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Google Android delays advantage Apple and iPhone 3G

Apple's second-generation mobile handset will have a several month head start on those based around Google's upcoming Android mobile platform, as the search giant and its partners are reportedly struggling to push the first models to market by year's end.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google, which said in November that it along with more than 30 partners would begin releasing the first Android-based mobile phones during the second half of the year, now says those handsets won't arrive till the fourth quarter. Some partners, however, are finding they'll need even more time than that.

For instance, the financial paper said that T-Mobile's first Android-based handset is now due during the fourth quarter, but the project is consuming so many of Google's resources that a similar initiative by Sprint Nextel won't be ready by year's end as originally planned.

Similarly, the world's largest wireless carrier, China Mobile, had also anticipated marketing an Android handset to its more than 400 million subscribers in the third quarter, but people familiar with the situation say the carrier may see those plans pushed out till early next year.

For its part, Sprint is is said to have sought development of its own brand of services based off Android for a phone that would run on its current 3G network, rather than bundle those the standard services Google has built into its mobile platform. Those plans may now be up on the chopping block, according to the Journal, as the carrier considers scrapping them in favor of throwing its resources behind a handset that would operate on its future 4G network.

Meanwhile, China Mobile is reportedly finding it difficult to both intertwine the Google software with its own branded data services, as well as translate it from Roman characters into Chinese.

"Meanwhile, the Android software has yet to win broad support from large mobile-software developers," the Jornal said. "Some say it is difficult to develop programs while Google is making changes as it finishes its own software."


Google's Android takes design cues from Apple's iPhone software.


Android's rocky start underscore the challenges faced by Google — or any other high tech firm — when trying to manage a large group of hardware, software and service providers. By contrast Apple, whose upcoming iPhone 3G is expected to present one of the strongest tests of Google's Android strategy, maintains a tight grip on nearly every aspect of the handset's design.


Android's new slide-to-unlock system.


Google, aware of the benchmarks in service, quality and user experience set by the original iPhone, is further reported by the Journal to have seeded to its handset partners several prototype devices, including one that "has a long touch-screen, similar to the Apple iPhone, a swivel-out full keyboard, and a trackball for navigation similar to the kind on some BlackBerrys."

More information on the Apple-inspired Google Android platform is available in AppleInsider's Android topics page, or in specific reports on the software's initial announcement, notes of interest, development kit, and recent refinements.