Android for Aussies

Last Updated: 13th July 2010

This guide is for Australians who are considering buying a smart phone powered by the Android operating system. Read this if:

  • you’re contemplating an iPhone but want to know what else is available
  • want to know what Android powered handsets you can buy in Australia
  • you want to know about any network specific issues (e.g. Telstra, Optus, Vodafone etc)


Why should I buy an Android phone?

You should buy an Android powered phone if you value the following features:

  • you want to choose from a variety of handset styles – sizes, colours, physical keyboards or not etc.
  • user replaceable batteries
  • expandable storage
  • you use a lot of Google services already (Gmail, Maps, Picasa etc)
  • you want to break the iTunes shackles
  • you want more control and the ability to tinker / upgrade / tweak your phone
  • you want to tether your phone to your laptop (via WiFi or USB) without paying extra (your laptop then uses the phone to access the internet)
  • you want a free mapping solution baked into the phone (Google Maps)


So what is Android?

Android is the operating system that runs mobile phones (and other devices). It’s open source software originally created by Google and can be installed on phone handsets by manufacturers. As with all software there are constant updates and new versions. In the first quarter of 2010 Android phones outsold iPhones for the first time in the US – see this chart to see the trend for yourself.

The major versions to note are:

  • 1.5 – also known as Cupcake
  • 1.6 – also know as Donut
  • 2.0
  • 2.1 – also known as Eclair
  • 2.2 – also known as Froyo
  • 2.x? – also known as Gingerbread

What phones are available in Australia?

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What plans are available in Australia?

The Australian version of the Lifehacker website has put together a guide to contracts and plans available with the major providers for their available Android phones. Great stuff!

Can I buy a phone from overseas and use it in Australia?

Yes most definitely! There are a number of stores who sell ‘grey imports’. These are phones purchased in another country and then shipped to Australia. They are unlocked so you can plug in your SIM and away you go.

The advantages are that you can select from a wider array of handsets because Australia seems to lag behind in the release of handsets. Or maybe you want to get a phone like the HTC Desire but not with Telstra (just saying!). Just remember to buy a GSM phone, not a CDMA one!

Things you need to be aware of:

  • warranty claims usually involve shipping the unit back to the original country (some retailers offer Australian warranty though, so drill them if this is a worry for you).
  • if you root your phone to apply a custom ROM then your warranty is void anyway, so the above point is probably not too concerning for you :-)
  • the power charger will usually come with an adapter so you can plug the foreign plugs into your Australian power-point. The phones are chargeable via USB anyway so this is also probably not a major issue.
  • you will need to manually configure the network settings for your operator (for Internet access, MMS etc) – great list of APNs for Australia

Some websites that offer Android powered phones in Australia:

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But what about all the Apps available for the iPhone?

imageAndroid has it’s own app store called the Android Market. There are more apps available for the iPhone but as the market share for Android grows the gap between the two will shrink. Already major apps are being developed for both iPhone and Android phones (sorry Windows phone owners!). There are around 50,000 apps in the Android Market (apparently) and around 203,000 for the iPhone. Numbers aren’t everything though – you’re not going to install more than a small fraction of those anyway :-)

The Android Market is region specific

Not only is the Android Market region specific, but what you see in the Market is also controlled by what network provider you are with. Yes, even if you’re using WiFi to browse the Market, your phone sends some kind of network operator details (and Android version number) when the search is made. Until a few months ago phones on the Optus network (including Virgin) could only see free Apps.

But I’m worried about excessive data usage

Install the awesome NetCounter app. It will keep track of your usage for both your 3G connection and WiFi. You can set alerts when a limit is announced, you get pretty graphs and you can reset the counter when you want to.

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What Australian specific Apps are available?

While there are tens of thousands of Apps available in the Android Market, what apps are available with specific content for Aussies?

This section has grown up and moved to a page all of it’s own.

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Conclusion

Android phones rock – go and get one! I hope this has been helpful – let me know if you’ve got any questions or corrections in the Comments below.

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