Google to bring out two versions of own-branded phone

16 Dec 2009

You have to wonder what Google is thinking if it is planning to roll out its own-branded mobile device at a time when so many manufacturers and consumers are embracing devices based on its Android operating system.

Earlier this week, Mario Queiroz, vice-president, product management, in Google’s mobile devices lab, let the cat out of the bag when he revealed that Googlers across the planet were dogfooding an exclusively manufactured device based on the Android operating system.

Then it emerged that the device will be known as the ‘Nexus One’ and would be manufactured by HTC, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer that actually has an Android phone in the marketplace, the Hero.

Twitter post

Not long after, photos of a mysterious handset with a gigantic multi-coloured X on the screen began emerging on Twitter. An image of a Google Android handset was posted on Twitter by Cory O’Brien, a US marketing and advertising professional.

Today it has emerged that Google is going to sell two versions of its device – one that will sell directly with carriers and an unlocked version that will allow consumers to pick a carrier of their choice to provide wireless services.

It is understood that Google has already struck a deal with T-Mobile in the US to sell a device that goes under various code names, from Nexus One to Passion and Dream.

According to reports, the Google-branded phone will be similar to the Apple iPhone, but will have other features, such as an interchangeable battery, a larger screen and the ability for consumers to add a memory card to the device. Operators who want to sell the phone will have to go through Google.

To the contrary

My first reaction to the news of the Google phone was how ironic; as long as it could Google has denied it will ever make its own phone and hey, voila, it seems to be making definitive strides in this direction.

My next instinct was to wonder what on earth is it thinking; would this not muddy the waters for the proliferation of Android devices by manufacturers like Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG and Motorola?

But, when I realised the company was planning to sell its own branded phone unlocked I instantly figured out what I think the Googlers are thinking. Firstly, Apple created a revolution in phone technology when it brought out the iPhone – it took a sober look at everything that was wrong with mobile devices and created an ingenious device. Google is attempting the next phase of the revolution.

Secondly, talk to any phone manufacturer and they will tell you that when it comes to getting their device onto an operator’s network, the balance of power in the relationship rests with network operator.

Into the mobile revolution

It seems to me Google has appraised the mobile revolution as it stands – don’t forget it is planning to buy mobile advertising firm AdMob for US$750 million – and plans to bring out a device that addresses the present shortcomings in things like the iPhone with the interchangeable battery and ability to change media.

By creating a dynamic where consumers will get the phone they really, really want online than solely by what their operator judges they want, phone manufacturers will be hard pressed to compete to bring out better and better devices, it raises the bar in terms of device technology and all the while Google ignites a revolution in mobile advertising. Smart.

By John Kennedy

Photo: The reported forthcoming Google phone as posted on Twitter by marketing expert Cory O’Brien.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years