Second Android smartphone to launch unlocked on January 29 for $225

Australia will be the place of birth for of the second Android-powered smartphone. Sold under Kogan brand, the Agora and Agora Pro devices will sell unlocked for $225 and $295 respectively, without the need to sign a service contract. The fact that these smartphones will be sold SIM-free, provide some hope that domestic customers might be able to get the phone online and simply swap in their existing SIM module, opting for a pre-paid service instead of agreeing to a multi-year service agreement.

After T-Mobile's Android G1, the second Android-powered smartphone is set to launch in Australia. Kogan Technologies, an online-only company, said there will be two versions of the Kogan phone: The Agora and Agora Pro, sold for $225 and $295 respectively. The phones will be sold unlocked at these price points, without the need to sign an obligatory service contract with a carrier. This theoretically leaves an ample space for significant price reductions down the road, if carrier subsidies are part of the equation.

Similarly to T-Mobile's Android G1, the 130-gram Agora smartphones have a physical keyboard and a touchscreen. Subjectively, the Agora looks much better than the T-Mobile G1 from a design point of view, with a shiny black casing dominated by a 2.5” TFT-LCD touchscreen on the upper half of the device and a BlackBerry-style QWERTY keyboard below the screen. Both handsets feature FM radio, a music player and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR connectivity, but the differences between them are more striking than meets the eye.

The more powerful version of the 3G Agora phone features a GPS module, Wi-Fi networking and Bluetooth connectivity as well as a built-in 2-megapixel camera on the back. The Android operating system that powers the handset brings integration with a host of Google services, in addition to the email client that supports image, video, music and documents attachments and a capable web browser. Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Talk and a YouTube video player are all integrated in both devices, as well as Google Maps that supports a detailed map, satellite, traffic and the new street view.

Other Android traits known from T-Mobile's G1 are also supported, such as one-touch Google search, uploading YouTube videos, saving web images as wallpapers, an instant dial feature for phone numbers on web sites, a customizable Home Screen with email, as well as SMS and IM notifications.

Its less capable counterpart called simply the Agora lacks a camera, the GPS module and Wi-Fi, leaving prospective customers only with a Bluetooth option. This makes Agora's $70 cheaper price point questionable since the lack of connectivity features basically renders the Internet-related capabilities of Android useless. It also cuts the phone out of the Android Market for browsing and installing additional applications over the air. The built-in storage is another concession to an attractive price point since both Agora devices pack only 256 MB of memory, which means users will have to spend extra cash to increase the storage capacity through microSD cards. Both phones integrate a MiniUSB port promise more than six and a half hours of talk time and twelve and a half days of standby time.

Since the phone comes unlocked, AT&T and T-Mobile users in the U.S. could theoretically pre-order the handset on Kogan website today and simply swap in their SIM card without paying extra fees or renewing service contract. The company said it is not restricting the handset just to Australia and New Zealand and will instead work with global carriers to make both phones work on any network around the world. Kogan is now accepting international pre-orders for the Agora and Agora Pro here.