Android turns 10: Google’s extreme iPhone opposition had a stumbling start

In scarcely a decade and a half covering a tech industry, I’ve had a payoff of witnessing companies go all out when display off their new products. 

And ungainly is one of a difference that comes to mind flattering frequently.

From a over-the-top Samsung Galaxy Note 4 presentation during Radio City Music Hall in New York to David Blaine behaving during a launch of a dual-screen Kyocera Echo (the magician’s tricks were distant some-more noted than a phone), a moments are parched into my brain. 

I really can’t unsee a picture of dual guys skating onto a theatre in Rollerblades during an eventuality space in Manhattan and sarcastic before deliberating a new phone.

Those dual guys: Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. That phone: a T-Mobile G1, a strange Android phone.

The G1, denounced 10 years ago this entrance Sunday, noted a start of a materialisation that now touches a lives of millions of people around a world. With some-more than 2 billion active Android inclination today, and 9 out of any 10 inclination using a software, it’s a certifiable force in technology. It helped change what a complicated smartphone could be, bringing a knowledge to a masses.

It all started with that launch.

“I remember so many cameras there,” removed Peter Chou, a then-CEO of HTC who took partial in phenomenon a G1. “I was kind of like, Wow; this is really, unequivocally big.”

HTC CEO Peter Chou (right) recalls a furious launch eventuality for a G1. From left to right, it's then-Android conduct Andy Rubin, then-T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Cole Brodman, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Deutsche Telecom Chief Technology Officer Christopher Schläffer.

HTC CEO Peter Chou (right) recalls a furious launch eventuality for a G1. From left to right, it’s then-Android conduct Andy Rubin, then-T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Cole Brodman, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Deutsche Telecom Chief Technology Officer Christopher Schläffer.

Screenshot by CNET

Given a success today, it’s easy to forget that Android faced a complicated sip of doubt during a start. The little-known handling complement was holding on stalwarts Nokia, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry, and Apple’s iPhone had nabbed everyone’s attention. Looking back, a eventuality now seems like a playbook on how not to launch a flagship phone.

When Google finally took a wraps off Android on Sept. 23, 2008, it partnered with HTC, a little-known association that done smartphones carrying a code names of other companies. The conduit partner was T-Mobile, half a decade before a Un-carrier campaign, when a association was still a struggling last-place inhabitant player. And behind then, carrying an exclusivity understanding with a right conduit mattered.

“It really seemed like there was an ascending battle,” pronounced Ross Rubin, an researcher during Reticle Research, who was also during a event.

So it was right about when Page and Brin glided onto a theatre that we started wondering where this was all going.

An surprising start

It was a sprightly Sep morning in New York when we walked into a event, located in a studio space housed underneath a commencement of a double-decker Queensboro Bridge. It looked like any other product launch, with rows of chairs parked in front of a theatre with a vast monitor, usually a morning trade was zooming by above us.

The surprising venue was wise for a launch of a new platform.

“It was transparent we were on a fork of something major,” pronounced Avi Greengart, an researcher during Global Data who attended a event.


The roots of Android can be traced behind to a startup Andy Rubin founded in 2000 called Danger, that total a Sidekick, a cult favorite phone with a particular slide-out keyboard. In 2004, Rubin, who isn’t associated to a analyst, left Danger for his follow-up act, a tiny association called Android. A year later, Google bought it for around $50 million.

Even before then, Rubin and HTC’s Chou were already operative together.

“We discussed a prophesy of how we could make a mobile internet knowledge so many easier for mass-market consumers,” Chou said.

Google and Rubin declined a ask for an interview.

To get a clarity of a energy a carriers held, it was T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Cole Brodman, not Rubin, who denounced a G1.

Then Page and Brin skated up, carrying done their approach opposite city on rollerblades (beats Manhattan traffic). Brin talked about a initial app he wrote for a G1, a timer that starts when we chuck a phone in a air. He afterwards tossed it up.

“I was suggesting we don’t boat with that one,” Page cracked.

Brin’s indicate was that a open handling complement meant anyone could emanate apps and customize their phone experience.

“I’m a bit of a geek,” he said. “I like tinkering with things.”

That interesting, uncanny look

That ethos helped settle a energetic between Android and Apple’s  iOS in a early years. The iPhone was a firmly tranquil knowledge designed for some-more infrequent users, while Android appealed to some-more tech-savvy tinkerers peaceful to customize their phones.

While Android eventually became a juggernaut, a G1 itself garnered churned reviews. Many knocked a smartphone’s then-bulky design, yet it looks really tiny subsequent to complicated phablets like a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or a iPhone XS Max.

remembering a initial Google Android Phone: HTC T Mobile G1

The G1 looks old-fashioned subsequent to today’s smartphones. Back then, it was deliberate bulky. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

There was a slide-out keyboard, that mimicked a comparison Sidekick phone, though Android’s touch-friendly user interface rendered it reduction critical. There was also a ungainly bottom “chin” that focussed during an angle and a earthy trackball control.

“The G1 is really not a sleekest device, and we really wouldn’t call it sexy,” pronounced Bonnie Cha, who wrote a original CNET review. “Instead, a difference ‘interesting’ and ‘weird’ come to mind.”

Still, many critics praised a Android program and a guarantee of destiny phones to come.

There was reason to be skeptical. Entrenched players like Nokia, Microsoft and BlackBerry (then famous as Research in Motion) dominated a marketplace for smartphones. And while Google was already a powerhouse in search, a mobile chops were mostly untested.

The G1 eventually was a success for T-Mobile, though that didn’t indispensably meant everybody was clamoring for an Android phone. After all, not everybody wanted to tinker with their phone. 

It wasn’t until a year later, when Google partnered with Verizon and Motorola to recover a strange Droid, that benefited from a $100 million selling campaign, that Android strike a mainstream. That total a selling and sell competence of Verizon, a expertise of Motorola and even a tiny Star Wars influence. (Verizon paid Lucasfilm for a right to use a Droid name.)

A opposite world

Ten years later, a smartphone landscape is dramatically different.

Nine out of any 10 smartphones sole now run on Android. Apple generates a lion’s share of a industry’s increase by targeting high-end consumers. It’s radically a two-horse race. 


The Google I/O developer discussion is a outrageous understanding interjection to Android. 

James Martin/CNET

“I’d be fibbing if we told we that we knew it would be powering 90 percent of a world’s smartphones,” pronounced Brodman, who now runs a wireless program startup called M87. “It’s literally altered a approach a universe connects.”

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile (later rebranded Windows Phone), a BlackBerry OS and Nokia’s Symbian program are gone, any actor relocating too solemnly to strech a bar set by Apple and Google. Both companies leaned heavily on a thought of an app store, building adult a lead in programs and developer support that other competitors couldn’t match.


Android smartphones have come a prolonged approach from a G1. 

Angela Lang/CNET

There are still new BlackBerry and Nokia phones entrance out — though they all run Android.

The Open Handset Alliance, that rallied mixed carriers and handset makers around Android in a early days, gave approach to Google holding full control of a handling system. Subsequent updates done it some-more savoury for a normal consumer.  

The past decade also saw a arise and tumble of HTC, that emerged from a G1 as a array Android handset businessman peaceful to pull a capabilities of a height with industry-firsts like a strange WiMax phone and a initial phone with 4G LTE.

“When we initial encountered what became Android, we saw a height that authorised for many larger customization by consumers with a concentration on permitting users to simply find applications and we invested in a vast way,” HTC CEO and Chairwoman Cher Wang pronounced in a statement.  

But ultimately, a tiny Taiwanese association couldn’t withstand a rival force of telecom giants like Samsung and Huawei. While HTC continues to make phones, a business is a shade of a former self as a association focuses a resources on practical reality. Google signed a $1 billion understanding to catch some HTC talent to work on a Pixel franchise. 

While handset players come and go, Android remains. 

“Android will continue to browbeat a smartphone marketplace — that’s for sure,” pronounced Chou, who left HTC in 2015 to work on a sly startup project.

The subsequent step

But that extensive success has come with heated scrutiny.

In July, a European Commission slapped a record $5 billion fine on Google for a business practices around Android, quite a preinstallation of services like a hunt engine and a Google Play store. The tech hulk has also been in a longstanding authorised conflict with program builder Oracle over a origination of Android. Oracle sued Google in 2010 over Android’s use of a Java programming language, that Oracle performed when it acquired Sun Microsystems. At interest is a awaiting that Google pays $9 billion in damages.


Google is into watches, cars and some-more now. 

Josh Miller/CNET

Google, for a part, hasn’t stopped during only smartphones. It total a various of Android called Wear OS to energy wearables, as good as Android Auto for cars, and it’s jumped into other areas, like intelligent speakers powered by a Google Assistant.

Meanwhile, a vast innovations in smartphones have plateaued over a final few years.

“I’m a tiny sad, since there’s not many to speak about with smartphones now,” Chou said. “Those days, any year we came out with something. We always had a story we could speak about.”

Or during slightest a crazy smartphone launch eventuality value remembering.

The story creatively published during 5 a.m. PT. 

Update, 10:30 a.m. PT: To embody additional background. 

CNET’s Rich Nieva contributed to this story.

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