AT&T will launch the Motorola Backflip March 7, but its first phone running Google's Android operating system will be without Google as the default search engine.
So what search engine will be offered on the Backflip, which lets users turn it into a table-top mode to grant users a hands-free way to watch videos, listen to music or flip through pictures? No, not Microsoft Bing: Yahoo.
AT&T and Yahoo spokespeople confirmed for eWEEK that Yahoo, whose share of the search market slipped to 17 percent through January, will be the search provider of record for the Backflip.
However, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel told eWEEK users can select any search engine on the Backflip as part of the company's philosophy of letting users access any application they want.
"Yahoo is the default search engine," AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel told eWEEK. "That doesn't stop you from using, for example, Google search if that's what you want to do. We have a long-standing relationship with Yahoo."
Indeed, this play is part of AT&T and Yahoo's partnership, which runs deep and spans a number of areas on the mobile Web, according to a Yahoo spokesperson.
"We are happy that AT&T has chosen Yahoo Search as the default mobile search service on the Motorola Backflip, AT&T's first Android device," the spokesperson said. "We have a long-standing relationship with AT&T and more than 80 carrier partnerships around the world for our award-winning mobile search experience.
"Mobile search continues to be a focus for investment and innovation at Yahoo. It is an important part of our range of mobile Internet services, which include our popular mobile home page, apps for iPhone and other leading platforms, Yahoo Mail and Messenger and others Yahoo services."
This is a clear victory for Yahoo, albeit a small one, as more than 65 percent of U.S. Web users use Google as their desktop search engine.
There's no reason to believe users won't switch to Google once they set up their phone and get pointed to Yahoo for the first time. Users need only point the phone's Web browser to the search engine of their choice to switch from Yahoo.
AT&T's benchmark smartphone is, of course, Apple's iPhone, which offers Google as the default search engine... for now. Reports strongly suggest Apple is considering bumping Google in favor of Bing as the default search on the iPhone.
This would put Microsoft's strong search offering, which garners an 11.3 percent market share, automatically in front of millions of iPhone users.
Could Apple have influenced AT&T to put Yahoo instead of Google as the default search for the Backflip?
While the move, and Apple's increasingly contentious relationship with Google, would lend itself to such speculation, it could just be an extension of AT&T and Yahoo's existing deal.
Meanwhile, Apple is suing HTC for patent infringement related to several Android phones, driving home the conviction that Apple and Google are waging a multifront, mobile Web war.