VoIP, 3G Roaming & G1, aka the Google Phone

So the big day is finally here: Google has released its Android operating system, the latest entrant into the mobile OS wars.

The Android-based, HTC-made G1 was launched earlier today at a ceremony in New York, and among the attendees were our intrepid reporters Liz Gannes and Craig Rubens. After getting a first-hand look at the device, they promptly called me and compared it to the iPhone. (Coverage from across the network can be found here.)

But from a VoIP, data and broadband perspective, I still had questions. And when I finally got them answered, it became clear to me that Android isn’t nearly as “open” as Google and T-Mobile’s hype machine would have you believe. In fact, the most you could say about G1 is that it’s “almost open.” [digg=http://digg.com/gadgets/VoIP_3G_Roaming_G1_aka_the_Google_Phone]

Anyway here are our findings, which could come in handy if you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy this device:

VoIP: Google’s GTalk will work at launch as an IM client but you wouldn’t be able to use it to make any voice calls. Since the OS is open, there are no restrictions on VoIP apps, the company claims. Yet at the same time while T-Mobile has no restrictions on VoIP over Wi-Fi, but it says currently has no plans to support VoIP on their (3G) mobile network, either, a position in line with Apple and AT&T. This is hardly the open approach that was being touted by Google.

Android Marketplace: As for getting into the Android Marketplace, Google will “validate” all the apps but are providing no details as to how that will work, only to say that it will be as easy as possible. Again, the approach is no different (and not quite open) when compared to Apple.

3G & Wireless Broadband Roaming: T-Mobile says it’s boosting its network so that 94 percent of its U.S. subscribers will have 3G access. It will use 3G in the U.S. and Europe and yes, a U.S. user will be able to use the same U.S. device on European 3G networks. All of the phones will have the capability to use both 3G networks; all the phones will be dual-band. (See also 4 Things You Need Know About T-Mobile 3G)

Bandwidth Caps: Earlier it was reported that there would be a 1GB bandwidth cap on the so-called unlimited data plan. Google and T-Mobile spokespeople say there are no bandwidth limitations or caps on the phone and that all plans come with unlimited data. But it’s hard to take their word for it, especially when T-Mobile’s own web site hawking the G1 phone claims that after 1GB of data is used up in a billing cycle, “data throughput for the remainder of that cycle may be reduced to 50 kbps or less. Your data session, plan, or service may be suspended, terminated, or restricted for significant roaming or if you use your service in a way that interferes with our network or ability to provide quality service to other users.”

With additional reporting from Craig Rubens.

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