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Android Phone Due in Europe Before Christmas

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T-Mobile's G1, the first mobile phone based on Google's Android platform, will be available in the U.K. before Christmas this year.

The G1 will be available for free on price plans from £40 (US$74) a month, which will include unlimited mobile Internet browsing, the company said Tuesday.

French mobile operator SFR also plans to launch an Android phone in the first half of 2009, but it won't say from which manufacturer, according to spokeswoman Isabelle Naufle.

The G1 is manufactured by HTC but LG and Samsung also plan to make Android phones, said Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner. HTC calls the handset the Dream.

The T-Mobile-Android coupling makes a lot of sense, according to analysts.

"T-Mobile has obviously had a good relationship with HTC for a long time, and with Google as well. It was also one of the first major operators who went out and said it was moving away from the walled garden approach and embracing the Internet," said Milanesi.

T-Mobile has also been one of the more forward-thinking operators when it comes to mobile data, according to Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight.

There is a demand for Linux-based phones among operators, which want to stop supporting the proprietary operating systems on mid-tier phones, according to Milanesi. But support from operators for Android, which is based on Linux, is spotty at best. "Arguably Google's biggest challenge is getting operators onboard. It has very limited operator support at present," said Blaber.

The majority of operators are holding back at the moment, according to Blaber. "I think there is a feeling that Google hasn't provided a huge amount of detail in terms what its motivation is with Android, and exactly how end-user data is being used, for instance," said Blaber.

In Europe Telefónica and Telecom Italia are, like T-Mobile, members of the Open Handset Alliance, but that doesn't mean either one will announce Android-based phones anytime soon, according to Blaber.

Vodafone doesn't want to comment on its lack of support for Android, but sees using Google's Maps and search technology as a good way to work with the company in the mobile space, according to a spokesman.

Going forward, many operators will see Android as a threat, because of Google's services push, but at the same time other operators are going to see the platform as a helping hand, according to Milanesi.

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