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G1 Floats into Market with Fewer Apps

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T-Mobile Store

T-Mobile’s New York Store (Photo: Chris Saunders)

NEW YORK — Google’s first smartphone, the Android-based G1, arrived at T-Mobile stores in the U.S. Wednesday with fewer applications to download but more promised in the near future.

Plenty of balloons and some lines greeted the HTC-made handsets, which are carried exclusively by T-Mobile and retail for $180 with a two-year contract and $400 with no service agreement.

The launch may not approach the lines that greeted Apple’s iPhone 3G debut in June, but plenty of interest surrounds the Android-based phone.

“I heard that it was similar to the iPhone,” Cassandra Samuels, a T-Mobile customer, told today. Samuels was in a crowd of about 30 prospective buyers who showed up to buy the phone at a T-Mobile store in New York’s Times Square. She said she initially went online to review the new handset. “The features are all right, it’s just like a mini-computer,” said Samuels, who admits she is not an iPhone fan.

Oscar M. Quinones had been waiting about six weeks to grab a G1.

“My iPhone broke and I didn’t want to replace it with the 3G,” said Quinones, who chose the G1 after some online research and will be switching to T-Mobile as a carrier. The top selling point is G1’s open platform, Quinones said.

“Apple has a similar platform, but you design something and they want to review it. With Android, it’s more open,” he said.

“It’s [Android’s] first phone, so there may be some shortcomings but it’s got features like copy and paste, satellite maps, those little things,” Quinones said, adding, “It’s the little things that make a big difference.”

The G1, which has been available for pre-order at T-Mobile’s site for several weeks, promises to be the most open mobile development platform — an aspect that industry experts believe could put Android at the forefront of the smartphone industry. The handset is just the first of many Android devices expected to hit the market in the next year.

The G1 is touted as the most legitimate iPhone competitor, given its touch screen, display features and Web browsing experience. But analysts have said success will be tied to advanced mobile features, applications and services that are anticipated from G1’s open development strategy.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and T-Mobile have a big job ahead if they intend to over take Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone in market share anytime soon. Apple shipped 6.89 million iPhones in the third quarter ending in September, according to its earnings report yesterday. During its earnings call Wednesday the iPhone’s carrier, AT&T (NYSE: T), said it had added 2.4 million iPhone subscribers in the third quarter, 40 percent being new customers.

Applications, please

Some fans were grumbling on Android blogs and discussion boards about the fewer applications available today on T-Mobile’s application storefront, the G1 Android Market that went live in September.

Initially, the site had about 50 applications but as of yesterday that number had been trimmed back to about 13. According to a T-Mobile forum administrator the carrier was “revamping” its storefront as late as last night for today’s launch event.

Industry experts say Google and T-Mobile need to follow Apple’s iTunes storefront application approach. As of this morning the Android Market included a few games and a comparison shopping application. But T-Mobile said new software will be available in the near future.

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