Update: Less than a week after I noted that Motorola was looking for a team leader to build a social networking-fueled smart phone fueled by Google’s Android mobile operating system, BusinessWeek has scored some more details on the device.
The gadget from Motorola will include a touch screen, much like the iPhone and G1, the first Android-based device coming from T-Mobile this week and a slide-out keyboard, also like the G1, Sidekick and other QWERTY-capable smart phones, BusinessWeek reported.
The key difference between Motorola’s device — and we don’t have a name for it yet — is that it will be tailored for social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. This means one to three keystrokes to access your social network to post comments or status updates.
Motorola, which has been showing specifications of the smart phone to carriers, is expected to introduce the handset in the United States in the second quarter next year.
The release, bolstered by engineers from Motorola’s acquisition of Good Technology this year, could help the company on its comeback trail in the smart phone market, GigaOm’s Om Malik suggests.
Details were scant after that, but it’s no secret speedy Web-based phones and social networking capabilities are a winning combination. A smart phone optimized to let users easily navigate Facebook, MySpace or any social network could be a valuable gadget for the tweens, teens and twenty-somethings who’s network of friends live online in those sites.
Facebook and MySpace alone have more than 220 million users, so the footprint is huge. Moreover, ABI Research recently found that 46 percent of Facebook and MySpace members access their social network of choice from a mobile phone.
ABI found that half of the users check for comments and messages from their friends, while the other half post status updates.
What does Google, whose hopes for Android rest on T-Mobile, Motorola and other carriers and handset makers supporting the mobile OS, think about this?
Google was characteristically coy about commenting about Motorola’s alleged Android social networking phone; the company declined to comment.
However, when I stripped the Motorola-specific details from my request, asking what Google thinks about the marriage of social networking and Android devices in the general, the company loosened up. A Google spokesperson told me:
“That sounds really interesting. As you know, once Android is open source anyone can create an Android powered mobile device and we’re excited to see what developers and OEMs come up with. As we have said publicly since we announced Android, our hope is that Android platform will spur the development of thousands of different kinds of devices. The T-Mobile G1 is just the first step. It’s still too soon to tell what forms Android-powered devices will take, but we’re excited about the possibilities this kind of open platform will bring, and the benefits that users will ultimately enjoy.“
So clearly there is a lot of excitement around mobile social networking. The idea that you might wander a city street and update your Facebook or MySpace pages at the same time is appealing.
Location-based services are another big thrill on mobile, lending Web services such as Yahoo’s Fire Eagle, Mozilla’s Geode and Google’s MyLocation great potential. The idea that you might receive notifications about sales while on commerce-laden Newberry Street in Boston will appeal to some. Meanwhile, the buzz and positive reviews on T-Mobile’s G1 have propelled sales of the device.
T-Mobile said it tripled the number of phones initially available for delivery on the Oct. 22 launch date and have sold through them all.
Some say that G1 figure is in the vicinity of 1.5 million devices, though I believe that figure could easily hit 2 million and I’ll be following up that idea in a separate post today.