Google, T-Mobile USA launch the G1 Android phone

The G1 has landed.

At a slick press unveiling in New York this morning, Google and T-Mobile USA launched the G1, the HTC-made device that is the first mobile phone to be powered by Google's Android mobile operating system.

Rumors had been swirling for months about when the launch would be, what the pricing would be, and, above all, what the phone's features would actually look like. Those questions have been answered.

The phone will retail for $179, exclusively with a T-Mobile voice contract, and data plans will be priced at $25 per month for unlimited web and email access but with limited messaging and $35 per month for unlimited web and messaging. The price puts it below the $199 pricetag of the 8GB iPhone 3G offered from Apple and AT&T.

The stage has clearly been set for a showdown between the two smartphones as the holiday season approaches, with the U.S. launch of the G1 set for Oct. 22. The phone will work internationally, and is a dual-band phone for UMTS networks and quad-band phone for GSM networks. It will also have WiFi access built in. It works on GSM, GPRS and EDGE, and is UMTS and HSDPA-capable. It is also able to work in 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1700 MHz, 1800 MHz, 1900MHz and 2100 MHz spectrum ranges.

One of the key elements of the launch that was stressed by many of the speakers was the idea of openness, in terms of applications and a mobile Internet experience. Third party developers will have the ability to add any application they can design to the Android application marketplace.

Analysts had mixed views of the launch. Ross Rubin, the director of industry analysis in consumer technology for the NPD Group, said the G1 has a lot of capabilities that will appeal to T-Mobile's market base. "Android has the benefit of taking advantage of touch screens, large screens, GPS mapping capabilities, better 3D graphics," he said. "Certainly gives it a bit of a leg up in the competitive landscape. Clearly, a very consumer-focused device, which should be very appealing to T-Mobile's consumer-leaning customer base."

He said there was a window of opportunity for the device to be an IPK--an i-Phone Killer--but that he could not speculate on how well the device would do in the long-term. "They have an opportunity to grab some share, because they are licensing broadly," he said. "T-Mobile is going to have, I presume, an exclusive for some amount time with this device, but of course it's the goal of the Open Handset Alliance to ensure that phones are available from a wide range of manufacturers and from a wide range of carriers."

Avi Greengart, the research director for mobile devices for Current Analysis, was slightly less impressed. "What they showed today was a web-browsing, POP3 email, touch-screen device at a good price with well-priced data for T-Mobile. All of those things are great," he said. "But it's not revolutionary. To try to bring the revolutionary aspect to it, the spokespeople said the words 'open' and 'platform' at least 3 dozen times. I stopped counting after a while."

For more:
- see the complete specs for the G1, click here.
- see pictures of the G1 phone here.
- see pictures from the press conference here.