2009: The Year of the Android Invasion?
Could 2009 go down as the year of the Android device invasion? We haven't yet seen the debut of many gadgets based on Android, Google's mobile operating system, but hopes are high.
According to a study by Strategy Analytics, global shipments of Android-based smartphones will grow a stunning 900 percent this year. That's a lot of Androids and raises the question, what can we expect? Some manufacturers say they have more Android-based handsets coming, but others are teasing us with the promise of netbooks, tablets...you name it--all based on the Android OS.
Why should you care? Android is not only a mobile OS, but can support a mobile platform (or ecosystem) on a par with the wildly popular OS that runs Apple's iPhone. (See " What Google's Mobile OS Will Do for Your Next Cell Phone.") The T-Mobile G1 Android-based phone is very similar to the iPhone in features and functions, offering a touchscreen interface, 3G wireless support, and a mobile app store, just as Apple does. Better yet, the Android OS is open-source, meaning developers are free to innovate in ways simply not possible with the iPhone's mobile OS (Apple keeps an iron-clad grip on what you can and cannot do with its iPhone OS).
Lastly, Android was developed in-part with the help of Google. And it never hurts to have the backing of heavy hitters like that.
To get a sense of what an Android takeover might be like, we've put together some Android devices still in prototype form. We aren't claiming that the Android gear we've assembled here is headed for success--or even that all of them will make retail shelves. But the lineup of candidates is interesting. Have a look.
GiiNii Movit Mini
This $150 Internet device GiiNii Movit Mini features a 4.3-inch touchscreen, a built-in microphone and camera (for an out-of-the-box Skype experience), Bluetooth, and an internal speaker. Quite sparse on storage with only 256MB (but expandable via MicroSD), the GiiNii Android tablet should make an appearance later this year. You can also get the "home version" called Movit Maxx.
Huawei Google Android G3
Introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year , Huawei claims this will be the T-Mobile G3. This iPhone-esque prototype has a 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. What's even better is that Huawei said this would be a low-cost handset. A commercial release is expected late this summer.
Netbooks, already one of the hottest-selling tech categories this year, won't miss the Android trend. Chinese company Skytone is prepping the Alpha-680 Android netbook, sporting a 7-inch display, a 533MHz processor, a neat convertible design, and up to 4GB of storage space (flash). Other specifications include two USB 2.0 ports, an SD/MMC expansion slot, Wi-Fi, and an ethernet port. Here's the whole lowdown on this nifty netbook.
Archos Internet Media Tablet
French manufacturer Archos, famed for its portable media players, teases us with this Android device. The media player is said to come with a 5-inch touchscreen display, 500GB of storage, and 3G connectivity, all in a 10mm thick casing. Multimedia features include TV recording with HD video playback and support for Adobe Flash Video. The Archos Internet Media Tablet could show up sometime this fall.
Not all Android prototypes have to be pretty, as the CompuLab Exeda proves. What saves the Exeda is its purpose: It's an enterprise digital assistant, used to build other custom devices with Android. Exeda has a 3.5-inch touchscreen and a 2-megapixel camera, GPS, and a MicroSD slot. Though you wouldn’t want to rock one of these on the street, it should be released within the coming months.
General Mobile DSTL1
Deemed to be the world's first dual-SIM card handset running on Android, this General Mobile prototype sports a 3-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi, and 4GB of on-board storage. A good all-rounder, the DSTL1 is also expected to come with a 5-megapixel camera (with autofocus) and DivX playback support. But no word on a release date since we first saw this phone in February.
Love on the rocks between Lenovo and Android with this sleek prototype. The OPhone will include a 5-megapixel camera (with autofocus, flash, and video recording) and a microSD card slot, and comes with Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity. Unfortunately the Lenovo OPhone will work only with Chinese 3G technology, so you can't use one of these anywhere else when it gets released sometime in Q4.
NiMble Home Phone
Android could be showing up on your home phone. The perks of a nonmobile Android phone are a 7-inch multitouch screen (800 X 400 resolution), a speedy 624MHz Marvel processor, and 512MB of storage with SD expansion. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are on board also, plus some dedicated software for the $300 home phone. Expect to see the Touch Revolution NiMble sometime in September.
The i6 may be the only dual-OS smartphone in the world, and it comes from China. This 3G phone can run both Android and Windows Mobile 6.1 and is powered by a 624MHz processor. With a 2.8-inch screen and a 2-megapixel camera, the i6 also does GPS and beefs up storage via microSD. These guys were lucky enough to get a hands-on with this HTC look-alike.
Made by the same company behind the General Mobile DSTL1, this prototype is meant to be its cheaper sibling, though sharing most of the specs. The Xphone-SDK has, among its highlights, a 3-megapixel camera, 256MB of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD up to 16GB), a 3-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.0. Again, no official release date has been mentioned for this handset.
Alienware Android Phone
Here is an Android prototype/concept created by Jas Seehra for the Web site Dial-a-Phone. Although we've titled this roundup "11 Cool Android Prototypes We'd Like to See," this is the exception--we hope it never makes it to market. Why? Simply because it is ugly.
This mockup of an Alienware phone first showed up as a rumor. At the time, February 2008, the buzz was that Dell was about to enter (again) the mobile market with something more inspiring than the Axim handheld it discontinued in 2007. And what could power a hip Alienware phone? Android of course.
Here's hoping Dell won't give any thought to this concept.
For a look at some ugly cell phones that actually did make it to market see "Dirty Dozen Ugliest and Lamest Cell Phones."