Google, Verizon Team on Android Phones to Battle ATandT, Apple

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-06

Google, Verizon Team on Android Phones to Battle ATandT, Apple

Updated: Google and Verizon Wireless buried some ghosts of discontent Oct. 6 by announcing plans to co-develop smartphones and other devices based on Google's Android mobile operating system.

Verizon Wireless said it will unveil two Verizon-branded phones in the next few weeks that will be preloaded with applications from Google, Verizon Wireless and third-party developers.

Applications from the Google Android Market will be available on the phones at launch, and Verizon Wireless will support Google Voice on its Android phones. The devices will also run Google Maps with Latitude and Google Search by Voice applications.

The move is interesting for a few reasons. The news seems targeted to hijack attention from today's launch of Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5, which eWEEK covered here.

Also, while Google and Verizon Wireless said the deal will combine the speed of the nation's largest and most reliable 3G network-Verizon Wireless boasts 85 million U.S. customers-with the Android platform, it is also a bullet in the direction of AT&T, the sole provider of the world-leading Apple iPhone smartphone.

Moreover, the deal comes less than two years after Google irked Verizon by bidding on the 700MHz wireless spectrum, which drove up the bidding price for the phone carrier and spurred the Federal Communications Commission to order that the winner must enable any devices and applications to run on it. Verizon eventually won the class C spectrum it coveted, but the move was largely seen as a power play win by Google.

Google, Verizon Line Up vs. Apple, ATandT

At least in public, Verizon had been particularly chilly toward Google since then. Today's news blows that perception out of the water.

Now it is AT&T that seems to be Google's No. 1 wireless enemy. The carrier complained to the FCC that the Google Voice call management application blocks telephone calls from consumers who call numbers with inflated access charges. Apple has already rejected Google Voice.

Google and Verizon, it seems, are lining up to go toe-to-toe with Apple and AT&T.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt on the call today sounded surprised at how open Verizon Wireless seemed to be, noting that the seeds of this partnership were actually sown 18 months ago when McAdam flew to Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to discuss how they might work together. 

Schmidt also praised Verizon's data network as the best in the United States by far: "We had known of that reach, but we did not know until we spent a lot of time getting to know each other that they would also take a leadership position on openness, which was frankly enormously surprising given the history and old-line nature of telcos."

Case in point: McAdam confirmed that Verizon Wireless will support Google Voice, noting that "you either have an open device or not, and this will be open, and we expect to bring that application to market when we bring the first device out."

Verizon Wireless said Android phones on the Verizon Wireless network will come from leading handset manufacturers. Specific names weren't mentioned, but HTC would be a safe bet, as would Motorola, which makes the soon-to-be-launched Android Cliq smartphone.

Consumers will be able to purchase the phones in Verizon Wireless retail and online stores.

"Over the next several weeks, we'll begin to announce the initial devices and this family of devices that you'll see from us over the next several years." McAdam promised.

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