The “Google Phone” Now At Large?

TechCrunch is reporting, based on a range of Tweets and chatter, that many Google employees were given an unlocked HTC handset running Android 2.1 as a holiday gift. “It’s beautiful . . . Like an iPhone on beautifying steroids” wax the rapturous Tweets.

NOTE: See our follow-up piece, More Detail On Google Phone From A User; Makes Droid “So Last Month,” for the latest news on this topic.

Rumors of a Google Phone or GPhone were originally reported by TheStreet in late October:

Google is jumping into the smartphone market with an Android phone of its own.

In what is likely to be seen as disruptive to the wireless status quo, Google is working with a smartphone manufacturer to have a Google-branded phone available this year through retailers and not through telcos, according to Northeast Securities analyst Ashok Kumar, who has talked to Google’s design partners about the plan.

Google’s Andy Rubin, however, denied that there would be a “Google Phone” — as in hardware:

“We’re not making hardware,” Rubin told CNET. “We’re enabling other people to build hardware.”

Since some version of this rumor appears to be real, we can imagine that there is a phone now with more prominent Google branding and services/software integration. We can also imagine that this phone might be sold directly to consumers (but is it a dual band CDMA/GSM hanset?) rather than through a carrier. TechCrunch speculates it’s a GSM phone (like the iPhone). That would allow it to be used more places in the world.

If the phone were GSM only it wouldn’t be competitive with the Verizon Android phones (Droid, Eris), since Verizon is a CDMA carrier. Sprint is also CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM-based networks.

One issue of course in the unlocked scenario suggested by the rumors would be price. Most smartphones in the US, subsidized by carriers, are now $199 or less. If you buy a smartphone without the subsidy you must typically pay at least $400. That pricing would dampen sales of an unlocked “Google Phone.”

I’m very skeptical of the “iPhone on beautifying steroids” remark. But we’ll see in the next couple weeks I suppose. Now that the handset is “out” pictures and more information will emerge pretty quickly.

According to Nielsen data through Q3 of this year, the iPhone is the top individual handset in the US market. There are no Android handsets on the top 10 list; however next year analysts are predicting roughly 50 (count ‘em) Android devices in the market.

Postscript: Since I wrote this yesterday morning, tons more has come out about the device . . .

From the Google Mobile Blog:

We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it.

WSJ:

The phone is called the Nexus One and is being manufactured for Google by HTC Corp., these people said. It runs Android, the operating system for mobile phones that Google developed, they added.

But unlike the more than half-dozen Android phones made by phone manufacturers today, Google designed virtually the entire software experience behind the phone, from the applications that run on it to the look and feel of each screen.

The Internet giant is taking a new, and potentially risky, approach to selling the device. Rather than selling the phone through a wireless carrier–the way the bulk of phones are sold in the U.S. today–Google plans to sell the Nexus One itself online. Users will have to buy cellular service for the device separately.

Google began sharing a version of the Nexus One with employees in recent days, according to several people familiar with the matter.

And finally a picture of the “Nexus One” from blogger Cory O’Brien:

Picture 76

Much more discussion on Techmeme.

Also see related stories:

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Features: Analysis | Features: General | Google: Mobile

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Arasmus

    I think its important to include a discussion about the VOIP-only concept in any discussion about the relationship between the expected Google phone and carrier networks.

  • Lavina

    I have to say, when the G1 came out, it seemed like a crass imitation of the iPhone. However, with the software on HTC hardware, I have far more confidence in it.


    QR

  • http://vaby42 vaby42

    Nexus is buty of google man…awesom phone

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