All You Need to Know About the Google Phone

Confirmation of an impending Google phone, the Nexus One, has the tech world in a lather, but details about the phone itself remain scarce, and, true to form, Google’s public statements are limited to posts on the company’s blog. The touchscreen handset will be offered through Google’s web site, according to All Things Digital, and will launch with the help of T-Mobile USA but won’t enjoy the benefit of a carrier-subsidized price tag. Below is a quick rundown of all that we know, what we don’t know, and what the long-awaited Google Phone might really mean:

What the web is saying:
jkOnTheRun: I have no idea what it is, but if Google sells it without a carrier subsidy, it will either be cost-prohibitive for most consumers or Google will lose money on each.
PC Magazine: It’s clear that American consumers want some sort of messiah to save them from the structure of our wireless industry. But it’s not going to be Apple, and it’s probably not going to be Google, either.
All Things Digital: But even if Google’s device, which is supposedly going to be called the Nexus One (really?), does strike a chord with consumers, I don’t think Google is going to end up fully committed to the hardware business.
The Atlantic: For (Google CEO Eric) Schmidt, the future of online advertising isn’t on our desk. It’s in our hands. Google isn’t getting into the phone business so much as it’s getting into the mobile advertising business.
Wired: This may turn out to be a Zune-like move, where Microsoft alienated hardware makers by ignoring PlaysForSure in favor of its own new DRM scheme. Or the Nexus could be a light that burns twice as bright as all the existing confusion of Android handsets combined, thus building a brand that can rival the iPhone.

What it is:

  • Pictures from Engadget confirm that the Nexus One’s design is similar to the HTC Bravo that appeared on a leaked company road map for the first half of 2010. The phone supports Wi-Fi and appears to come loaded with Google Navigation and the new Google Goggles, an image recognition app that uses photos to search the web.
  • The phone uses GSM technology — an option Google pursued after Verizon Wireless declined to help Google push the device, according to All Things Digital. And the phone will be sold unlocked, allowing consumers to use SIM cards to make calls on the networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. Whether the handset will support 3G bands for both carriers, though, is unclear — and, as Kevin at jkOnTheRun notes, highly unlikely.
  • There are also rumors that it supports Flash and has a 5-Megapixel camera.

What it will cost:

  • The biggest question surrounding the Nexus One is its price tag. Unsubsidized high-end handsets such as Nokia’s N900 typically cost between $500 and $800, leaving them well out of the reach of most consumers. Google may look to lower the price by subsidizing the phone itself — perhaps with advertising dollars — but the company remains mum on its plans.
  • Nexus One owners may have to pay a hefty sum for the hardware, but they may be able to take advantage of T-Mobile’s discounted “Even More Plus” plans for service. The prepaid, no-contract plans debuted in October without support from subsidized handsets and are targeted at users who already have a phone or are willing to pay full price for the hardware. The plans, which T-Mobile touts as “1/2 the price of comparable AT&T or Verizon plans,” include an unlimited-everything option for $80 a month and a voice-only unlimited offering for $50 a month.

What it means:

  • It’s easy to pit Google’s Nexus One against Apple’s iPhone in a battle of smartphone heavyweights, but the the company’s strategies are still very different. Apple continues to embrace subsidies and target consumers with affordable devices, while Google’s upcoming phone could be prohibitively expensive and will likely be targeted directly at developers. The move is likely to effectively spur development of some innovative new Android apps, which certainly is a primary goal for Google. But it might also be a first step toward opening consumers’ minds to the concept of unsubsidized phones that someday can move from network to network. That’s an objective Google has been working toward since 2007, when it began lobbying the FCC to adopt open-access rules that require mobile carriers to support any device or app that can connect to their networks. The rules were adopted at last year’s spectrum auction, giving Google the opportunity — in theory, at least — to deploy a host of offerings across multiple networks. So Nexus One could be Google’s opening salvo in making that scenario reality.

Image courtesy Flickr user feureau.

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