So, it turns out we were right. Launching February 16 on Optus (although not exclusively - more on that later), the HTC Dream will be Australia (and Asia's) first Android-powered smartphone. It will be available on four separate plans, starting at $59 a month (plus $15 a month for the phone on a 24 month contract) which includes 500MB of data (Google apps are unmetered) and going all the way up to a $129 a month on a Timeless Plan (including 3GB of data and $3 a month for the handset over 24 months).As we've already mentioned, the phone itself isn't actually locked to Optus, but they aren't selling it outright - you have to be on a plan to get your hands on the phone. That will probably change a few months down the track though, so if you're really against joining Optus, maybe wait a few months.
The phone itself is exactly the same as the G1 we've been watching the US cover for the past few months. Having held it in my hands, I have to say that it's got a very nice build quality, although slightly chunky; the screen is really nice, and the sliding mechanism to access the keyboard is an OCD-sufferer's dream (or nightmare, I guess).
In Australia, we're only getting the black version from the start, although we may get a white version down the track - Google people were walking around the event with white versions teasing us, although personally I preferred the black.
The software update we read about this morning will be pushed out to all Australlian Dream phones, as will all future Android updates, presumably including the upcoming Cupcake update. the Latitude app will be in the Google Maps section, and you'll be able to turn it on and off yourself. Best of all, the Android updates are unmetered on Optus' plans.
Considering this was my first hands on experience with Android, I have to say I was really impressed. It's got the potential to be a truly fantastic mobile OS. We'll be getting a review unit shortly, and will keep you up to date with any developments, but in the meantime, here's today's press release:
HTC UNVEILS THE HTC DREAM™ — THE FIRST ANDROID-POWERED PHONE RELEASED IN AUSTRALIA
Intuitive Touch Screen and QWERTY Keyboard, Plus Popular Google Products and Fresh, New Applications - available from Optus.
Sydney, Australia - February 05, 2009 - HTC Corporation, a global leader in mobile phone innovation and design, today unveiled its latest handset - the HTC Dream™, the first Android-powered mobile phone released in Australia. Available through Optus, the HTC Dream™ combines full touch-screen functionality and a QWERTY keyboard with a mobile Web experience that includes the popular Google products that millions have enjoyed on their desktop, including Google Maps™ with Street View™, Gmail™, YouTube™ and others.
With a fun and intuitive user interface and one-touch access to Google Search, the HTC Dream is also the first phone to provide access to Android Market in Australia, where customers can download a variety of applications to customise their phone.
"HTC, Optus and Google share a similar vision for making the mobile internet practical, fun and relevant," said Anthony Petts, Sales and Marketing Director ANZ, HTC Corporation. "The HTC Dream represents the culmination of this joint collaboration by offering a variety of services, applications and content that introduces an Internet experience that everyone can enjoy. We are honoured to be joining Optus and Google today to announce the launch of the HTC Dream in Australia."
Michael Smith, Acting Managing Director, Optus Consumer, said: "Optus customers will be the first in the country able to get their hands on this unique and innovative handset, showing our commitment to provide access to leading technology and innovation.
"Customers are increasingly using their mobile phone just as they use their PC. We are confident the HTC Dream will be popular with customers who enjoy the Google experience and want the internet in their back pocket.
"Optus' pricing plans have been designed to include substantial data allowances to help customers make the most of their mobile internet experience. This will give the freedom to explore the features and functionality of the device and platform, with the comfort of a choice of plans to suit their browsing needs," Mr Smith said.
Delivering the Familiarity of Google for a Superior Mobile Internet Experience: The HTC Dream delivers a premium, easy-to-use mobile Web and communications experience in one device. Both Android and Optus services have been integrated seamlessly into the phone's form and function. The HTC Dream's large, vibrant display slides open to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, great for communicating with friends online or using the phone's e-mail, IM and mobile messaging capabilities. As another option for accessing the device, the HTC Dream comes equipped with a convenient trackball for one-handed navigation.
With one-click search, HTC Dream users can search for relevant information, with the touch of a finger. A full HTML Web browser allows users to see any Web page the way it was designed to be seen, and then easily zoom in to expand any section. With built-in support for Optus' 3.5G network as well as Wi-Fi, the HTC Dream can connect to the best available high-speed data connection for surfing the Web and downloading information quickly and effortlessly.
"We're thrilled to see the mobile ecosystem in the Asia Pacific region embracing the Android platform. The openness that has shaped the Internet and driven innovation is now coming to mobile devices," said Daniel Alegre, Vice President, Sales and Operations - Asia Pacific, at Google. "The HTC Dream offered through Optus will transform users' mobile web experiences and provide an open platform for the next wave of exciting applications."
Communication on the Go: The HTC Dream features a rich HTML e-mail client, which seamlessly syncs your e-mail, calendar and contacts from Gmail as well as most other POP3 or IMAP e-mail services. The HTC Dream multi-tasks, so you can read a Web page while downloading your e-mail in the background. It also combines Instant Messaging support for Google Talk™. With access to high-speed Web browsing and a 3.2 megapixel camera with photo-sharing capabilities, the HTC Dream is ideal for balancing a busy lifestyle, whether sharing pictures, checking the latest sports scores or accessing social networking sites.
The HTC Dream offers access to Android Market, which hosts many popular and unique applications from developers around the world. With just a couple of clicks, users can find, download and rate a wide range of innovative software applications — from games to location-based services and on-the-go shopping — to personalise their phone and enhance their mobile lifestyle.
Pricing & Availability:
The HTC Dream will be available through Optus from 16 February 2009. Optus Post-Paid mobile customers will be able to purchase the HTC Dream handset on four specially designed plans to suit all budgets, starting from $59 per month, plus handset costs. For more information, and terms and conditions, go to www.optus.com.au/dream.