Android G2 Has Rumor Mill Buzzing

There’s no leap of imagination needed to expect the arrival one day of a T-Mobile “G2” Android-based smartphone, an expected though still hypothetical follow-up to T-Mobile’s popular G1. At this point, however, one does need some imagination to guess on a delivery date and describe a possible feature list.

A variety of rumors have been swirling around the Web, citing anonymous sources in reports that have, for the most part, been appropriately labeled “rumors.” Cell Phone Signals credits an anonymous tipster with a Jan. 26 announcement date, while some say February. Other sites like The Boy Genius Report indicate an April delivery due to a software issue delay. March, for some unexplained reason, seems to be missing from the predictions entirely.

Either way, most reports seem to foretell that the G2 will ditch the G1’s slide-out QWERTY keyboard in favor of an iPhone-like touchscreen keyboard. However, the model may also retain a trackball.

Plus, it’ll reportedly boast a 5 megapixel camera as well as a VGA camera — presumably for video calling.

But Wait, There’s More

In addition to the delivery date and feature speculation, some bloggers — and readers — are already getting fired up about the idea that the G2 will be what the G1 should have been. If any of these rumors eventually prove accurate, might early G1 buyers feel like they were taken advantage of by T-Mobile because the company is releasing a second-generation G2 so quickly?

It would be similar to the Apple iPhone fiasco, wherein many early adopters got upset over Apple dropping the price of the iPhone soon after it was first released.

So What’s Really Happening?

Of course, most industry analysts don’t often comment on rumors, and even when they have been pre-briefed by manufacturers and service providers, they often have to keep their non-disclosure information close to the vest. Still, LinuxInsider reached out to three analysts to get their take on the latest G2-focused speculation.

The manufacturer behind the G1, HTC, has released similar phones with and without some of these features.

“If you look at their lineup, they have slide-out keyboards and then the same basic model without,” Ken Dulaney, a vice president and mobile and wireless analyst for Gartner, told LinuxInsider.

“So [the rumored G2] would not be difficult to envision. But I have found the G1 difficult to use without the keyboard, so it might not be highly functional. The Android OS is still immature in my mind, so buyers had better beware,” he explained. Potential customers, he noted, should use the device in the store with some real data before they make a buying decision.

More Android on the Way?

“I definitely expect additional Android handsets in the months to come, both from HTC and its competitors,” Avi Greengart, research director of mobile devices for Current Analysis, told LinuxInsider.

“If I had to guess, I imagine that a follow-up to the HTC Shadow would come to T-Mobile before a G1 successor, but the G1 is crucial to T-Mobile’s ability to attract smartphone buyers, so you never know. The G1’s hardware is somewhat clunky, sharing none of the style of some of HTC’s latest Windows Mobile designs,” he explained.

… And Perhaps Not a Moment Too Soon?

“With the G1, from what I understand and see, it looks like that phone was a design from more than two years ago — it has a trackball, touchscreen, QWERTY keyboard, but it just seems like the design was a little dated before it even got to market,” Chris Hazelton, research director of Mobile and Wireless for The 451 Group, told LinuxInsider.

The latest designs HTC is launching for Windows Mobile are on par with iPhone, Hazelton said, so he expects that elevating the form factors for Android is also probably a priority for HTC.

“HTC has really been trying to push more into touch. Their first device that was fully touch wasn’t very good in terms of input methods … but now I think they are getting touch down and they are more confident with touch, and I think their next device will be fully touch,” Hazelton noted, adding that Samsung will be launching a touch-based Android device in the first quarter of 2009 as well.

As for Motorola, Hazelton doesn’t expect to see an Android phone until late 2009.

What About Those Angry Early Adopters?

“This [the rumored G2] is not competitive with the G1 … it’s a different form factor,” Dulaney said.

“So there will not be any problem with users buying the first one and regretting that decision. Just like RIM or Nokia, there are different models,” he explained.

Still, frustrated customers stuck on long-term contracts can be underestimated, especially if they’re not particularly impressed with the device they carry everywhere.

“There will definitely be G1 buyers who are upset, and they will have to pay the full price for a G2, but T-Mobile just dropped their upgrade fee last week. I don’t know if that’s related, but this has been happening with technology more and more,” Hazelton said.

“You always pay a little more the sooner you buy, and this is always the case with technology — bleeding-edge adopters really are bleeding because they’ll end up paying more than everybody else,” he added.

Can You See Me Now?

So what about that tantalizing second camera for video calling? All three analysts contacted by LinuxInsider said video calling is only marginally useful at this time, particularly since most 3G networks aren’t really ready to handle it.

“You really need synchronous, ubiquitous 3G-plus networks,” Hazelton said. Users need fast upload speeds in addition to fast download speeds, and both callers need to be on fast networks at the same time. Hazelton doesn’t expect much action in this space for another 18 months.

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