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Is T-Mobile's G1 Near a Major Android Update?

G1 versus iPhone

A highly anticipated upgrade to the Android mobile operating system for the T-Mobile G1, otherwise known as the "Cupcake update," is slated for April, according to buzz in the blogosphere.

At the same time, industry watchers are predicting that sales of Android-based smartphones will eclipse the Apple iPhone as the dominant new player on the scene.

Insiders are following the developments carefully because the T-Mobile G1 is the first smartphone based on the open-source Google Android platform, and "Cupcake" would represent its first major update -- and would introduced a number of features that so far have been lacking.

According to the U.K.-based gadget reviews blog Pocket-Lint.com, enhancements will include an on-screen keyboard, video recording, voice recording, the ability to save MMS attachments and stereo Bluetooth.

The company line from T-Mobile, however, is that the April upgrade is just a rumor. "T-Mobile USA has not confirmed any plans to offer new software updates, including 'Cupcake,' for the T-Mobile G1 in the U.S.," a representative for T-Mobile told InternetNews.com.

"Cupcake" originated during Android's transition to an open-source project, under the auspices of the Google-led Open Handset Alliance. Since then, some development has continued in a private branch of the software -- with Cupcake being a read-only mirror of one of them, according to reports.

If reports are correct, an update like Cupcake could drive ever further momentum for the Google-backed Android software. Industry watchers are already speculating that sales of smartphones using the Android platform will overtake the iPhone by 2012, as U.K.-based research firm Informa Telecoms and Media predicted in a recent report.

The reasoning goes like this: Android will be available on a wide variety of devices and mobile networks at different price points, and this widespread availability is bound to have an advantage over iPhones, which are likely to be available from one manufacturer -- Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) -- and on limited networks.

Another factor that might give Android phones the edge is that it may be easier for developers, compared to other major phone platforms. Google offers developers a standardized set of tools, for instance, while Nokia's Symbian has been roundly criticized for being too complicated, Informa said.

For now, the field is sparse in terms of Android offerings, however -- consisting at the present solely of the T-Mobile G1, with the HTC Magic on tap for an April release on Vodafone's network. (HTC also manufactured the T-Mobile G1.)

Still, expectations are high for other members of the Open Handset Alliance, like Samsung and Sony Ericsson, to roll out models this year and in 2010. Industry watchers are also anticipating Android-based handsets from Motorola, another Alliance member, which has given indications it plans to launch its own Android devices by 2010.