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Five Facts About Google Phone

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Is Google (GOOG) Phone fact or fiction? Engadget says Google’s entry into mobile phone business is for real, and the company is going to announce it soon. Scott Kirsner talked to a bunch of folks over who are intimately familiar with the effort and outlined his findings in an article for The Boston Globe.

The story talks about a handful of Boston entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who have seen the phone, but are under NDA and can’t talk about it. Rich Miner, a co-founder of Android, a mobile software company he started with Andy Rubin (formerly of Danger) is based in Boston.

Google bought Android in August 2005. Later Google snapped up Reqwireless and Skia, two tiny start-ups with mobile expertise, and since then has been hiring mobile-focused folks at a pretty steady clip. [digg=]

The news (or rumors) were enough to get me dialing-for-dirt over the big holiday weekend. These are the tidbits I picked up from a reliable source:

1. Google Phone is based on a mobile variant of Linux, and is able to run Java virtual machines.
2. All applications that are supposed to run on the Google Phone are java apps. The OS has ability to run multimedia files, including video clips.
3. The user interface is similar to a UI typical of mobile phones, and the image (with red background) floating around isn’t representative of the Google Phone UI. The entire UI is said to be done in Java and is very responsive. The UI, of course has a “search box.”
4. There is a special browser which has pan-and-browse features that are common to modern browsers such as browsers for iPhone and Symbian phones. The entire browser is apparently written in Java. But then others have told us that the browser is based on the WebKit core, the same engine in Safari and in iPhone, and Google has been  making optimizations to speed it up. This is one aspect of the Google Phone I am not sure about.
5. Initially there was one prototype, but over past few months Google has the mobile OS running on 3-to-5 devices, most of them likely made by HTC, a mobile phone maker, and all have Qwerty apps. The model that folks have seen is very similar to the T-Mobile Dash. Around 3GSM, there were rumors that Google, Orange and HTC were working together on mobile devices.

These tiny-bits of information are pretty close to what Simeon Simenov, a VC with Polaris Venture Partners had very clearly outlined on his blog eons ago. I can’t seem to find that post, so here is is an alternate link. Simenov also wrote a pretty good post on what should be an ideal mobile stack. Google is pretty close to what Simenov had outlined.

We will post more details as they come our way. I had initially thought that it could be a more viable option to the $100 PC. While that argument still remains true, I think this is a strategic move by Google to keep Windows Mobile’s growing influence in check. Microsoft has spent billions on its mobile efforts including buying companies such as Tell Me Networks.

135 Responses to “Five Facts About Google Phone”

  1. There’s a lot of talk about whether or not the proposed Google phone will kill the cell phone industry. Personally, I can see it making a dent with people who maybe can’t afford regular cell service plans. HOWEVER, there’s no way that I want my cell phone turned into some advertising venue FOR ANYTHING. I get enough garbage in my email – I’m absolutely willing to pay for ad free phone service and so is everyone that I’ve talked to about this. Unless Google offers up a competitive ad free service option, I won’t even consider switching.

  2. It seems someone dropped the ball on facts. Google already announced its plans for a phone. Out of their Spain branch. And as for the rumor being only a year old. Obviously another ball dropped. John-Hallerism looks as though its becoming commonplace on the internets now.

  3. Tor Slettnes

    Regarding networks – anyone who thinks it will be WiMax are jumping the gun a little. No WiMax network is currently deployed anywhere (certainly not in the USA). Sprint is the first to do so, theirs will be open for business in 12-15 markets throughout 2008. Even if Google were to build their own (over the, presumably, newly acquired 700 MHz spectrum), it will not be available until 2009-2010 at the earliest. The Google Phone is being made NOW, way before any of these offerings. Also, it is being made available internationally, where WiMax deployments are a mixed bag, at best.

    I think we know that the initial version of the phone, at least, would support GSM (because of the agreements with Orange and Vodafone). For the US market, that means an agreement with AT&T/Cingular or T-Mobile (and not Sprint/Nextel or Verizon).

    Second, GSM probably implies WCDMA (UMTS/HSDPA) 3g/3.5g technologies. In the USA, this means a choice between either AT&T (850/1900 MHz) or T-Mobile (1700 + and off-2100 MHz frequency) – most likely the former. Likely, there will be a second version for the international market (like, for instance, the Motorola RAZR2 v9), sporting the 2100MHz frequency – or else the phone will be tri-band UMTS capable (like the forthcoming Sony-Ericsson k850i).

    Finally, it is likely to be Wi-Fi capable. The question will be how well the various Wi-Fi configurations (such as WPA enterprise/PEAP/MSCHAPv2 etc) are supported.

    Long term, I have no doubt that Google will ditch both 2G/GSM and 3G/WCDMA technologies in favor of a forthcoming data-centric 4G technology – let’s say WiMax/802.16e for the sake of argument. They are likely to deploy this network over the newly opened 700MHz frequency – which they are trying to bid on, and in either case will have rights to use (given their successful lobbying of the FCC to require this frequency to remain accessible for 3rd parties, no matter who actually wins the bid). Moreover, to the extent that their (2nd/3rd generation) device is still a phone, it will likely be making its calls over VoIP (Google Talk).

    Compare with Sprint’s new WiMax network, which will be run by a different division from their current cellular business, and offer $59.99/month subscriptions per person, not per device. One of the first devices that Sprint will offer for this new network is a WiMax-enabled version of the Nokia N800 Internet tablet, which is not a phone at all! (But can be used to make calls over VoIP, using Skype, Google Talk, Jabber, etc).

  4. I personally think if Google Yahoo and Microsoft release their own cell hardware it will be over for the big cell companies.

    Whomever get’s the deal to build the phone will do pretty well. But remember I had a touch screen iPaq in 2001 that had a full web browser and that didn’t stick. With more people on the net serving social functions, I think it’s the right time for these devices to hit the market!

  5. Would be great if the google phone looked like T-Mobile Dash (or Samsung X820, for us in Aus).

    But I still don’t like the look of the most recent mockups. I was expecting something more like the old Google Switch mockups.

    Like an iphone, but without the chunk factor.

  6. Om, WebKit as the browser would be a very interesting move. It would force more consolidation in the market at the expense of Microsoft and to the benefit of Apple. Two smartphones with Webkit would drive future development in the smartphone arena. Apple would not be opposed to the competition because they would figure that the halo effect from an increased popularity of their Safari browser would be the big benefit through more desktop, laptop and iphone sales.

  7. Jesse Kopelman

    @Norman Speight

    You don’t need push e-mail. The GMail concept is all about keeping the e-mail on their server. All you need is push e-mail notification, which can be done in a carrier neutral way using SMS. This type of system would also be more battery efficient than push e-mail.

  8. would buy it if 1) fast mail 2) fast stock quotes 3) fast search) I don’t give a @$%#
    about looking at pictures/videos or having little fish swim around for a screensaver. I want long battery life, fast simple internet.
    Maybe bluetooth to put next to lappy and connect that way. Please don’t make it a fashion accseory! Just a practical phone, that is quick for business minded people, not a ‘toy’ also thin, light. don’t want to watch movies just want small phone with email and sopme web access. (Wimax or Rev A EVDO minimum speed that is acceptable) .

  9. Norman Speight

    The REAL big move forward, which all are avoiding, conspicuously, is PUSH Email.
    Who, reasonably, wants to pay the horrific cost of Blackberry (£40 per month here in the UK). All this would require is some serious server hard disk space (really cheap now) and something that is not locked on to these blasted telephone service providers who are really just parasitic to the devices and costly to users.
    I can’t think why mobile (cell-phone) technology, which is hardly cutting-edge, electronics/chip wise costs so much. It can only be to protect the restrictive markets of the service providers.
    If Sergy and Larry are really serious GPush at a cheap cost would massacre Microsoft and give Google immense income ($) and freedom from being locked into providing things which only profit service providers.
    Come on. You know you can do it!
    Plus, of course, it would bring out the geek in most blokes, a ‘must have’