T-Mobile Phones Home, Again

It was right about a year and a half ago that we first learned of Google's plans to enter the mobile phone market. While everyone expected it would be a full-fledged handset — the Googlephone — we quickly learned it would instead be a mobile operating system, the now well known Android. Just under a year ago, the first of the Googlephones, T-Mobile's Android-powered G1, was rolled out — literally — by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, on rollerblades, no less. Now it's time for T-Mobile to add more to the fold: the recently announced myTouch.

The G1 is hardly the only Android phone on the market — a number of companies have taken up Android, including G1 manufacturer HTC, which produced the "Magic" or Google Ion. According to reports, the myTouch, announced this week, is "essentially" the same phone as the Magic/Ion, and like the G1 before it, will go up against Apple's latest iPhone, the 3G S. The T-Mobile myTouch 3G with Google is lighter than its predecessor, a reported six hours of battery life, and will come in a designer "Merlot" color as well as the less chic black and white.

The feature — or rather, lack thereof — drawing the most attention, however, is the departure from the physical keyboard considered a strong selling feature of the G1. Though some later complained that the keyboard was difficult to use, at the time it was released, it was considered an important inclusion, given the distaste many have expressed for the iPhone's on-screen keyboard. Palm's recently-released Pre — also a Linux-based phone, though not Android — incorporates a BlackBerry-like physical keyboard, though it's tiny keys and lack of any sort of T9-style predictive text have drawn criticism from some heavy users.

While the myTouch does dispense with the physical keyboard, it's "soft" keyboard includes vibrating "keys" to provide some tactile response to key presses, as well as predictive text. The phone's other specifications are as yet unknown, though the more psychically-inclined at Wired predict they will be similar if not identical to the Magic/Ion, including the G1's 3.2MP camera and the much bemoaned specialty headphone jack.

Unlike AT&T, which drew a firestorm of criticism for refusing to allow existing customers to upgrade to the iPhone 3G S at the subsidized price offered to new customers, T-Mobile customers will be able to pre-order the myTouch on July 8, a full month before it will be shipped or offered to new subscribers. The same tact was applied to the G1, which was rolled out to existing customers in select 3G-equipped cities before being made available to new subscriptions. Pricing for the upgrade has yet to be announced, though the company expects some 50%+ of myTouch buyers to be existing subscribers.

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