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And now it’s getting interesting. Longtime readers (thanks, ma!) are familiar with my unabashed love of the iPhone and all the innovation and awesomeness it brought to the market when it was released last year. iPhone 2.0 further raised the awesome bar by opening the floodgates of development and really turning loose what this puppy can do—third-party applications ranging from a light saber to unparalleled wireless integration with your home network to seamless social network compatibility really started to drive home how much this elegantly simple, one-button device brought to the table.

But despite all of this, it’s becoming evident the biggest contribution the iPhone made to the entire tech sector is the gauntlet it flung into the faces of every other manufacturer in the genre. And only now are we really beginning to see the fruits of what the competitive spirit of the marketplace have wrought.

Samsung was the first to come out barrels blazing with its Instinct model—riding Sprint’s faster network (at the time) than the laboriously slow AT&T GSM band the first iPhone was relegated to. Though there was a lot of early hooplah about this fabled “iPhone killer” from the trade pubs, sales of the Instinct barely registered a notch on the long totem pole erected by the iPhone. In the last year, several other manufacturers, like LG, RIM and Neonode have tossed their handsets into the ring, only to see them lurch along in relative obscurity, lost in the iPhone’s massive shadow.

Nothing lasts forever, however, and by the time you read this, T-Mobile’s G1 will be on the streets. The G1 operates on the Android platform, a system developed by Google—pure open source on a Linux kernel.

Though the handset, developed by HTC, is a little clunkier looking than the iPhone (despite being smaller all around), it’s basically an upgrade in many other areas. It offers a touch screen (does not support multi-touch, which the iPhone does) that slides out into a full qwerty keyboard, a 3-megapixel camera (as opposed to iPhone’s 2 megapixels), expandable memory (via MicroSD cards—comes with a 1 gig card and can expand up to 8 gigs; iPhone’s 16-gig is their biggest and isn’t expandable from there) and a few other things I’ve complained are missing from my iPhone:

• Multimedia messaging
• Copy and paste
• Voice dialing
• Removable battery

It’s also $179, which is $20 less than the iPhone. The most impressive feature on the G1 is the map function, which not only provides Google’s awesome street-level view, but overlays a compass for you and you can actually pan the image on the screen by simply moving the phone from side to side. That’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

But what’s really notable isn’t the phone itself, it’s the software. Android is open to the world, and in the coming months you’ll see a slew of new handsets operating on this system.

What does that mean to the iPhone? Not much, yet. But Google’s already punched a huge hole in the Microsoft monolith by allowing its open office applications to be used for free by anyone on the Net. Whereas Apple maintains an almost Machiavellian grip on all of its wares, systems and software, Google opens it up to the world.

And though I love my iPhone, I’m rooting for the company with the best slogan…

Don’t Be Evil.

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