In a session at its Google Developer day in London this morning, Google executives demonstrated a working Android mobile phone for "the first time in Europe."
The new handset, shown off by Google's Mike Jennings at Wembley Stadium, looked very much like the HTC Dream, but had its branding covered up. Jennings demonstrated Google maps, though there was no Street View data of London (if that feature will be available, it's very exciting). Jennings also spoke about carriers: "a lot of [them] are in a different mindset from Google."
As we saw at February's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the interface is fast and responsive but doesn't have the graphical polish of the iPhone's interface at present.
"The cool stuff is running your own apps!" said Jennings. "I spent two hours writing my own apps using a background thread and surface view to access the hardware buffer." He showed a virtually blank screen running 'the blue dot application' which was hooked in to the accelerometer in the device. There is also built-in GPS, as you'd expect.
"Manufacturers are not going to be charged for putting this on their phones. Lots of people use mobile phones. Lots of people in Europe have two," said Jennings. "We wanted to get into that. We're really hoping the mobile community comes round this and continues to bring it forward. We think it's cool. You'll be able to write apps and distribute them to friends very easily."
"I can't show it off any more, I'll be out of a job," added Jennings when he was asked to make a call on Android. He confessed that he uses one of the handsets already, but not in public.
How apps from Google will work
Jennings explained that Android is designed to be a full platform, not just 'Ajax on a phone.' The SDK emulates an Arm 11 CPU for easier application development. "Can it be used on any embedded device?" Jennings was asked. "Why not?" he replied.
When quizzed about operators by a keen developer who branded them 'bastards' for hating VoIP apps and the like, Jennings replied "there's been a lot of technological advances with Android, but there's a lot of political advances that have taken place for [some] carriers to go with our vision of being more open," adding that carriers were now seeing that more development was needed. "A lot of carriers are in a different mindset from Google."
Talking about apps, Jennings revealed that Google is planning a marketplace for them as well as saying he expected multiple payment options. Would carriers take a cut from apps? "I don't know," he confessed. You'll be able to upload via USB, though details on anything over-the-air were sketchy.
As well as TechRadar, more than 500 developers were present at Google Developer Day at London's (Microsoft-sponsored) Wembley Stadium, where engineers and product managers get together with web developers to chat about the future of web app development.