Multiple Android Phones Expected In 2009 - InformationWeek

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12/22/2008
04:19 PM
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Multiple Android Phones Expected In 2009

Handsets with various form factors will hit the market in 2009, and the emergence of Android could be especially bad for Windows Mobile, Palm, and Symbian.

Fans of the Android operating system may want to wait for next year to take the plunge, as it appears there will be a plethora of smartphones that use Google's open source operating system.

T-Mobile's G1 is the only commercially available Android-powered smartphone, but the handset's design has been hit or miss with many critics and customers. The next year should further the Open Handset Alliance's goal of spreading Android to multiple handsets with various form factors.

Samsung is reportedly readying a touch-screen Android phone that could have a similar form factor as the company's Instinct or Behold smartphones. These devices would require Android's virtual keyboard, which is on track for the first quarter of 2009. Samsung executives told ETnews the company has sped up its Android development, and a handset is expected for Sprint and T-Mobile in the second quarter of 2009.

Motorola is also betting big on Android, having ditched other operating systems to focus on Google's OS for all of its midtier handsets. Very few details have emerged on Motorola's Android phones, but the first handset is reportedly going to have strong integration with social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Sony Ericsson recently joined the Open Handset Alliance, and its Android handsets are still in the prototype phase. The company is well-known for its design of midlevel handsets, and an Android-powered phone should hit in the middle of next year.

While it's not very surprising that cell phone manufacturers are looking at Android, the wildcard could be other consumer electronics makers like Garmin. The company is known for making personal navigation units, but it confirmed that it does have an Android-powered phone in development.

The multiple handsets should be a boon for developers, who will see a larger potential audience for their products in the Android Market. But the multiple form factors could lead to concerns. Compatibility should not be a problem, but the navigation, user experience, and overall appeal of individual apps could fluctuate between devices.

With so many Android handsets, the smartphone battle will become increasingly fierce. Because Android has few enterprise features, Research In Motion's BlackBerry base should be largely unaffected. Google's OS may siphon users from Microsoft's Windows Mobile, and it may appeal to the "fat middle" of the market that Palm is going after with its Nova platform.

Symbian continues to dominate the market with about a 50% global footprint, but it has a miniscule share of the U.S. market. Many expect the upcoming open source Symbian to make a strong play for the U.S. market, but handsets aren't expected to be available until 2010. Android may be able to gain a foothold in the U.S. market and keep Symbian at bay.

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