Dozens of phone calls and emails today made one thing clear: none of Australia's telcos or handset manufacturers has briefed their staff on when mobile phones running Google's Android will be made available locally, if they are at all.
The HTC Dream
In the wake of the US launch overnight by T-Mobile of the first HTC Android handset, ZDNet.com.au contacted the nation's top four mobile carriers Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and 3 Mobile, as well as the offices of handset makers LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Palm, to ask about any Australian launch plans.
Press contacts from all of these companies said they had not been briefed on any plans to launch any Android-based handsets, although the carriers investigated the issue internally and issued statements saying they would work with Google on future launches.
Even Google Australia had nothing to say about the arrival of its operating system in the country. Instead, it focused on the future possibility of other devices.
"Our hope is that that Android platform will spur the development of thousands of different kinds of devices. The T-Mobile G1 is just the first step," said a local Google spokesperson.
"It's still too soon to tell what forms Android-powered devices will take, but we're excited about the possibilities this kind of open platform will bring, and the benefits that users will ultimately enjoy."
The sole exception was HTC, which said it had nothing to say on top of the information already sent out for the launch overseas except "watch this space".
The lack of local awareness around the operating system's birth seemed to hint that an Australian launch of any handset running Android was not imminent, a supposition echoed by telecommunications analysts.
"They could well spring a surprise in time for Christmas, but I just can't see that happening at that stage," Mark Novosel, telecommunications analyst from IDC told ZDNet.com.au. His best bet for an Android handset's Aussie arrival was the second quarter of 2009.
Warren Chaisatien from Telsyte also chose that quarter for an Australian launch, saying that if Australians were feeling lucky, it might come in the first quarter at the earliest.
He pointed out getting the device six months later than the US was not a bad thing, since the new operating system would invariably have its glitches.
However, some Australians will likely not wait that long, importing the devices the same way they did the iPhone before it launched locally. "I have no doubt there'll be some units finding their way to Australia by the end of the year by unofficial means," Novosel said.
As for when the world would see the operating system on devices from other handset manufacturers, despite Google's hints that other devices were on the way, Chaisatien believed there would have been some exclusivity in the Google HTC partnering.
How long the deal would last was anyone's guess, he said, but guessed other devices were likely to start popping up in the second half of next year.
(Credit: CNET News)
Novosel believed the price would sit around the $999 mark when it hits Australia as other smartphones have done, despite the lower cost of an open-source operating system to the handset manufacturers.
He thought the interest would be niche because it was the operating system's first foray, with early adopters and Linux fans at the front of the pack, although he conceded that the backing of Google would give the operating system some weight.
"You're buying a black box. At the end of the day, you don't know exactly what you are going to be able to do with it," Novosel said.
Chaisatien believed there would be consumer interest, although nowhere near as much as for the iPhone. He also believed people would be a little more cautious with their buying after some were burned on the iPhone with hardware, software or carrier issues.