A Walk Through Telstra's Android Wonderland

Yesterday Telstra unveiled is Android-flavoured answer to the Apple Store in Melbourne. Being a local, it made sense to head on over and check it out. Does the concept have a future, and what exactly does it add to the retail experience?

If you want an iOS handset, Apple makes it easy for you. You either get the top-of-the-line model, its less powerful predecessor, or a device that, comparatively, might as well be a Nokia 3210.

Android, on the other hand, is available on hardware from a range of manufacturers. If you're trying to make the transition from Apple's world, or you're just getting your feet wet in the smartphone market, the spectrum of choice may appear daunting.

Enter Androidland.

Six months in the making, Androidland has now all but taken over the second floor of Telstra's largest and most trafficked icon store, situated on the corner of Bourke and Swanston, right in the heart of Melbourne city. The official press release states it as a temporary takeover, but, if it proves successful, it could spread to other Telstra stores around Australia and, possibly, internationally.

It's an experiment, to be sure, and while it shares similarities with Apple's own glass-encased flagship stores, it's far more understated and possessed with personality. Even before you enter, you're greeted by a 60" touch display on the outside wall of the building. When I visited yesterday, a child was slinging feathered combatants at green pigs in a game of Angry Birds. It's one of iOS's more iconic games -- the humour isn't lost on me -- but it's spread its wings to enough platforms now that the branding is not so closely tied to Apple's devices as it once was.

Inside, a woman offers gingerbread Androids and cakes. Upstairs, a smell machine generates an odour called "Android Grass" that reminds me of a freshly-cut lawn, if that lawn had been previously infused with candy canes. An Android-themed skill-tester stands against a wall defiantly, tempting players to grab its free goodies... if they can. A set of four mildly creepy-looking clown machines with requisite ping-pong balls demand a still hand and sharp eye. I'm too scared to try them.

Android-powered devices from Samsung, HTC and Sony Ericsson are displayed in rows on lit stands, waiting for the curious to approach and play. At the back is a sectioned-off area. I'm told it was once an auditorium, but it's been transformed into a play room of Android apps and Google technology. It features the only Liquid Galaxy set-up to be constructed outside of Google's offices, or so I'm told. Using a three-dimensional joystick, you can explore the world, rolling it around and toying with its size like a real-life Katamari ball.

Finally, for the thirsty, "Tutti-Fruitti Lime"-flavoured slurpees are dispensed by employees. Whether this (and the baked treats of eariler) will be a continuing attraction is yet to be seen.

The bigger question is: Will it be the commercial success Telstra, and perhaps Google, want it to be? It's a friendly environment, definitely, and if I were to make the switch to Android, I'd be sure to stop by to aid in my decision-making. The interesting fusion of business with an "experience" beyond product demonstrations gives the shop-within-a-shop a corporate Powerhouse Museum feel.

I won't exactly be coming back every day to flog the heck out of the Liquid Galaxy, but I'm confident I'll be dropping by during the length of its uncertain lifetime to see how it's fairing.



    ;-; I want to go, but I'm in Sydney.

    This looks... Heaps fun :)

    Pity that I have to wait until my next trip into Melbourne. I am in Wellington but bought my Android 2.2 in Brisbane last June. Great that the Android Magazine can now be found on Newstands.

    great idea, shame Telstra is so expensive -.-

      Get an ABN, grab a business plan! Makes it more manageable.

      Telstra's plans are a lot cheaper then you might think, and they have the network coverage to back up the prices

    Curious to know how much Google paid Telstra for this partnership. It was embarrassing seeing David Thodey (Telstra CEO) at ThinkMobile earlier this year regurgitating incorrect facts about the platform.

    I actually work at this store, and I cannot tell you all how *cool* it is to be able to work with it. We also had some of the people who do a lot of the main development work on Android in store on Friday, and they were really awesome and nice.
    And Nick - I'm not entirely sure how much money has gone into the partnership, but the Android display cost upwards of $1 million.

    It's interesting to see Telstra getting more hip - they were always focused on the older set, and here they are now targetting younger people with this amazing display. I checked it out on the weekend, and it is pretty cool - and the free games machine was great - even won a few Android toys! Question is, will it convince me and others to switch from our iPhones to the Android operating system - time will tell! :-) Wow, a million dollars to set it up? Really?

      "...they were always focused on the older set, and here they are now targetting younger people..."

      It's amazing how the threat of losing their vertical integrated monopoly has changed their focus from trundling along with their huge customer-base of 'we don't know any better' customers to actively trying to compete with the other telcos for business...

    I'd rather be greeted in a real store by a real person person selling real things.
    Like the Apple store.
    Funny that.

      There are real people, selling real things, in a real store.....i dont know what you're thinking mate

        He's been brainwashed by the Apple markting gurus obviously.

        I think our good friend Yudi thinks it's a store where you buy actual androids and other forms of robotic people....

        Poor Yudi

        That or he/she believes that the 60" touch screen actually takes your hat and coat, while asking whether you'd like your scotch with ice or just water.

    I'll be heading next weekend... should be interesting... except for diabetics.

    Reminds me more of Sydney's "Powerhouse Museum" than an actual commercial endeavour.. nice to see Telstra trying something new though.. even if it is "copying from Apple".. haha.. :)

    I can't get over how scary those Androids with lipstick are. That is nightmare fuel, right there.

    I don't want to live on this planet anymore

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