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Assessing Android's potential in 2009

2009 may finally be the year when Android breaks out of its shell, thanks to all the recent news of Android development. But will it be enough to best the Windows Mobile and Symbian phones of the world?

T-Mobile G1 Corinne Schulze/CNET

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments in the cell phone industry this year was the final release of the T-Mobile G1 (also known as the HTC Dream), and with it, the first commercial version of the Android operating system.

Even though we thought the G1 itself left much to be desired, we were impressed overall at the potential of the Android OS, and encouraged that Google's Open Handset Alliance might finally move the open-source platform forward. But, of course, Google faces great challenges ahead just in terms of market share--Symbian and Windows Mobile have a huge stake in the smart phone market, not to mention the Apple iPhone and RIM's line of BlackBerrys.

Still, there are several indications that 2009 might be the year Android truly comes into its own. We've heard news that Sony Ericsson and HTC are planning new Android phones in time for summer next year; Chinese company Huawei is developing an Android smart phone; and Samsung has revealed plans for a "full touch screen" Android handset by next year as well.

But even more than that is the ever-evolving nature of the Android operating system itself--because it is an open-source platform, it's built to be nimble and open to change. Already, we've seen plans to add stereo Bluetooth support, video capture, and the ability to save MMS attachments to the next Android build, a mere two to three months after the G1's release.

But with that potential come the limitations of hardware and carrier restrictions. We mentioned in our review of the G1 that we weren't too thrilled with the odd placement of the keyboard and the lack of a standard headphone jack. So here's hoping future Android devices will resolve these issues, and perhaps add a little more flexibility--the ability to do data tethering would be nice --so that the OS can truly shine.

What do you readers think? Are you looking forward to an Android phone next year? What would you want out of it? Let us know.