a group of mobile operators, hardware manufacturers, and software developers. Today, they officially released the SDK and announced a challenge where they plan to give out $10 million in awards to the best developers and apps.
The Open Handset Alliance will revolutionize mobile communication.
1. It’s Time for a Change.
For years, mobile phone users have been stuck using phone carrier’s proprietary and ugly interfaces. Prior to the purchase of an iPhone, I had a Motorola Razr V3 and a Blackberry 7100t. Leaving my Mac every day and using the other phones was like torture. Android finally brings attractive design to anyone, regardless of what phone you’re using. Additionally, features typically only available on high-end phones, like mapping applications and threaded text messages, are available with Android. Sergey Brin’s demonstration goes further into Android’s design.
Android’s Home Screen
2. Android Scales to Every Device
Android isn’t dependent on device hardware. Instead, it changes which features it offers. iPhone-like features would be reserved for individuals with pricier phones, but those with lesser-priced phones need not worry about lacking applications like mapping and address books.
3. It’s Supported by Dozens of Hardware Manufacturers.
Sure, the iPhone created a change throughout the mobile phone industry. To benefit from that trade, you must sign a two-year contract with AT&T, and you must use the iPhone. Android finally allows individuals to get the features they want in the phone they want, without a ridiculously high premium. Thus far, HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung have signed on to produce hardware that runs Android. This support ensures that Android, unlike the Symbian OS, has widespread adoption.
Android’s Mapping Application
4. It’s Open Source
The average consumer doesn’t have to know what open source is to benefit from it. The participation of thousands of volunteer programmers means the interface will get the upgrades it needs without the corporate oversight it doesn’t.
5. Third Party Development is Encouraged
iPhone developers are renegades, constantly playing a cat-and-mouse game with Apple until the official SDK is released in February 2008. Android, meanwhile, is taking the opposite approach, relying on third-party developers to make the platform viable for consumers. The Android Developer Challenge has more than ten million dollars to award to programmers who create new and innovative applications for the Android platform. Development on the iPhone has been remarkable, and there is no incentive for developers there. Imagine the success the Open Handset Alliance will have with Android when they encourage the development of new applications.
Google has shaken up the mobile phone industry, but not the way many imagined it would. Finally, it seems, there is a solid group of companies prepared to bring the future to everyday consumers. The Open Handset Alliance is more than action; it’s recognition that the current system is broken and needs to be fixed. This commitment to progress will bear fruit towards the end of 2008, when Android is scheduled to make its debut. There once was a time when only lots of money could buy full-featured and advanced telephones. Google and the rest of the Open Handset Alliance have heralded a new era, and one can be sure that, come 2008, the mobile phone industry will be going through a change, if not a longing evolution.