By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated February 18, 2009.
Expectations about new Android devices and features ran high for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. But with the show over Thursday, many of those expectations haven't been met.
The Android highlight has been the announcement that HTC, maker of the first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1, will release the Android-based HTC Magic for Vodafone. The Magic will be available in the spring, initially in the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. The G1, released in 2008, has met with considerable success.
Huawei and Samsung
The Magic is a tablet-styled device with a 3.2-inch QVGA touchscreen, a trackball and navigation buttons, a Webkit browser, and various Google applications, including Google Mail, Maps and Search. As happens with many new phones with appeal, the Magic is being mentioned favorably in comparison with Apple's trend-setting iPhone.
In the soon-but-not-yet category, Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company, has announced that it will sell two or three Android-based devices later this year. They will be available in the third quarter under the brand names of various partners, but few additional details were released.
Samsung has told news media that it will have "more than three" Android-based phones, but not until next year. According to Reuters News Service, product strategy head Won-Pyo Hong also said the company would release a phone using the LiMo Foundation's Linux software, another open-source mobile platform. There had been reports Samsung would release its Android devices at the show, but company executives now say they never planned to do so.
Sony Ericsson and others had been expected to show Android phones, but have not.
The economic downturn may have affected the number of major new announcements at this year's show. Attendance is also reportedly down, about 49,000, compared to about 55,000 last year.
'A Windows Mobile Show'
There have also been a variety of announcements supporting Android. For instance,
Adobe has announced Flash support for Android, in addition to the Palm Pre, Windows Mobile, and Symbian platforms. Visto, a push-synchronization platform provider, will support Android, as will mobile e-mail and messaging provider Seven.
"Conventional wisdom said this year's show was going to be an Android show," said Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis. "But it's turned out to be a Windows Mobile show."
He noted in particular that Samsung and LG didn't show Android devices. In fact, Greengart added, LG "said it would continue to dabble in everything but focus on Windows Mobile." He said the emphasis on Windows Mobile occurred even though the improvements in its new 6.5 version "are only just enough not to fall behind their rivals."
But this doesn't mean vendors don't think Android is a usable platform, Greengart said, noting that he was conducting the phone interview for this article on HTC's Android-based G1. While some observers have speculated that the economic downturn has delayed new Android releases, Greengart speculated that it's more likely that handset makers are trying to bring more new features to their Android devices before releasing them.