Android launch confirms host of rumors

Well, the first Android phone is here and it's pretty cool. The HTC/T-Mobile/Google press conference announcing the new T-Mobile G1 with Google (that's a mouthful) device just finished and ended up confirming a host of Android rumors that had been roiling the Web in recent days. The whole point, the three vendors say, is to bring more of a laptop-like Internet experience to a phone, and if the features work as advertised, they've come pretty close.

First and foremost, the phone is called the G1 with Google, not the Dream. It will cost $179 (cheaper than the $199 price previously floated), and come with a choice of data plans, limited at $25 and unlimited at $35. Plus, the phone comes with push Gmail (something recently rumored), but not free Gmail, since the data plan will be required. It also does indeed come with a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, in addition to its iPhone-like swipe-finger interface.

The phone has a built-in MP3 player, and preloaded access to the Amazon MP3 music store. (It does not support Apple's iTunes, however, since only DRM-free music is supported.) And a really cool feature is search, not surprisingly since it's Google-based. But there's a search button on the keyboard that lets users search from within any application intuitively, so if they're in e-mail, it will search e-mail contacts, but if they're on the Web, it will do a Web search.

The G1 can also handle Microsoft Word, Excel (and Adobe PDF) files, but no Exchange support so far (that's something developers will need to work on, Google says). The biggest thing for an "open" phone OS like Android is that this first iteration is SIM-locked to T-Mobile. So much for picking and choosing the network/service provider you want. But beyond T-Mobile's 3G network, the phone will also work via WiFi, which should be pretty interesting. Another rumor confirmed is that it will ship with a Chrome-like mobile browser. Google says the browser is based on the open-source WebKit, just like Chrome for the desktop, but the G1 sports something more akin to "Chrome-lite."

The phone can be pre-ordered via the Web from T-Mobile, and should hit stores Oct. 22.

For more details, view a video of the press conference here:

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