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The G1 as “the Sidekick for grownups”

imageThree highly respected voices in the handset industry have personally described the G1 to me as “a Sidekick for grownups.” One reason for the comparison is that Andy Rubin (no relation), Google’s senior director for mobile platforms, also founded Danger Research, which developed the Sidekick.

Sure enough, there are some similarities such as a scroll ball (which came to Sidekicks in their second generation) lodged into their somewhat chunky profiles and extension of the screen above the keyboard to signal a horizontal orientation. (The Sidekick, of course, does not change orientations.) Both devices also have a Java foundation. However, at least from the initial time with the device had at the G1 launch event as well as from an industry context, I’m not feeling the analogy for a few reasons:

  • Android is an open platform whereas the Sidekick was essentially a closed platform.
  • Android has support from multiple carriers whereas the Sidekick has essentially been T-Mobile’s baby.
  • The G1’s user interface, which takes advantage of its touch screen, is nothing like that of the Sidekick, which never had a touch screen. Thankfully, like the iPhone and others, the G1 has a soft keypad, which enables you to dial without having to flip open the screen as on the Sidekick.
  • Sidekick was really optimized around a messaging experience (There’s an old tale that Danger didn’t even want it to include a browser and added one only at the insistence of T-Mobile.) and was years ahead of the current rash of messaging phones such as the enV, Rumor, Blitz and others. Its browser was OK in its day, but it’s not in the same league as the G1’s, which is ready to take on modern Web sites. (Guess why.)
  • Part of the Sidekick’s architecture involved server-side software that optimized the data experience. It’s a different 3G world now and the G1 doesn’t require that.

The G1 is definitely aimed at adults; I doubt we’ll see a Tony Hawk edition or one suffocating under Swarovski crystals. But with its gesture-savvy user interface and open architecture,  it strikes me far more as an iPhone for geeks than a Sidekick for grownups.