A guide to Android: March into the mainstream

One year ago, T-Mobile USA unveiled the world's first phone running Google's untested but much-hyped operating system for cell phones. Dubbed Android, the action signaled the entrance into the market of yet another smartphone software platform, as well as Google's formal arrival onto one of the wireless industry's most competitive battlegrounds. Since that day, Android has dramatically expanded its reach, and is now supported by 10 handset makers (and INQ has said it will release an Android phone next year as well).

However, despite proclamations from Google that there will be at least 18 phones on the market running Android by the end of this year, there are currently just eight commercialized Android devices (though there are more waiting in the wings).

Further, according to comScore, there were 894,159 U.S. Android users in July. While that represents more than double the count in February, the number still pales when compared with other smartphone operating systems with more established pedigrees like Windows Mobile and Research In Motion's BlackBerry platform.

Like consumers' gradual acceptance of Android, a parallel tightening on the platform is spreading among supporting handset makers. HTC and Motorola have taken the lead in this area by offering customizable user interfaces sitting on top of Android's basic package--HTC's Sense UI and Motorola MotoBLUR platform, specifically.

"You're just going to see progress in terms of differentiated offerings start to accelerate in the coming months, and certainly into the first of half of 2010," said John Jackson, vice president of research at CCS Insight. "We really haven't seen that kind of inflection where Android goes truly mainstream just yet. You're starting to see the art of the possible with Android in these products."

Though there clearly has been some trepidation and hesitation among vendors supporting Android, as each evaluated exactly how to calibrate their approach to the effort.

"The point of the delay was really that all of these guys--the handset vendors who are in the hardware business and need a software platform--were looking for what their bet is going to be," said Ben Bajarin, the director of the consumer technology practice at Creative Strategies.

Today, the delay appears to be over. Going into the critical fourth-quarter holiday shopping season, Android looks ready for primetime. Thus, FierceWireless decided to check out the major Android handsets that have been commercially introduced to date, in a rough guide (though certainly not comprehensive) to the Android market. In highlighting the major Android announcements, we've included the pros and cons of each device, and that device's impact on the manufacturer, carrier and respective players. As always, feel free to leave your comments, thoughts and criticisms.

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T-Mobile G1

samsung galaxy
Samsung i7500
htc hero
HTC Hero
mytouch 3g
myTouch 3G
tmobile pulse
T-Mobile Pulse
htc tattoo
HTC Tattoo
moto cliq
Motorola Cliq
lg android
LG-GW620
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