Hype builds for Android phone launch

T-Mobile USA will be the first carrier to launch the new Google Android phone, which is expected next month. But will the much-hyped phone live up to expectations?

Correction made September 17 at 9:05 a.m. PDT: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Google had not officially launched an application marketplace. Google has announced an application Web site called Android Market .

The launch of the new Google Android phone on T-Mobile USA's network is fast approaching, but will the phone live up to its hype?

T-Mobile USA is expected to announce the new phone, called the Dream, on September 23. And it is expected to start selling the device, which is made by Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, sometime in October.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that sources close to the manufacturer say HTC is forecasting that it will ship 600,000 to 700,000 phones by the end of the year. This is much higher than the 300,000 to 500,000 phones analysts have predicted the company will sell.

Neither HTC nor T-Mobile would comment on the story, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The phone, which will be the first to use Google's open-source Android operating system, has been hyped for months. Blogs and traditional news outlets have been reporting every rumor and leak about the device, which is expected to go head-to-head with Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry smartphones.

The phone is expected to be packed full of bells and whistles that combine those found in the iPhone with some found in a BlackBerry. For example, it has a large touch screen like the iPhone. But it also has a swivel-out QWERTY keypad and trackball for navigation similar to the BlackBerry.

But I think the success of the Android-based Dream will be based on how well the software and applications work. Apple's open API (application programming interface) for the iPhone and its App Store, where applications are easily sold and downloaded, have created a robust marketplace for new applications for the iPhone.

Android, which is built on an open-source platform, promises to offer developers an easier way to develop new applications. And this will likely be the case. But the fact that Android will be used on hundreds of different handsets might complicate application development and distribution.

iPhone developers only have to worry about one piece of hardware, which makes it easier to develop more robust applications. But this will not be the case with Android, which can be used by any phone manufacturer.

In August Google announced Android Market, an online center that will let people find, buy, download, and rate applications and other content for mobile phones equipped with the open-source operating system. But at least initially, the site will be a beta version that will only support distribution of free applications. An update later will handle different versions of applications, support for different profiles of Android phones, and analytics to help developers track adoption, according to an earlier CNET News report.

Android is also supposed to have tighter integration with many Google applications. It will be interesting to see if easy access to these applications and the Android Market will satisfy customers enough to entice them to choose the Dream over an iPhone or BlackBerry.

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