Google, T-Mobile and the Android G2 Conspiracy

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-12-21 Print this article Print

I don't have any inside knowledge into T-Mobile's plans for follow-ups to the Google Android mobile operating-based G1, which according to Cell Phone Signal includes a G2 smartphone ready to roll out at the end of January.

But I will say that VentureBeat's MG Siegler looks at this notion through the proper lens—it's absurd. Why would T-Mobile launch a follow-up device when the jury is still out on the G1?

Siegler's right when he compares the situation to when Apple lowered the price of its iPhone by a couple hundred dollars. Those who bought the iPhone for $599 only to see the price go to $399 in September 2007 were furious, lighting into the company because they felt robbed.

With that precedent, consumers who bought the G1 would be ticked off at the idea of a new T-Mobile Android gadget just three months after the first iteration.

For Google's part, I recognize the company's rabid desire to see phones based on Android proliferate like rabbits and saturate the market to trump the iPhone, Symbian and Windows Mobile on choice. But would it let T-Mobile risk alienating the alleged 1 million-plus G1 owners?

There is this in the name of devil's advocacy: Many people agree the G1 was not so spectacular, so some people might go for a G2 from T-Mobile, even if it's three months after the G1.

With no keyboard, video calling and other differentiations from the G1, the G2 appears to be more like the iPhone than the G1. Perhaps that's the strategy. Release the G1 to test the waters and market demand and follow it up with a different device for the same price—$179—shortly after.

T-Mobile can argue that users are getting more choice for reasonably priced mobile devices for less than half the cost of the original iPhone in 2007 (as is their wont, prices for consumer devices have plummeted; the iPhone 3G came out to the tune of $199 this summer).

But if this G2 is not that much better (and don't get me started on the G3—we don't have those specs yet!), might it be worth the risk for T-Mobile and Google? Who's to say until we see it and people get to use it? Maybe it's a high-end device that will command a $400 or greater price point.

Until we know more, I'm going to go with Boy Genius' April timeline for the G2, and comment on the feature that stands out. No, it's not the lack of a keyboard to more closely mimic the iPhone.

It's the VGA camera for video calling, a brilliant application idea that makes total sense. Remember, Google's goal is to duplicate our desktop Internet experiences on devices running Android. Adding video calling is like the counterpart to the voice and video chat Google added to Gmail.

Such a strategy is killer. Perfect desktop Web apps, then port them or offer similar translations to Android smartphones. If the mobile Web apps are any bit as popular as their desktop counterparts, Google duplicates its formula for Web services success.

Then Google can start cleaning up on more mobile advertising opportunities. Build the mobile Web apps, and they will come.

In the meantime, what do you think is the likely timeframe for a G2 in 2009? January, April or next October, and why? |

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