Kogan Agora and Agora Pro

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first take The much-hyped Google Android phone operating system will hit Australia on 29 January 2009, in the form of the Kogan Agora and Agora Pro. At first glance, this looks to be one of the most exciting products of the year.

Correction: We incorrectly reported that the Kogan Agora phones do not include a touchscreen. In fact, both phones do.

This story starts with Google, and the search giant's desire to make an open-source mobile phone platform. By being the first handset provider (that we know of) to bring the Android platform to Australia, Kogan is cleverly piggybacking on existing hype. Even if this handset turns out to be awful, just the platform alone will be a big selling point for enthusiasts and the tech curious.

The Android platform is currently available in the US in the form of the T-Mobile G1. Much like the G1, the Kogan Agoras pack a QWERTY keyboard. They also include a touchscreen, like the iPhone.

Unlike the G1, there are two models from Kogan, the Agora and the Agora Pro. For the extra AU$100 you get Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, GPS and a 2MP camera on the Pro. We think this justifies the extra price. You'll want the GPS for the integrated Google Maps.

The Agoras
(Credit: Kogan Technologies)

By giving the OS away for free, Google has promised that the Android platform will bring down the price of handsets, and from the price of the Agora handsets this looks to be true.

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For smartphones, both Kogan Agoras are ridiculously cheap. At $299 for the Agora and $399 for the Agora Pro these smartphones are about half the price of the cheapest smartphone we can think of, the Nokia E71.

With a 624MHz processor, the Agoras also look like they will be zippy smartphones. We don't know how resource-hungry Android is yet, but given Google's fetish for speed (think Chrome), we are willing to bet it will be faster than Windows Mobile 6.1. If this is the case, the Agora will indeed be faster than its competitors.

Even without testing the battery life on the Agoras, it can closely be extrapolated from comparison to handsets with very similar specs and identical battery capacity (1,300mAh). From this, we can assume the battery capacity on these handsets will be good, but continuous use of features like Wi-Fi and GPS will drain it faster.

Storage on the Agoras is provided by the standard 128MB RAM and 256MB ROM combo, along with a microSD card slot, which is a great combination.

Following the open source ethos, the Agoras come completely unlocked. Just pop your existing SIM and microSD cards, put your old phone on eBay, and off you go. However, you might want to upgrade your data plan first.

When is a BlackBerry not a BlackBerry? When it's a Kogan Agora. Kogan certainly hasn't gone out of its way for originality in design, as many an internet forum poster has noted. Although, Blackberry does have a great design...

While Android is a plus, it's also an OS in its infancy. Expect some bugs, and a while before its application set will rival that of the iPhone.

Additionally, while the Agoras are cheap, at this price point there is a good chance the build quality will not be high. We haven't seen a handset yet, but the whole pie might be spoilt by a cheap and plastic phone that is easily broken.

With their stupidly cheap price tag, exciting Android OS and a full QWERTY keypad, the Agoras have a huge amount of potential.

If they have strong built quality, these handsets are shaping up to be one of the best products of 2009. Stay tuned.