Assessing Android

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Not surprisingly, given the nature of this blog, I'm pretty favourably disposed towards Google's Linux-based Android platform, even though I don't possess the only phone currently using it, T-Mobile's G1.

But it's hard to tell just how well it's doing against the iPhone, say. If any one knows, it's T-Mobile, so I was interested to receive this morning some tantalising tidbits from Richard Warmsley, head of Internet and Entertainment at T-Mobile UK.

Despite being pressed by me, he wouldn't get into specifics (now, there's a surprise) about sales, saying only that they had exceeded expectations. But he did reveal that according to their market research, G1s were selling at 70-80% the rate of iPhones. Even allowing for margins of error and any tendency to talk up such numbers, this suggests a healthy uptake.

Also interesting was to hear about the results of some focus groups conducted yesterday. Again, these always need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but in the absence of anything better, are worth bearing in mind. Overall, the view seemed to be that the presence of a “real” keyboard outweighed the slightly bulky and inelegant form factor of the G1.

In a sense, G1 users are probably self-selecting not to care about looks so much as capabilities. Similarly, Warmsley said that those users interviewed appreciated the “naked” nature of the phone – that is, its openness. This allowed them to customise and add extra functions that they wanted far more easily than with conventional proprietary phones.

The openness of the platform also cropped up in a couple of presentations from Android developers. Here the consensus seemed to be that Google had really done its homework in terms of the development environment, which was not only easy to use, but also placed few obstacles in the way of programmers who wanted to produce applications. This was contrasted with the rather drawn-out and unhelpful approach adopted by Apple.