The Apple iPhone does not launch in the UK until Friday however it is set to face stiff competition from a raft of new Gphones, backed by Google.

Google has developed a new software system - called Android - designed to work specifically with mobile phones.

It has signed a partnership with 30 hardware companies, including mobile phone manufacturers, to offer the software via new smart handsets.

The partners include handset makers Motorola and HTC, plus the global German-owned network T-Mobile.

The software will be in direct competition to an operating system offered by Microsoft, but will be open to allow other companies to offer services over mobile phones.

There had been speculation in the industry that Google would launch a Gphone, which would go head-to-head with Apple's inconic iPhone.

However, the company said it hopes that its new software will operate across thousands of handsets, effectively creating a vast number of Gphones.

There is speculation that at some point Google and its partners will offer a mobile phone that is free to use in return for customers using an internet browser system carrying heavy amounts of advertising.

The new phones are designed to offer sophisticated internet access, effectively combining the normal desktop personal computer and mobile handset.

The first phones, which will be launched by the middle of 2008, will tap into the pheonomenal growth of websites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube.

People will be able to update their profiles on social networking sites and communicate with others via the likes of MySpace while on the move, rather than being tied to a PC.

Android co-founder, Andy Rubin, who is now Google's director of mobile platforms, said: "This is going to bring the Internet into cell phones in a very cool way.

"We are not building a Gphone; we are enabling 1,000 people to build a Gphone."

Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, said: "We want to create a whole new mobile experience for users, new applications and capabilities that we could not imagine today.

"We are hoping that thousands of handsets will be powered by Android."

Google claims that having a single mobile phone internet operating system that can be accessed by any software company will speed up the delivery of new services.

"Consumers will have access to less expensive mobile device that feature more services that are easier to use. They will have much better access to standard internet experiences and, ultimately, a superior mobile experience."

Todd Greenwald, a financial analyst with Nollenberger Capital Partners in San Francisco, said: "It will open the mobile phone to do things that people now do on their PCs.

"It should position Google to be an early leader in the mobile advertising market."

Introducing the Gphone: Google enters the mobile phone market | the Daily Mail