From Dream to Prototype…

When Andy Rubin demoed the first working Android model to a BBC reporter back in late February, he described it as: “a reference design one of our partners built for us”.

Here it is:

Android reference design

Looks awfully familiar, no?

And, when the BBC reporter mentioned that not all Android phones would have touchscreens, Andy commented:

…since this is a reference design we’ve also included a track ball here, so as you can see I can still move around the webpage without touching the screen…

[Check out the interview and transcript (courtesy of Phandroid)]: Andy Rubin’s Android Demo

So, the device is blocky and oblong and shapeless because it’s a reference design.  And it has that “chin”, which houses the buttons and trackball, because it’s a reference design.  And, of course, the reference design hardware is meant to be functional and to give the developers multiple ways of controlling the device, for testing all aspects of software.  So far so good.

Then, in June, there are reports that Android could be delayed until 2009.

Then, August 18th, the device hits the FCC, and for one day a detailed sketch (“chin” included) lives on their website:

FCC docs

One day later, HTC files a Supercede Letter with the FCC and declares that the drawings are “too detailed” and need to be replaced.  The new drawing shows only the label and device dimensions.

Then, over the past few weeks we got a blurry Darth Vader video, even more detailed engineering sketches, and most recently clear pictures — all showing the same thing:


Now, we know HTC is capable of some amazing designs, from the Diamond to the Touch Pro, to the semi-vaporware but gorgeous Xperia:

So, how did Google, HTC, and T-Mobile apparently decide to launch their functional, blocky, engineering prototype as the G1?

  • Was launching the reference design the only way to hit the Q4 target?
  • Or, are all these documents, pictures, and videos, just confirmation of the Andy Rubin prototype and not indicative of the final product?
  • But perhaps most realistically — if this is in fact reference design hardware, would you still buy it to be among the first to run free with Android??
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  1. Thank you for this article. This phone screams ‘prototype’.
    The answer is “NO” I don’t want a reference design, i want a sexy phone. And to Google, you are trying to make a good impression here with Android. Delay it until you can get a proper phone out the door. You could have a developer program and sell the prototype design through some kind of back channel if developers want hardware. But don’t call it a “Dream” and try to sell it to the general public, it makes us think this is the best you can do.

  2. i’ll still buy it. it doesn’t look that bad and if they make a better looking one that still has a slide out sidekick style QWERTY keyboard i’ll pick up that one and give my dad this one.

  3. FWIW, I was fortunate to be invited to SciFoo Camp @ Google a few weeks ago, and had the opportunity to share some time with Larry Page during a session or two. I couldn’t help but notice that he had two phones with him: a Blackberry, and also that looked like a much cleaner version of the G1. It was polished, black, and had a similar kind of face to the HTC Touch Pro. I didn’t have the courage to call him out on it or ask him to see it, but he did use it to take pictures of this flying car that was on display at the meeting. Just wanted to point out that it looked more like a real phone than a prototype.

  4. it could well be a reference built. after all, android sources will be released to all after the G1 release, anyone can build them own phones afterwards. this G1, being reference built, showcases the things developers/manufacturers can do to their phones. i’d still get one no matter what, maybe 2, so i can program some p2p applications :D

  5. i belive that there is another device that is actually the dream/g1 we are all waiting for..

    and that these leaked pics are just the prototype..

  6. HTC had this design since February. That’s not rushing to market. That’s sitting on your ass for 6 MONTHS! They have put too much work into their brand for that, especially since they are working on having phones branded with their name and not just the carrier’s. Also, I will again state that, correct me if I’m wrong, we have never seen the BACK of any of these devices besides sketches. I think that’s very suspicious.

  7. I wonder how much of this debate is only on gadget geek sites. Google has always released their products with little fanfare and allow the buzz to slowly build. Gmail is a good example. It started out as a very basic looking but powerful free web-based email but over the years it’s gone from some little invite-only deal to to most popular free webmail. Some companies like to do the buzz thing but I get the impression that Google wants to put out something basic and simple, not worry about getting the phenomenal off-the-bat sales that companies like Apple shoot for, and build up word of mouth and features over the next year or so until it’s the powerhouse that Gmail is for email etc.

    I’ve got no problem with a more basic design because I never planned to get the first Android phone that came out. There are always improvements on the first generation of any tech product and I’d rather wait until I can get one on Sprint because they have better service in my area and are much cheaper to boot. That dependency on buzz is what I always found annoying about Apple so I don’t mind a more subdued Android release.

    Sure the iTards will laugh at how their phone is more polished but that’s fine. For those people it’s always a competition as if the things you buy somehow reflect on you somehow. I don’t really care about status. I just want a useful and entertaining device for a reasonable cost and I think Google will do just fine.

  8. JerryA on September 1st, 2008 at 4:49 pm:

    “I don’t really care about status.”

    Thank you. Ever since the G1 pics were leaked and all the iWhores have been complaining about aesthetics, I’ve been waiting to see someone with a clear mind.

  9. Yeah, really… what DOES a “sexy” phone look like? I’ve had a lot of phones:

    Eten X600 – black brick with a purple stripe
    HTC Wizard – silver brick with a slide out keyboard and wacky face buttons
    HTC Tornado – grey candybar with silver buttons
    HTC Hurricane – black candybar with silver buttons
    Moto V400 – silver flip
    yadda, yadda… i won’t bore you with my laundry list of phones but they all look like cell phones

    The only phones that look ‘avant garde’ or ‘different’ are the wacky Nokia concept phones and the ones from Siemens’ spinoff Xelibri. They either ignored function for form or just completely reeked of unusability.

    The iPhone is a black brick with a black button… I don’t get what makes it more “sexy” than any other cell phone… is it just the mindset of Apple devices being for the “elite”?

  10. someone said that we still haven’t seen the back of the device , and that person is right . we also still havent seen a clean picture from the side!!! this brings me to a flight of fancy , perhaps the phone that we have seen already is just a prototype. heres a link that supports what im saying—————————————————><—————————i think and pray that this is the switch?!? keep in mind that none of the specs that we have seen can be backed up with concrete proof!!! either way if the pictures that we have seen are in fact the dream ill still buy it just because steve jobs to me seems like the hitler of cell phone peddelers

  11. someone said that we still haven’t seen the back of the device , and that person is right . we also still havent seen a clean picture from the side!!! this brings me to a flight of fancy , perhaps the phone that we have seen already is just a prototype. heres a link that supports what im saying—————————————————><—————————i think and pray that this is the switch?!? keep in mind that none of the specs that we have seen can be backed up with concrete proof!!! either way if the pictures that we have seen are in fact the dream ill still buy it just because i dont like apple’s way of doing things!!!

  12. I’m not sure what to believe anymore. I’m still interested in getting the G1, but I hope the version showcased in the recent pics is just a prototype. The buttons looked a little funky, and I’m worried about the ease of typing and holding it with your right hand. However, I am pleased to see such a large touchscreen, and I think the phone will look much better in black or brown.

    Regardless of whether the phone will look different than the leaked pics, the main reason I’m interested in getting this phone is because of the os and app store. Some of the announced apps look incredible. There are some truly innovate apps for android. Just wait until those iCrap owners see you using CompareAnywhere, Wertago, and Tunewiki. They’re going to be salivating for android.

  13. The looks isnt the most important thing BUT it does play a role. If HTC is going to use the touch screen functions of the Android OS then why all the buttons? The trackball just seems kinda stupid to have and the buttons look boring. It doesnt have to be flashy but give me something more elegant.

    And the “chin” seems to make the phone unbalanced when in landscape mode, looks like you’d have to throw your right thumb father then the left to type. Kinda awkward to me.

    And then there’s the GUI, I assume the one shown on the G1 is the default. Considering HTC usually makes some wonderful looking interfaces on their own just seems backwards that they left this one untouched.

    A Sidekick running the Android OS would look more polished then this. Maybe T-Mobile wants to get it out for the holiday shopping season but if I saw this next to an iPhone, I’d grab the iPhone box before I realized it.

    I’m excited about Android, I just want to be excited about the phone as well, but then again these pics apparently came from China and we all know how many spoofs exists over there. Here’s hoping HTC threw these pics out to throw us off the trail and have something “wow” sitting in a safe waiting to make it’s debut soon.

  14. During the fireside chat at Google IO, I think it was Andy Rubin who posed a question like this: Would you rather delay the 1.0 release in order to add more features? or would you rather have access to a phone earlier?
    The crowed was extremely clear. They literally shouted that they wanted a working phone ASAP. So it’s clear what the developer opinion on this issue is. A phone in the hand is worth two polished phones in the lab.

    My guess is that the G1 and Dream are different phones. The G1 (developed for Google) delivers all the features that developers need to test their applications. The Dream, a polished phone similar to the Diamond or Touch Pro, could be released next year along with other Android phones from other vendors.

    One thing should be pointed out. The number of G1 phones sold this year will probably influence the speed at which other Android phones come out next year.

    Originally blogged at:

  15. … uuh guys i am going to be married, i have a nice job (company) and everything is fine. What i need is a phone to work very nicely. If Android/G1 fulfills that ream i even like the “prototype design”. It’s nice.

    Cheers Guido

  16. The problem with this analysis is that it might be TOO SMART.

    Now what if this is true, the word spreads, and half the potential buyers decide to delay their purchase until the real HTC dream is released?

    Well… it’s bad for Google, it’s bad for HTC, and it means we might miss the launch window for Android to be a credible and longlasting alternative (if not the leader)…..

    Ever considered this before posting?

  17. I like my blackberry curve because i can type a 1000 word blog in there, something I don’t think iPhone users can claim. I really hope that the G1 doesn’t have the current form as typing would a b**** on it considering the lift on the right side. It’s just weird.

  18. HTC didn’t design the Xperia X1. They built it. Sony Ericsson designed it down to its finest details. This point has been stressed upon almost in every X1 leak, preview or event.

  19. Welcome back AndroidGuys missed ya’ll there for a couple of days :’-(

    Its really hard to say what exactly the phone looks like or what the true specs are the “BUZZ” is incredible but yet no hard evidence has been acknowledge by Google. I been waiting for this phone for two years, yes i will get one and run around yelling and screaming with GLEE!! :-)

  20. i don’t care if you people think this phone is sexy or not. I will buy this and when/if a better phone comes out i will get rid of the G1 and buy the better phone. it’s not that complicated

  21. “Prototype or not, I’d still buy it. I don’t need to use my phone to pick up chicks.”


    I don’t really care how a phone “looks”, as long as it provided a winning feature set and user experience.

  22. “Prototype or not, I’d still buy it. I don’t need to use my phone to pick up chicks.”

    Truly. While I would like a super cool phone of sexy awesomeness +2, it’s really Android itself that attracts me like a moth to fire. As long as the hardware is hardy and functional I will be well pleased.

  23. As long as the phone fits in my pocket I don’t care what it is going to look like. I am going to get one because of a long list of apps that are simply too cool not to have. I’m excited to see that actual product.

  24. I’ve talked to some iphone developers.. to know if they were going to port their apps to android.

    Very disappointing so far.

    Many nice looking apps that rely on graphics acceleration won’t be ported… I asked why since android supports 3D hardware acceleration and openGL….
    The answer is “because not all android devices will support it”.

    Hmmm I hope developers will have a great interest in android despite the heterogeneity of devices (even if it’s hard to believe such a thing right now.. ;) )

  25. I find it odd that everyone seems to want the Dream to be an “iphone killer”. Maybe that is hyperbole but so many comments “OMG it looks like a lame-o Sidekick”.

    Who ever said that Google was trying to out-Apple Apple or that they planned their OS to start off in the best high-end device out there. I’ve never known that to be Google’s style. So, maybe the first Android-based device will be a Sidekick style one. That form may be a good starting point into smartphones for a lot of non-techies. I’d imagine later on, someone will put out a device that is more Treo/BB style and one that is more iphone style etc. The point is just that Google is building this nice OS and device manufactures can do what they want with it. When people complain that this is not the greatest thing since life’s bread, it’s because they are projecting their own wants onto the device. Nobody at Google ever said they were out to beat the iPhone at being an iPhone or the PPC at being a PPC. Google wanted to put out a sturdy, scalable, and relatively open mobile OS that could be used on all sorts of devices. All of this fan drooling.complaining that it doesn’t have this or that feature are missing the point IMO. If anything, it’s an indictment of HTC’s market sense if you think this device won’t sell due to unconventional shape/look. Android is just the OS and so far that OS seems pretty nice.

  26. Jerry, I agree with your statement for the most part however, “When people complain that this is not the greatest thing since life’s bread, it’s because they are projecting their own wants onto the device” Isn’t those people who are going to be the potential market for the device?

    I think it would be smart for the companies involved to know WHO their market is and what THEY are looking for. Otherwise their sales #s might be a bit disappointing.

    Also – for all of those others out there who don’t have a clue to what Android is (ask a few non-techies walking down the street), are they going to be so hyped up about the OS? or are they going to want something that is functional, stylish – something that they can show off to their friends.

    I personally was very excited about Android launching but if this is what the device looks like I’ll take a pass and wait for something better. – I don’t want a phone that 50% of people think looks ugly.

    And in response to this article, – what if they knew all along that they were going to launch this device as the flagship Android device. Andy Rubin wouldnt say “oh this is our first phone we will be launching in Q4”, you would expect him to say something such as “its a reference design” when asked what type of phone they are demoing it on.

    So I’m not sure if that quote really means anything at all. Honestly, I think T-Mobile (and possibly Google), were meddling a little too much in the design of the phone, as this looks NOTHING like any recent HTC devices which are all for the most part pretty sexy.


  27. Please God let it be a prototype because that ghastly beast in the leaked photos is ugly as sin, and strikes me as something that never should’ve seen the light of day.

  28. i would get it the way it is, following the rumors for months now ive grown to like it. and i look at it this way. if it turns out that it was only a prototype, and the actual phone looks way better, well thats just more icing on my cake. either way its a win win case, i cant wait.

  29. I do hope that this is just a reference model, because those pictures from the demonstrated white G1 from youtube looks vaguely the same. Also the Darth Vadar who demonstrated looks like its the same person just with a branded t-mobile sticker on it. I do believe it is not the REAL DREAM because we all know HTC would never make something like that which is so ugly. I wanna believe that is just a prototype to demonstrate the OS and HTC,Tmobile, Google has a ace card up their sleeve.

  30. I second what so many have posted above: the model in the leak pics and vid is a chunky-looking phone that could have used a bit more time in the drawing board. However, I became interested in the G1/Dream for one reason: Android. If it has reasonable specs I will get this “reference” model and give it a try. As someone pointed out earlier, I would too ditch it at first sight of something a bit better looking. In the long run, I think phones have to have a balance of aesthetic and functionality. A deformed phone is only OK if it has amazing functionality, and useless phones only ever sell if they are incredibly good-looking. This phone -as seen on the pics- is bordering on ugly, but I can see it being successful if the OS delivers, and as long as the design flaws don’t interfere with the functionality. Time will tell.

  31. The T-mobile logo is the “prototype theory killer” for me. I hope it’s glued on or something. Because if it weren’t for the logo I would have said this is definitely a prototype.

  32. I’m so sick tired of all the nay-sayers going back & forward:
    “It’s not the actual G1 that we’ll see launched later”
    “Yes it is”
    “Not it’s not…”
    Has there ever been another time where we saw so much leaked evidence, that in the end it turned out to be a ruse?

    Also, what ever happened to the rumor that a Android-powered Touch Pro was going to be released? Was that rumour ever killed?

    Another thing, are there any updates as far as the number of units available for the presale or the price? By now, there should be T-Mo documents specifying what to put up on their page next week, along with a picture of the G1. The suspense is kinda nerving.

  33. I just talked to another T-mobile customer service person, they have been sticking to the company line.
    They know something is coming to but they have no idea of when.
    One lady told me, that usually the come to work and bingo a new product sheet is on the board with information about it.
    Another guy told me to keep watching the T-Mobile .com that it will be posted up there as soon as it’s being offered.

    I will definitely find the nearest T-Mobile store to see first hand demo of it.

    If it is el sucko and the OS is not good then I will wait till it is offered in a better phone and or upgraded OS.

    I’m hoping that the phone doesn’t suck. I’m hoping that the OS works so good that I do not have to think about it. but just use it.

    If it looks like the above pictures, ehhh what do people always say. It’s what i’s on the inside that counts..

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