Far EasTone Raises Android Plans on Gphone Anniversary

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On the one-year anniversary of the debut of Google's Android mobile software on its first handset, the T-Mobile G1, Taiwanese mobile phone service provider Far EasTone raised the number of Android smartphones it plans to launch this year.

Far EasTone will offer its customers up to four Android handsets this year, with the first one likely to be unveiled in mid-October, a company representative said Wednesday. Previously, Far EasTone had planned for only two.

The most intriguing part of Far EasTone's impending Android phone launch is that the company has said it's working with a "leading" Taiwanese handset maker for at least two of the handsets, and it's not High Tech Computer (HTC). The representative said it's probably not Acer, either, leaving only a few potential companies, including Garmin-Asus, the joint venture between Garmin and Asustek Computer, as well as Gigabyte Technology and possibly Innocomm Mobile Technology, which showed off an Android smartphone with a 2.8-inch touchscreen earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Far EasTone has been working on Android-related projects for several months now, including developing customized software and new mobile services that run on Android with local software developers.

The company is part of the Conexus Mobile Alliance, which includes major service providers from around Asia such as Japan's largest carrier, NTT DoCoMo. The group has launched competitions and offered incentives throughout Asia to encourage local software developers to create applications that work on Android. Far EasTone's competition in Taiwan is called Mobile Heroes in which three winners will receive NT$500,000 (US$15,495) in cash for first prize, NT$300,000 for second and NT$100,000 for third.

Far EasTone's announcement shows how far Android has come over the past year as a potent new software for smartphones. Google's Android has benefitted from a number of companies joining its Open Handset Alliance and launching or announcing new smartphones for the OS.

HTC, which built the G1, has launched three more Android-based smartphones over the course of this year, HTC Magic, HTC Hero and HTC Tattoo.

Several other major mobile phone developers have joined in as well. Samsung Electronics already has the i7500 on the market, and received Federal Communications Commission approval for what is rumored to be its next Android phone, the InstinctQ M900, on the market.

Motorola announced the Cliq, its first Android handset, earlier this month, as did LG Electronics with the LG-GW620. A number of other companies have announced Android handsets as well, including Acer, Garmin-Asus, Huawei Technologies, Haier, Lenovo, Sony Ericsson and more.

The new mobile phone OS is aimed at making Internet services such as social networking sites, e-mail, online maps and particularly Google services more easily accessible on smartphones.

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