The First Android Phone is Mainly a Novelty

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 17, 2008

As The Register reports, T-Mobile is sending out invitations to the launch of the first handset based on Google's Android platform. The handset is from HTC, and the Wall Street Journal reports that HTC says it expects to ship 600,000 to 700,000 units of the phone, called the Dream. However, I'm in agreement with Dana Blankenhorn that this first phone won't set the world on fire.

As Blankenhorn notes, this first Android phone will run on a "fourth-placed proprietary network." Sprint and Clearwire have in place a plan, with funding from Google, to build out a powerful broadband network. However, it has hit problems, and even Clearwire officials aren't willing to put a date on when a robust WiMax network will be in place.

"They say the middle of next year," Clearwire CEO Ben Wolf says here. "I'll believe it when I see it."

There are good reasons to believe this network won't happen at all, or at least not for years. It takes years to build out a broadband network, and WiMax is famous for drawing much more talk than implementation.

There are some good applications for Android, as we covered here, but I think the platform is going to need a combination of things to come together before we see Android phones competing with the iPhone and other 3G phones. There needs to be a robust, available-everywhere broadband network serving Android phones, and there should be a strong mobile browser, such as a port of Google's Chrome for Android or the Fennec mobile browser that Mozilla is working on. Until we see key parts of the equation like these coming together, the first Android phone is primarily a novelty.