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Google’s Nexus One Android phone makes a splash

Dec 14, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Google confirmed it is testing an in-house Android 2.1 phone, which reports claim is the FCC-approved, HTC-manufactured “Nexus One,” says eWEEK. If the Google-branded phone is sold commercially, as some reports suggest, Google can take comfort by an IDC study that says mobile Internet traffic will double in four years.

The rumors that Google is preparing to launch its own branded commercial Android phone started popping up in October, with further assurances from various reports that sources had confirmed the eminent arrival of the phone, and then further reports claiming that the platform would highlight Google Voice technology.

So far none of this has been disproven, and on Saturday, Google confirmed in a Google Mobile Blog entry by Mario Queiroz, VP, Product Management, that the company was "dogfooding" a new Android phone. By this he meant to say that it was releasing the phone to Google employees for testing and feedback.

"Sexy beast" powers up with a Snapdragon

The posting, which did not say much more than that, was apparently issued in response to published tweets from various Google employees the day before, commenting enthusiastically on the phone, says a story by Clint Boulton in our sister publication, eWEEK.

According to Boulton's story, which rounded up various leaks and rumors about the phone that have emerged over the last few days, one tweet from "GreatWhiteSnark" enthused, "A friend from Google showed me the new Android 2.1 phone from HTC coming out in Jan. A sexy beast. Like an iPhone on beautifying steroids."

According to Boulton, various accounts now say the phone is called the Nexus One and that it "resembles the unlocked HTC Touch." Lacking a physical keyboard and offering a large display, the phone is said to run Android 2.1 on a Qualcomm Snapdragon system-on-chip and, like recent Samsung phones, offers an OLED display. 

According to The Unlockr, which posted the photo pictured at right of the alleged HTC phone, the phone appears to be one and the same as the Snapdragon-based HTC Dragon, which was initially rumored in early October. The Dragon may be the same or similar to other HTC phones rumored to be called the HTC Desire and/or the HTC Passion.

According to Boulton, the Nexus One phone will be sold as an unlocked, Google-branded GSM phone with cutting edge software features entirely dictated by Google. The Nexus One is also said to offer two microphones, perhaps to support a voice to text feature provided by the upcoming Android 2.1. (Android 2.0 introduced a text-to-speech engine, so the previously tipped speech-to-text feature would be a logical evolution.) 

Another Nexus One report and photo (pictured at left) comes from Engadget, which shows the phone running on T-Mobile's network. This was followed by an Engadget report today that claims to have discovered a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seal of approval for a Nexus One phone. The FCC filing was said to list tech details, including microSD expansion, 802.11b/g WiFi, and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.

The phone appears to support quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE with UMTS/HSUPA, which would make it compatible with T-Mobile and AT&T, said the story, but not Verizon Wireless or Sprint. In an update to the story today, however, Engadget questions the accuracy of some of the listed frequencies, and suggests that this might be a T-Mobile only phone.

A power grab or a principled stand against fragmentation?

In Boulton's roundup of Nexus One stories, he mentions a blog by Om Malik suggesting that Google is risking antagonizing Android vendors and carriers primarily to staunch the accelerating fragmentation of the Android platform. By controlling the software on a Google-branded phone, even if unlocked, it can further dictate standardization and enforce its control over the platform, the blog suggests.

According to Boulton, others are claiming that Google is releasing the Nexus One as a cautionary flag to carriers, which Google sees as gaining too much power in dictating software on their Android phones. Yet, as Boulton suggests in a follow-up story today on the FCC discovery, an unlocked phone, even from Google, is not likely to spook carriers and vendors away from Android unless Google significantly subsidizes the phone with a low price.

In his blog for PCMag, Sascha Segan goes further, suggesting that if the phone is priced like the existing unlocked, HTC-manufactured, Google-sponsored Android Developer Phones (ADPs) at $400, only Android developers and devoted Android enthusiasts are likely to bite.

Considering that the Nexus One stories point to HTC and T-Mobile, Google's partners on the ADP developer models, the phone may indeed be a developer phone — but also much more. From most accounts, Google is planning on promoting the phone more aggressively than the ADPs, including a potential placement at Best Buy.

If true, this would indicate that Google is planning a middle-ground roll-out. By offering the phone unlocked and at a price not too much lower than $400, it can claim to not be interfering with carriers' commercial phones, while still sending notice that it will continue to dictate the progress of Android.

IDC: Mobile Internet on rise

If Google really is planning on an all-out assault with its own commercial Google Phone, it might be heartened by a recent report from IDC, which projects that today's more than 450 million mobile Internet users will more than double over the next four years, passing the one billion mark.

According to a Michelle Maisto story on the report in eWEEK, IDC estimates that the total number of devices, including PCs, that are connected to the Internet in 2009 exceed 1.6 billion, a number it expects to rise to 2.7 billion by 2013. More details from the study may be found from the link farther below.


The Google blog on the internal release of its new Android phone may be found here.

The eWEEK story on this rumored Nexus One phone should be here, and the follow-up on the FCC registration story and other updated rumors may be found here.

The story in The Unlockr on the Google Phone should be here.

The Engadget story with the Nexus One photo should be here, and the follow-up on the FCC approval should be here.

The PCMag story on the Google Phone may be found here.

The eWEEK story on IDC's mobile Internet study should be here.

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