Liveblogging The Google Nexus One Phone Launch
It’s Nexus One day! At least, that’s what we’re all expecting from the “Android Press Gathering” event that Google is hosting today. I’m attending it and will be liveblogging all the news that comes out of it.
Not up to speed on the Nexus One? It’s the widely expected Google Phone, a phone that Google apparently closely developed with handset maker HTC, running the Android mobile operating system.
So it should be pretty special, eh? Something stellar from the company that has said it never want to do products that aren’t substantially better than what’s already out there? Well, from what we know so far, no. Engadget has a nice early review here. My take after reading it was that the Nexus One is like the iPhone, with a better camera but without multitouch. Engadget certainly wasn’t blown away. Fred Wilson also has a light review here.
Nor do we know so far of any unique tricks or twists to the pricing model that you might have expected Google to develop. It appears to be a phone you can buy locked to a two year contract for a cheaper price or pay more for an unlocked version. Nothing special there — my postscript to our Now That Everything Is Known, Will The Google Nexus One Phone Launch Generate A Collective Yawn? post covers this more.
But enough of the past! It’s the present, and all the official news is about to flow out. Stay tuned. The press conference begins at 10am Pacific Time, and I’ll be updating this post with news below, as it comes in. Looking for a webcast? There’s no public one — sorry, confirmed with Google that there isn’t one.
I’m also not alone in liveblogging. Some others you might want to check out:
So it’s 10:02 AM. And we’re waiting. Listening to some nice music. Sipping a Diet Coke. Lots of people crammed in here, TV cameras everywhere, Larry and Sergey building this cool Lego thing on stage. OK, L&S aren’t here. But bet one of them makes a surprise appearance later.
And we start. Mike Nelson is welcoming us. Introducing Mario Queiroz who has been leading the project. Here’s Mario:
Saying Google will unveil next step in Android. But first some history. How 2 years ago the Open Handset Alliance started with about 30 companies to push an open platform (which doesn’t feel so open these days and more like Google’s operating system). Today, more members have joined — they have over 50.
First Google branded phone, G1 came out last year. Then worked on smaller version, with widgets, T-Mobile with HTC brought out the myTouch (think this is also called the Hero). Then Google decided lets take powerful hardware and work on performance. And CDMA support (you know, the Verizon/Sprint network that doesn’t use GSM). And this became Droid.
So in just over a year, went from 1 device with 1 carried in 1 country to 20 devices with 59 carriers in 48 counties in 19 languages. So suck on that Apple and Microsoft. Except he didn’t say the suck on that part.
In 2009 four major software releases, a test suite so new devices can be verified. Android contributing to more and more users getting to the web through their phones. Google seen increase of mobile searches by 5X in the same period. Android users search the web 30X times more than on regular phones (stats, by the way, are prob. similar for the iPhone).
Android available under one of the most open licensing agreements around, so partners can do what they like. They see this has an effect on manufacturing costs and time to market. Android also allows always on apps to run in the background. So it’s easier for Google to constantly track you wherever you go, while you’re also listening to music. OK, he didn’t say the track part. That’s for the tinfoil hat crowd.
Enough recap. Now shift to next step in Android evolution. Only in early stages, so not stopping to celebrate. OK, he said they will a little today. Want to do more. One of the questions we asked ourselves was what if we worked more closely with our partners. So we’ve done just that, and today we’re announcing the Nexus One.
Dictionary definition of Nexus is point of convergence, a means of connection. Nexus One is where web meets phone. And he’s showing it. And saying it’s part of a new class of devices Google calls a superphone. Awesome — new jargon!
Done in close partnership with HTC, which has taken bets on Android (they used to with Microsoft. I have so many HTC Windows Mobile phones in my desk drawer).
Here’s Peter Chou from HTC talking next. Says year ago unveiled the G1. Puts up a slide of all those Android phones you’ve heard about — HTC seems to have built them all:
Says Nexus One is thin, feels good in your hand, power to bring 3D graphic experience to life. Excited about partnership with Google. Says it pushes the limits of what’s possible on a mobile phone today. Hey, if we can make actual phone calls and do smartphone/superphone stuff, that would be an achievement.
Now closer look, Eric Tseng to take us through the phone. First, the hardware. 3.7 AMOLEAD display. Which I gather is awesome. Under the hood, a 1Ghz processor from Qualcomm. Which I gather is really fast. If you want to run many apps at same time, no slowdown. Trackball at bottom of device, not just for pointing but trackball will pulse to notify you of new calls, messages and stuff. Difference colors for different things, too. Sensors know light and proximity. So can help dim if not needed.
11.5MM thin, no thicker than a pencil and no heavier than a Swiss Army keychain knife, 130grams. On back of phone, 5 megapixel camera with flash and MP4 video recording. And you can sync to Picasa or YouTube. Or I suppose Flickr, but this is a Google press conference.
Audio: stereo bluetooth, 3.5mm headphone jack. Does anyone use stereo bluetooth? There’s also active noise cancellation, so two mics, so can hear street noise and cancel it out. Room also for custom engraving to put a message on phone like a name.
With hardware, think they’ve got 1/2 the story — and combo with Android software makes it the other 1/2 amazing. So let’s look at software.
Nexus One uses Android 2.1. Eclair is the code name for Android 2.0, which shipped on the Verizon Droid. So all great stuff there is here. Which feels like a way to reassure Droid owners they’re not screwed with an outdated phone.
When first launched last year had some widgets. Decided to add more home screen panels to add shortcuts and widgets. Showing the news and home widget. Not just a normal weather app. Knows where you are. If tap through, can get temp and humidity through the day, shown in a really great “Googly” way. Here, look:
When power on device, there’s also “live wallpaper.” Showing one that looks like leaves on the top of water. Dynamically, more leaves fall and ripple the water. So it’s more like a screensaver. In fact, it’s like you know After Dark — remember, the fish tank screensaver we used to have in the 90s? Now we have mobile phone screensavers.
Now to media and 3D. You have in smartphones (he means superphones) are minicomputers. So you want to push them to their limits (actually you don’t. would be nice to go say 80% so scotty’s not yelling capt she canna take it, I can’t place your voice call). Showing how when you scroll through apps, they can kind of all flow from top to bottom like that opening title sequence in Star Wars.
Now showing the gallery, a new visualization of photos. Worked with team at Cool Iris. If he taps on an album, he can spin through the pics really quickly and can “dip” the photos. Which is hard to explain and seems frankly useless. But can switch to a cluster view of photos based on time, date or location. And that’s nice.
Now he’s showing how he can say find Ikea, it knows his location, then he can get spoken directions. That’s part of Android 2.0, but then asked what if every text field could be voice enabled. “What if I could speak my tweets?” So they did that. Says something into the phone which turns into a Gmail message. Works, pretty cool.
Now showing new unreleased app, Google Earth for the Nexus One. Wonder if there’s the same for the iPhone? If not, wonder if that’s because Apple rejected it. Now speaks Mt Fuji into Google Earth, which brings it up on the phone.
Mario is back. First device of a series of devices that Google is bringing to market with partners. Pleased to announce new way to buy a phone, through a Google hosted web store. Objective is to provide efficient way to connect consumers to Android devices. Design objective is to keep it simple, including plans from operators. Through web store, can buy phone without service or with service through a partner. If you buy with service, cost will be discounted. At launch, from http://www.google.com/phone. Happy to announce that Verizon in the US and Vodaphone in Europe will be joining the program.
Showing how you buy. You can take a tour. Then selection screen. $529 to buy without service. Other option is to buy from T-Mobile for $179 with two year contract. Hmm, if Nexus One is coming from Verizon, then there must be CDMA version in the works. What a waste — can’t we have one damn phone so you can switch? Dammit, c’mon Google, why can’t you really help things in the US that way. If you can’t wait, Google says hey, click here from the store to go get a Droid at Verizon. Wonder where the AT&T option is. Heh.
Naturally to buy the phone, you have to have a Google Account and use Google Checkout. No respect for drug dealers who want a superphone that they can buy in cash.
After you choose, then you can have the fun step of getting that engraving you want on the back. You check the terms and blah blah, get confirmation page and “it’s really that quick and easy.”
UK, Singapore and Hong Kong are test markets that they’ll ship to, though this is really a US store.
All the press here today is getting a phone [note: press had an option to take the phone or accept it on a 30 day loan basis. I'm debating which way to go. I may want this longer to test things Google does occasionally. I have an earlier Android given out at Google's Developer Day last year. Occasionally, I've checked things on it against my actual personal phone, the iPhone]. Now we get a movie, and then there will be Q&A.
Robert Scoble is asking first. Why only 512MB for app stoage. Andy Rubin, who’s like the father of Android from Google, says you can make use of the SD card for more storage.
Next. Is it shipping today? Yes. And Robert is pointing his computer my way where the next person asking a question is at the mic. Which is freaking me out.
Mario says you can put your AT&T sim card in and make the Nexus One work. But says the 3G frequency isn’t the same, so it’s going to be slower. Cmon! Why couldn’t they support all the spectrum.
Rory from BBC. Is this the iPhone killer. What’s your message. Andy says it’s about choice for the computer.
Next question. Who has inventory of phones. Will you be doing TV ads. Mario, you’re buying the phone from Google. HTC is the manufacturer. Won’t comment on supply chain setup beyond that. As for marketing of Nexus One is initially online. Work with clients all over the world, so doing what they do with clients, using all their online tools and that will include the Android market (not sure if he meant push the phone there or push through online that there is an Android market).
Next question: Why was it necessary for Google to design the phone. Why couldn’t HTC do it. Will new features today come to the Droid phone? Andy says inaccurate to say Google designed it. It was HTC. We’re just merchandising it online like any retailer (got that? Google’s now in the new world of being a retailer. And Apple, hey, they got into online ad selling yesterday. Worlds collide).
Next question. Google’s not known for retailing. How are you going to make a dent in a tough business to get into. Andy jokes that Google has cornered the market on lava lamps. Mario says we shouldn’t focus on retailing. This is about a complete solution. working closely with handset maker partners. To get phone out quickly to consumers. Give them a choice to buy without service. Not a channel intended to replace other channels.
Next question. What are the rev opportunities? Andy says next front of core business, you get more people online, helps with ads. There’s some margin on unit sales but that’s not the goal. Goal is to give best access to services.
Next: Device supports wifi, tethering still being looked at.
Next: Is keyboard dead? Will Google do more products? Eric says no, there are different choices for different people with different needs. And more products? Mario said won’t comment more. What about selling other Android phones out there now? Andy says other superphones may come to it.
Personal note. I’m not sitting on the floor trying to keep live blogging while I wait in line to ask a question. I have a nice view of Mike Arrington’s butt, who’s standing in front of me.
Next. Why US only? Some scale issues but they are testing those aforementioned other markets they’ll ship to. Will they support multitouch internationally? I guess some Android phones do that outside the US. Andy said can’t comment on that. Will Nexus One get it eventually? Andy says they’ll consider.
Next, Mike asks about Google Voice. And concern people might have they buy a phone and then something more awesomer comes along. Should people wait?
Mario says if you need great phone today like computer you get one now. Upgrades? T-mobile option, if you’re an existing customer, it can tell and let you know if you’re upgrade eligible.
Next up, I asked where’s the revolution here. Google’s said they won’t do me too products. Voice rec is cool, but rest of phone isn’t a revolution. It doesn’t even support all GSM 3G frequencies, much less CDMA. Nor are the pricing plans revolutionary. Same old same old. Eric Schmidt once predicted we’d have free ad-based phones. If Google’s not rolling that out, who will.
Andy says that first, Google needs a mechanism to sell products. Let’s get an online store going. Let’s put the best in class product in that store and figure out the best way to enhance it in the future.
Next question. People like to actually touch and hold phones before they buy. Will that comes. Mario, selling through web store, think that’s good way for now, will iterate over time. Beyond that, no comment.
Will Verizon phones support GSM? Motorola person is now here, says some phones are designed to allow world roaming.
For Motorola, aren’t you afraid Nexus One will cannibalize Droid sales. They’ll deliver good products, compete.
For Motorola again, should other partners be afraid of Google? And some projections on Nexus One sales? Sanjay Jah from Motorola says this is another channel where they can take innovations to the consumers. This is an expansion of the marketplace. Thinks Android is fasted growing ecosystem and good for those who are leaders participating in it.
Next, didn’t catch it all. But Andy saying the way web store revolutionized shopping (ah, question was what’s wrong with how we buy phones now), so think evolution of online sales for phones will change in the same way. Plus, as more phones get out there, you can experience it no problem without having to see it in stores. Skip the TV ads, you don’t have to offset so much. Plus, everyone comes to Google, so think without high ad overheads, might be able to lower prices down the line.
Just looked, no Google pitch on the Google home page for Nexus One … yet. Google has pushed other Android phones in the past: Google’s Home Page Promotes Motorola / Verizon Droid Phone
Mario says discussions with other operators. Andy says of service providers, can make things more efficient for them.
For HTC, you never really know what version of Android you’re getting. HTC says options to upgrade in places. Andy says as with computers, sometimes you can’t upgrade a computer to a new operating system. It’s not exact. But the intention is to make sure that everyone gets some superproof version of the technology. Based on that, will do the best they can.
Is Nexus One coming to Verizon and unlocked? It will be sold with Verizon as soon as can be integrated. Same thing with Vodaphone. Unlocking for CDMA version are harder. You buy it, you get it with Verizon.
Next question. Will you continue to try and port Google Voice to iPhone or try and keep that for advantage on your phones. Andy says this is an open source effort, so no intention to advantage themselves. Google Voice team would like their app to work on other platforms.
Next, in past was said there would be no Google Phone. What happened?
Andy, go back, said Google won’t build hardware. We’re software guys. We’re internet guys. I think we know that well and have contributed to the ecosystem.
Postscript: Google has a new toy in its lobby — a giant Nexus One. Here’s a picture of me with it (you know, for scale):
Here’s a video tour of it from me and Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team and longtime Nexus One user (longtime being a few weeks!):
No, it’s not apparently an actual Nexus One. It does have touchscreen capability, so some type of computer is behind it — I’ll see if I can find out more. But the phone mainly plays a video showing what the real phone can actually do.
Postscript 2: OK tech geeks, here are the specs behind the scenes of the big phone direct from Google:
It’s CNC milled to the exact specs of the phones original CAD model multiplied 12 times it’s original size. 46″ LED display screen with HDMI connection to a MAC mini running Windows. 1080 x 1920 HD video played back on Obscura’s proprietary video playback software. It does not have touch-screen capabilities at this time
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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