Android Bandwagon Quietly Rolls On

I expected to see more Android devices at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, and was disappointed that Vodafone’s Magic phone was the only major announcement in this area. There were no other devices and no new members for Android’s guiding body, the Open Handset Alliance (OHA).

But it seems the Android bandwagon is still picking up speed. In France last week, I opened a Phone House brochure to see a full-page advert for the HTC Dream, which is a rebadged version of the first Android phone, T-Mobile’s G1 (see below left). The device will also be sold by Telefonica in Spain and TIM in Italy (below right). The Dream is €99 with a contract in France, up to €199 in Spain, and €429 in Italy, where handsets are unsubsidised.

Orange France advert for HTC DreamTIM Web site, featuring HTC Dream

The momentum of the OHA is impressive, given it has only been in existence since November 2007. Although there were no formal announcements in Barcelona, Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson will unveil Android devices soon. And Huawei will have a product available “after July”. The OHA and Android are building a solid foothold in the market. We expect seven or eight devices to be on sale by the end of this year. It could be more.

None of this could happen without the support of the operators, and HTC is doing a good job getting the Dream into the ranges of several high-profile operators. I assume it’s just a question of time before France Telecom-Orange becomes a member of the OHA.

Operators are using the HTC Dream to understand how Android works and how they can best work with the OHA. Their experience of Android will be valuable, as the platform is likely to become the most significant challenger to Symbian in the next 12 months.

There’s no question that committing to Android devices is a risk. I suspect most operators will decide the risk of dealing with a Google-inspired initiative is one worth taking.