It may not knock the iPhone off its throne, but the new T-Mobile G1 could finally give the reigning smart phone some much-needed competition.
During a news conference Tuesday, T-Mobile and Google executives unveiled the highly anticipated "Google-powered" phone and revealed that the HTC-manufactured G1 would go on sale Oct. 22 for $179 -- $20 less than the Apple favorite.
Die-hard iPhone fans may think that the G1 isn't as elegant or slick as their beloved smart phone. But, the G1's full-size keyboard and user-friendly interface could attract those who haven't yet embraced hand-held computers.
In size and shape, a closed G1 resembles a slightly chubby iPhone. But Google and T-Mobile say it isn't the phone's exterior that will give the phone an edge -- it's the operating system underneath.
The G1 is the first phone powered by Android -- Google's open source mobile phone software platform that gives innovative third-party developers the opportunity to create new applications.
When the G1 hits stores Oct. 22, the companies estimate that up to 100 applications will be available through the new Android Market. But they are betting that growth will mushroom.
"We really believe that open [source] is really going to drive the future of the mobile Internet," said Cole Brodman, senior vice president of product development and chief technology and innovation officer for T-Mobile USA.
"The beauty and the magic of this Android platform is a very rich tool kit for third parties to write applications and then bring them to market," he said.
On Tuesday, the companies highlighted two applications that will be available at launch: ShopSavvy and Ecorio.
ShopSavvy allows G1 owners to scan the bar code of any product to comparatively shop. And, using the G1's Global Positioning System technology, Ecorio helps users track their travels and monitor their carbon footprints.
Other applications could enable users to share music with each other, hail cabs with one click on their phone or receive location-based weather reports.
Still, until the Android Market takes off, the phone will have to win over customers on its own.
Here's a look at some of the G1's best features.
Slightly larger than the iPhone, the G1 is 5.6 ounces (to Apple's 4.7 ounces) and is 4.6 inches tall, 2.16 inches wide and 0.62 inches thick. It has a hinged touch screen that opens to a QWERTY keyboard and a trackball for one-handed navigation. In the United States, it will come in three colors: black, brown and white. It has up to 130 hours of standby time and up to five hours of talk time.
The G1 provides one-touch access to Gmail and syncs e-mail easily from most other mail services. Photos and graphics are displayed along with the text. The phone can also read Word documents and pdfs. The phone doesn't sync with a desktop, but Google and T-Mobile said they expect third-party developers to create an application that would provide this service.
The device also offers easy access to instant messaging services, including Google Talk, AOL, Windows Live Messager and Yahoo! Messenger. From their contacts application, users can see which friends are online at their computers or other mobile devices.
To make multitasking easier, the G1 also offers a "window shade" that lets users pull down active applications without closing others down.
Google and T-Mobile say searching is faster with the G1 than with other mobile phones. Although many variables determine data speed, they say the G1's interface makes accessing browsing applications easier and quicker. Users can drag a search bar to the home screen for extra efficiency.
A full HTML Web browser enables users to see any Web page the way they would from a full-size computer. But, by tapping the screen, users can zoom in for larger pictures. Users can also activate a magnifier that enlarges regions of the page as they scroll across it with a finger.
If you want to share a Web page with a friend or e-mail it to yourself, as you browse, one click pulls up an e-mail screen that allows you to do so.
As one would expect from the company that gave the world Google Earth and Google Maps, the G1 is GPS enabled and gives users easy access to mapping applications.
To prolong battery life and protect the privacy of users, owners must manually turn on the GPS function. The default setting is off. Once users have activated the function, they can click on any address to launch mapping software that provides driving directions, street views and information about local businesses.
In what Google and T-Mobile say is an industry first, the phone's Google Maps feature syncs with a built-in compass to allow customers to use the Street View program to view locations and navigate 360 degrees by moving the phone with their hands.
Like the iPhone, the G1 allows owners to launch a YouTube application directly from the home screen to browse videos and share them with friends.
The G1 also includes a 3-megapixel camera and has a variety of photo-sharing capabilities.
The phone also comes pre-loaded with an Amazon.com application that allows customers to search for and download (for a price) Amazon MP3 tracks. But users can also easily connect the phone to a computer and drag music files into it as they would with an external hard drive.
A 1 GB memory card that can hold up to 500 songs comes with the phone, but the device can support up to an 8 GB memory card.