Google's Android developer team on Friday announced the Android Dev Phone 1, the first Android-based device unlocked to allow the use of any SIM card or software.
Android is a full mobile stack, from operating system to applications. It is the handiwork of the Google-led Open Handset Alliance and a developer community, who both hope to create an alternative to the current crop of largely proprietary mobile platforms, such as the iPhone and Windows Mobile.
The first Android-based handset, T-Mobile's G1, was released in September and arrived in UK shops in October. Google says this phone is suitable for developers who want to want to run their applications using the same hardware, operating system and network as end users.
The Dev Phone 1, on the other hand, is SIM-unlocked, allowing developers to connect to any network using the SIM card of their choice. Many handsets are SIM-locked in order to tie the device to a particular network. The device should be attractive to developers who live in areas not covered by T-Mobile, Google said.
The Dev Phone also uses an unlocked bootloader, which allows developers to install the system image of their choice. Retail Android devices such as the G1 only allow the installation of system images signed by authorised Android software makers.
For example, the unlocked bootloader allows developers to install customised builds of the Android operating system, Google said.
The company noted that this means potentially buggy software could be installed. "Since the devices can be configured with system software not provided by or supported by Google or any other company, end users operate these devices at their own risk," Google said in a statement.
The device can be purchased only by registered developers on the Android Market website, with a limit of one device per developer account. Developer registration costs $25 (£15).
The handset costs $399 (£266) and is available in the US, UK, Germany, Japan, India, Canada, France, Taiwan, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Poland and Hungary.