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Today we managed to spend some quality time with a prototype handset running Google's highly anticipated mobile operating system, Google Android. Texas Instruments was showing it off at its stand to promote the prototype handset's processor, the OMAP850 -- but it's not the processor we were interested in.

Although this handset isn't supposedly going to be commercially released, we were impressed with its design. Not only is it light but it's well laid-out. The screen is wide and sharp, the navigation keys are large, making them easy to press, and the Qwerty keypad is well designed -- with each key raised so it's easy to distinguish between them.

Similar to the handset itself, the Android running here isn't the final version, but it does work and we've had a good play with it. So what's it like to use? Well, it's simple and it works -- if Google made phones... That's the thing with Android: it's very Google, and that's why we think we've fallen in love.

Symbian sceptics can sneer all they like, but when this thing comes out on a commercial phone, we think even they might change their mind. As you can see in this picture, everything is accessible via a horizontal menu you can click through using the navigation key -- it's not as clever as some other systems, but it makes much more sense than most of them.

Click through for more pictures of the Google prototype handset and find out what we stumbled on when we were poking about in Android's settings

We don't want to get you too excited, but we thought we'd take you on a 360 degree tour of Google's prototype handset, as we think they should actually release it as it is -- seriously, it's very cool. Here you can see the raised profile of the keys on the keypad, which helps to distinguish between them.

On the back there's a camera on the top left and a speaker. It's a little HTC meets Apple, but that wouldn't be a bad partnership, would it? Keeping things simple on the inside and outside is what really attracts us to the idea of Android and gives us a sense of anticipation that matches what we expected from the iPhone. Could phones like this be the real iPhone killers?

If you look closely at the phone's screen, you'll notice that we ventured into Android's settings and there's an option called GTalk. Could it be that Google wants us to instant message each other instead of texting, and make cheap calls using VoIP instead of minutes? We imagine network operators will have something to say about that.

Google Android: Hands-on with the Google mobile goodness


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