Google/HTC Dream phone to launch tonight (SGT)

September 23rd, 2008 | by Alfred Siew

Google Android phone

In the past few months, it’s been photographed and it’s been talked about to no end. No, I’m not thinking of the iPhone, which has a fast-growing list of flaws that now includes a faulty charger that may electrocute users.

I’m talking about Google’s Android phone, dubbed “Dream”, which will be out tonight Singapore time (Tuesday United States time).

One of the worst-kept secrets (even Apple couldn’t keep its iPhone completely under wraps), the Android phone will likely come with both a slide-out keypad and a touch-screen. It is also said to have a tilt sensor, so you can play “true 3D” games, a la the Apple iPhone and HTC Touch Diamond.

But will Google change the game?

Coming after the iPhone, it surely won’t be gaining the same hype. But that may be all well and good for Google, which has always been relatively low-key (compared to Apple!) with some of its products, letting the community generate the buzz instead.

Think of the backlash to the iPhone hype now (Apple is recalling some chargers to prevent electrocution, after news of poor 3G reception and dropped calls), and you might want to back a phone that doesn’t sell itself as a “faster, cheaper” gizmo when it just ain’t so.

The important thing about Android is that, unlike Apple’s iPhone, it will let developers do almost anything they like with the platform, so they can come up with all kinds of improvements and plug-ins, like a music player or GPS.

Yeah, we’ve seen the Linux push for phones before, and it’s only carved out a niche in some places, but there’s never been a bigger pusher of an “open” mobile OS than Google.

The other thing is that Google is the online king. If its apps can translate well onto the Android phone, imagine how easy it would be to find your restaurants on Google Maps, dig up phone numbers on Facebook and share pictures with friends.

You can also do all that with other phones, of course, but if Google integrates the Dream tightly with its online apps, the phone becomes easier to use and will appeal to the masses who are still looking for a way to bring their online lives on the go.

Let’s not forget HTC too. The Taiwanese phone maker has already come up with a nice iPhone alternative in the Touch Diamond, despite sticking to the limits of Windows Mobile. Now, with something that is done ground up, can it come up with something better?

In the end, the first Google device itself may not get the same “wow” as the iPhone, which was plastered ad nauseum everywhere. But if the next few gizmos are prettier (say, with HTC TouchFlo 3D?) and can integrate better with online apps, who’s to say Android-based phones won’t be a hit?

It’s true the Dream device reminds one of the Danger Hiptop (aka the T-Mobile Sidekick) game device sold here by StarHub a few years ago. That was a great gizmo that died because of a lack of developer support.

That won’t be a problem with the Dream. It just needs a number of pretty, easy-to-use devices to get it going – preferably before Christmas.

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