After the G1, what's next for Android?

With T-Mobile's HTC-produced G1, the first handset based on Google's Android mobile operating system, scheduled to make its retail debut Wednesday, attention now turns to the next Android device. While there's no official word on which manufacturer or operator will make the leap, Motorola is reportedly in the developmental homestretch on its maiden Android effort--BusinessWeek.com reports the device will boast an iPhone-like touch screen, a slide-out Qwerty keyboard and a variety of social networking-themed features promising users more direct and efficient access to services like Facebook and MySpace. Citing sources familiar with Motorola's plans, the report notes that the device maker is already showing spec sheets and images of the handset to its worldwide operator partners, but likely won't introduce the Android phone in the U.S. until the second quarter of 2009. Motorola declined to elaborate on its efforts, releasing a statement reading "We're excited about the innovation possibilities on Android and look forward to delivering great products in partnership with Google."

A phone tailored expressly for social networking applications like photo uploads and friend alerts is an intriguing proposition. More than 140 million consumers will embrace mobile social networking by 2013 according to a forecast released in September by market analysis firm ABI Research, which anticipates subscription revenues in excess of $410 million. ABI expects mobile social networking subscriber growth to climb modestly over the next three or four years before exploding--the firm believes mobile incarnations of social networks will follow the free, browser-based model defined by websites like Facebook and MySpace, which could limit mobile operator data traffic revenues and mean a reliance on mobile content sales and mobile advertising to generate cash. (And you know how strongly Google feels about mobile advertising.) Now comes word that MySpace Mobile has already made its debut on Android Market: Android Community reports the application is up and running, complete with a polished user interface enabling G1 users to approve friend requests, send and receive messages, search for friends, update their current status and upload images.

The other compelling prospect of the unnamed Motorola Android device is its price point: BusinessWeek.com notes the phone will sell for about $150 with a two-year contract, a price comparable to the handset maker's new Krave and about $30 cheaper than the G1, which is itself another 20 bucks less than Apple's iPhone. Early reviews suggest the G1 doesn't compare to the iPhone, but maybe it doesn't have to--perhaps the true promise of the open-source Android OS lies in its capacity to enable handset makers of all shapes and sizes to unleash an onslaught of devices that run the gamut of features, innovations and prices. Not every consumer wants or needs an iPhone--Android may turn out to be just the thing for subscribers who aren't sure exactly how smart they want their smartphone to be. -Jason

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