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The G1 and iPhone in a long-term duel

September 24, 2008 |  3:23 pm
T-Mobile's G1

If cellphones could brawl, Apple's iPhone would probably quickly pummel T-Mobile's G1, the first cellphone to use Google's Android operating systems for mobile phones.

Unveiled Tuesday, the G1 aims for the consumer market just like the iPhone, which first went on sale in June 2007. The G1 goes on sale Oct. 22 for $180, $20 less than the least expensive iPhone. Both have a touch screen and allow Internet surfing. And both have a special store for phone games and productivity programs.  The G1 will cost you about $380 less over a two-year period for its voice and data plan, says Wired. And the G1, made by HTC, comes with a slide-out keyboard, making it easy to type.

Despite these features and the G1's still-fuzzy appeal as an "open" platform, it has some notable flaws, such as no video playback besides YouTube, as Gizmodo points out. Sure, you can buy music via Amazon.com, but you can't use normal headphones to listen to it -- you need a special adapter, says ElectricPig. The G1 is the Zune of the iPhones, says All Things Digital, referring to Microsoft's music player that has not dented the iPod's dominance.

But it's rarely safe to write off Google. Sure, the iPhone would win a smackdown today because it has momentum. Apple has sold 2.4 million iPhones in the first half of 2008 to leap to the position of No. 2 smartphone in the U.S. among consumers, after the Blackberry, according to the NPD Group. And that's before its latest version, the iPhone 3G, went on sale in early July. And the buzz continues. Apple's App store, also launched in July, has already sold or given away 100 million software programs. (The store offers more than 3,000 games and other applications for the iPhone, most of them made by outside companies and independent developers.)

Give the G1 and the other Android-based phones some time, says Gerry Purdy, chief mobile and wireless analyst for Frost & Sullivan, the international market research firm.

"It's like the story of the tortoise and the hare," he said. "We have the hare running like crazy in Apple. And a little bit of the tortoise in Google. They are careful but intentional. If they hit some home runs with device manufacturers or applications, that will help. But in five years, Android will be an important platform in mobile."

As they battle for the mobile market, Apple and Google could share notes -- their corporate headquarters are no more than a few miles from each other in Silicon Valley. But that would take the fun out of it. "You can’t ask for a better dueling going on, and I love it," Purdy says.

-- Michelle Quinn

Photo: The T-Mobile G1 cellphone. Credit: Getty Images

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