News Analysis: This Nexus One Google Phone story is getting out of hand. It’s reminiscient of satirical movies such as the Scary Movie series, Not Another Teen Movie and others that mock slasher and other B-movie fare for teens. A copy of a copy of a copy.
Coverage varies from telling us why others are wrong to writing pieces that underline what is known, what may be known, and what we don’t know. All are scrambling for stakes in the Google News cluster, which Dec. 15 listed a staggering 1,400-plus pieces on the latest Android smartphone.
This Nexus One device has been given to Google employees to test before an alleged January release. The HTC-made device has no physical keyboard, is super fast, powered by Android 2.1, which is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. There are proximity and ambient light sensors, and accelerometer: magnetic compass: Wi-Fi radio and a noise cancellation chipset.
There is text to speech flavor, dual microphones, and the device runs on GSM, which makes it a candidate for T-Mobile and AT&T’s networks in the U.S., and plenty of vendors overseas. The Federal Communications Commission has blessed it and Google has registered Nexus One as a trademark Dec. 10, according to Engadget.
The device will be unlocked, but supposedly supported by T-Mobile, and possibly sold by Google itself online and possibly through Best Buy. Barring subsidies from either T-Mobile or Google, the smartphone could cost $500, pricing it out of range of all but the geekiest of geeks and Google fans.
What do the media and blogosphere have to say about all of this? You just read some of it above. Google is mum beyond a blog post acknowledging that a new device exists and has been given to Google employees to test. EWEEK has read many of the reports and cherry picked some points and rumors for you to enjoy here.
1. Nexus One Named for Blade Runner Robots
Daring Fireball noted the name Nexus One appears to be a nod to the line of replicant cyborgs from late sci-fi author Philip K. Dicks “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” upon which the 1982 film Blade Runner was based. The New York Times went deeper, speaking to Dick’s daughter, who claimed Google did not consult her family about using the Nexus One name. I smell a handsome payout in the Dick family’s future. One other note: Things didn’t turn out so well for the replicants. Superstitious, anyone?
2. Google Already Sells Phones
Technically, this is true. CNET is correct in pointing out that Android developers have been able to buy unlocked versions of the G1 and the T-Mobile MyTouch3G for $399. EWEEK covered this a year ago here.
3. The Nexus One Is Just Another Android Phone
Slate.com’s Farhad Manjoo noted: “For the Google Phone to be truly stellar, Google would have to imbue it with exclusive features-violating the core Google principle of platform independence. I just don’t see that happening; it’s not in the company’s DNA to make software that works on one device alone.” So every phone will be a Google Phone. That may be the single best argument against a Google Phone boasting exclusivity.
More Points on the Nexus One
4. Unlocked, or Locked with T-Mobile?
Indeed, while the blogosphere was in a tizzy over an unlocked GSM device in the Nexus One, Reuters claims T-Mobile will subsidize the phone cost provided customers agree to a two-year contract. Alternatively, we suppose, one could buy it from Google for $500 or whatever the at-cost production value is. Pick your poison. Pay upfront for no lock-in, or pick T-Mobile, which is starving for more customers. Such is the state of the wireless business in the U.S.
5. Android for All
Then you have Android and Me, which reports that the Nexus One will be an affordable $199, subsidized by Google. What’s the catch? The smartphone will require a Google account, so Google will be basically buying new mobile users. Google officials have made a big deal about mobile searches increasing 30 percent in recent quarters. Imagine what a Google phone would do for that number.
6. Nexus One for Consumers? You Must Be Crazy
Industry analyst Jack Gold has a markedly different theory: “Despite the widespread conjecture of the past few days, it is highly unlikely that this phone will ever be offered to the general consumer, let alone sold by Google directly to end users.” Gold sees the Nexus One as a test bed for several thousand Google workers and developers. “Testing is the path that Google has chosen for this device, and not the path of competing with its customers.” The company wouldn’t alienate Motorola, Samsung and the carriers.
7. Then Again
With Apple’s iPhone dominating the smartphone space, Google may believe that it must roll out and subsidize the Nexus One — a drastic, bold move by any measure — to gain serious headway in the mobile market. It’s not so much about the devices as it is about the mobile searches and the ads Google wants to show along with THEM. Sure, Google serves ads on Google searches executed through the iPhone now, but who is to say Apple won’t shut Google out for a better deal with Bing?
8. So What?
The Wall Street Journal doesn’t believe Google needs its own special phone to succeed in mobile, noting (paywall): “Mobile apps are taking the place of Web sites. While there clearly will be a place for search in helping people find apps, Web-surfing behavior will change on mobile. But Google became the dominant player in Web search without designing computers. It is unclear why it needs to sell mobile phones to dominate mobile search.” One can’t help but think Google and its supporters might argue the alternative
9. Meet The New SAAS — Smartphones as a Service
More broadly, Google wants to uproot the current wireless phone market. Google wants to flip the mobile carrier and distribution market upside-down, becoming the place you go to search for and buy a mobile phone — before you even pick a carrier, number, voice and data plans, or extras, according to this piece in Business Insider, which spells out how this purchase process would work. It’s a must read, and, while BI is identifying the business model, eWEEK hereby claims the smartphone-as-a-service (SAAS) moniker.
10. Bonus Point (Cold Water)
With all that’s been speculated, from pros to cons of the device, doesn’t the timing of all of this seem a bit off? Why would Google seed the Nexus One with employees, then turn around and mass sell it to consumers in January. How much testing could employees possibly do for Google in a few weeks or a month before the search engine is allegedly supposed to turn around and start selling this to the mass market? Seems sketchy, unless of course the only thing that’s been completely misreported is the January timeline.