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Googlephone unworthy of Satan tag

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Comment If this is The Satan Phone, then Beelzebub has lost his mojo.

For more than a year, the world has breathlessly anticipated Google's foray into mobile handsets, and today, the waiting ended with the arrival of a phone that tops the rest of the market only in its ability to promote applications from Google.

Google says it believes in open access to the US airwaves. It trumpets open mobile platforms where all apps are created equal. But like so many American phones before it, the T-Mobile G1 is locked to a single wireless network. And if you buy the thing, you'll be force fed a veritable smörgåsbord of software from the Oompah Loompahs inside the Mountain View Chocolate Factory, including Google search, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Street View, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and, of course, GooTube.

Google is so intent on pushing its own apps, it's made sure that Gmail wireless access is completely free, that there's no Exchange support, and that you can't even sync the phone with your own PC. If you want calendar and contact syncing, you'll have to do it through the Googlenet.

Yes, some app developers could come along and build their own sync software. But surely, no developer is that stupid.

First, they'd have to build an app for the device itself. Then they'd have to fashion their very own desktop software. Then they'd have to pray that someone would actually track all this down, pay for it, spring for a USB adapter, and install the lot on their own, not realizing that life would be much easier if they just bought another phone.

Clearly, no one is going to buy a T-Mobile G1 unless they've already downed Google's Cloudy Kool-Aid, they're shackled with a T-Mobile contract, or they don't quite understand that some phones are built by companies that have mastered more than just the art of online advertising.

Making its debut a good 15 months after the Jesus Phone, the G1 somehow takes a step backwards. It can't match Apple's multi-touch interface. It doesn't offer stereo Bluetooth. It doesn't have a headphone jack. And according to more than a few who've handled the thing, it feels a bit like a cheap piece of plastic.

Well, Google has improved on the iPhone's ruby-killing App Store, promising its Android Market will be free of Jobsian despotism. And the G1 does cut and paste. And you can spin around in circles when you do Google Street View. But from where we're sitting, this isn't enough reason to give T-Mobile two years of your life.

The Satan Phone G1 also lacks video recording. And there's no video playback outside GooTube. Again, Google insists that developers will change all this. But developers won't change all this unless they're sure Android's audience will extend well beyond the people who thought it was mighty nifty that Larry and Serge showed up at the G1 press conference on roller blades.

And after glimpsing the G1's Googlicious cheap plastic, developers must have their doubts. ®

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