T-Mobile will launch an Android phone this year and with Google allowing developers access to version 0.9, we'll soon see if it has managed the finesse of an iPhone with Nokia-grade functionality.
Version 0.9 of Google's platform is now available for download, with a redesigned user interface and some significant improvements in functionality, as well as lots of eye-candy to seduce the iPhone crowd. But Google's revolutionary platform is still lacking some of the features we've come to expect of a smartphone, including hardware on which to run it.
It's been widely reported that T-Mobile would be launching a device from HTC using the Android platform, and AFP claims confirmation from Deutsche Telecom. However, the company refused to comment when we contacted them for confirmation, so it seems likely this is another slip of the tongue from Germany.
The New York Times is predicting an October launch, though with version 0.9 only now available that seems optimistic. Both T-Mobile and Google will be fighting to get the handset into shops by Christmas, when the vast majority of mobile phones are sold.
The developer forums are already filling with screenshots and discussions about the new features of the platform, including a requirement to sign all applications, and some features that aren't going to make it into the version 1.0 release, including a Bluetooth API and the GoogleTalk service. We don't know if it's version 1.0 that T-Mobile will be using, but there's hardly time for another major revision, so what you see here is what will appear on the shelves.
Gizmodo has put together a video of the emulated interface, but points out there's still no email or IM application - not even a calendar. These will probably come later, though how closely they'll be tied into Google's existing PIM services remains to be seen. T-Mobile may not be happy if the integration is too close, but Google has little incentive to develop stand-alone applications.
Of course, Android users will be able to add applications developed by third parties, unlike phones based on LiMO which are still closed devices once sold; and not limited to applications that conform to an arcane and secret set of rules dictated by the boys in Cupertino, like the iPhone. How many people choose to develop applications for Android, and whether buyers care about such things, are very tricky questions.
Sliding, finger-driven, interfaces are all the rage these days, so Android will feature lots of those. But Apple also managed to create a remarkably stable platform in complete secrecy. Google hasn't managed the secrecy, but it will be interesting to see if they can achieve the stability in time for Christmas. ®