Android MyTouch 3G Finally Arrives with Sherpa

In something of anti-climax (because Google previous gave out the phones causing a lot of early reviews), the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G is finally here (it's been out in the UK for many months as the Vodafone Magic). It's much improved over the clunky G1 -- sleeker and without a physical keyboard.

I've been using it fairly heavily for the past couple months. And today I finally downloaded Sherpa from Geodelic and got a chance to play with it a bit. But before I talk about Sherpa, here's my quick rundown on the MyTouch experience: 

Highlights:

  • Voice search and voice search on Maps
  • Google Voice app
  • Camera barcode scanning and camera search apps such as ShopSavvy and Amazon
  • Multiple apps running simultaneously (if you care about this; in my experience it's not a huge advantage or benefit)

Weaknesses:

  • Dull screen resolution (by comparison to the iPhone and Pre)
  • Awkward virtual keyboard (compared to the iPhone)
  • Poorly organized apps store (Android Market)  
  • Less intuitive user experience (than iPhone)

Overall it's a terrific phone but falls short in a couple of areas because of comparisons to the iPhone.

Sherpa, by Geodelic, is one of the "marquee" apps being promoted by T-Mobile to help differentiate the phone from smartphone competitors. In my very preliminary usage I'm relatively unimpressed  however. The app has a novel carousel interface that shows nearby businesses and attractions across listings categories. Users can "search" using a query box but the app is intended to offer up listings based on handset location and usage history/preferences over time. 

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Colorful icons allow users to find restaurants, cafes, banks, shopping and so on at the touch of a button. Profile pages initiate calls and map lookups. There are also map and list views of places. 

I recognize this is "version 1.0" but the offering at a high level, and in terms of some of the interface elements, is not very different than Where, AroundMe, Places Directory, Earthcomber, MapQuest and a few others. 

Many companies, including Geodelic, Aloqa and MobilePeople, among others, are now vying to be a kind of all-encompassing local search (or discovery) tool on the mobile handset, not to mention Google Maps, Yahoo mobile (app + mobile Web) or the Microsoft mobile/Bing smartphone client. 

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To succeed in this local-mobile segment, companies need to bring together rich and complete data, solid intuitive functionality and then some differentiating feature or combination of elements. It's a very tough challenge in a crowded arena. Companies need to think also about voice and the camera as auxiliary input mechanisms -- if they make sense for the application. 

I look forward to the Geodelic iPhone app and subsequent versions of the software.