Google phone mania hits the heartland

Information is still sketchy on the rumoured Google Nexus One handset

Would you buy a gPhone? That's the question I posed last week, as rumors, news, and speculation about a new Google-branded Nexus One handset washed over the Webosphere. I got some interesting answers.

[ Find out what drew Cringely into Google phone guesswork in "Get your Google Nexus phones while they're hot ." | And stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Reader A. S. says he loves his Apple iPhone 3G S, but would still happily buy the Nexus One.

First of all, just the fact that it's unlocked would want me to go buy it right away! Maybe it's to early to tell without knowing the cost and the tech specs, But a phone from Google that's unlocked and unrestricted from wireless carriers is enough for me (and anyone else) to get excited. If you don't know by now, just ask all the jailbroken and unlocked Iphone users!

Cringester P.J. says he'd pay $600 for a gPhone-like device that allows him to make calls, but without the sticky carrier mess (and the pricey monthly fees):

Somebody needs to come out with a device that will make calls, save docs, run productive aps, and connect via Wifi. Like a small laptop or a Palm T/X that makes calls. That would give consumers the choice of not paying so much money to the providers for underused features.

Dwight, who says he works for a company that builds smartphone applications, says Google itself should subsidize the gPhone, bringing the cost down to under $200 and making up the difference in mobile ad revenue.

Google subsidizes the phone at sale by preloading AdMob into each of their own applications running on the phone, forcing users to endure a steady diet of black strip mobile advertising when the apps are run, instead of two year service commitments from carriers.

Self-proclaimed "Android fanatic" L. D., on the other hand, says he would not buy a Nexus One, though he'd happily take a firmware update for his Eris handset that would give him voice/navigation capabilities.

I would not spend money on a device not knowing who was going to support it for data and voice. And if the answer is, Google will provide those platforms, ummm, no thanks, the boys at VZW and even the losers at AT&T kinda have shop setup already and why leave the devil you do know for the one you don't?

Now the Google phone, whatever name or form it will ultimately take, appears to be out in the wild. Blogger TnxGirl has posteda "hands on" with the Nexus, though it's little more than a specs list she could have dredged up simply by scraping the blogosphere.

Let's assume for a minute Google really is going to offer a supercool unlocked Android handset for $500. Maybe even less, if the company ends up subsidizing it. What happens then?

It's a GSM phone. That means instead of being forced to go with one carrier because of an exclusivity requirement, you get a choice of two (T-Mobile or AT&T). I know which one I'd choose — even despite that nasty bit of business with the Sidekick and Danger last October. Still... this is earth shaking?

I'm all for cool handsets and for breaking the telecoms' hegemony over technology. Talk with the leading handset makers and you get a real sense of how hard U.S. wireless companies are working to keep innovative products off the market.

Apple seems to be the only company with the cojones to make the types of handsets it wants to make, but even then AT&T appears to have veto power over what apps the thing can run. Google is one of the few other companies that has the independence to dictate what features it wants on a phone, even if it still lacks the infrastructure to market and sell it.

It's clear the future of the Net is mobile and wireless, no matter what devices we end up using. So I'd welcome an unlocked handset that gives me zippy access to the Web and excellent voice service, doesn't come with a costly two-year commitment, has scads of cool apps and costs less than $300. That's a no-brainer. But I'll believe it when I'm holding one in my hot little hands.

Let's say you could create the perfect mobile device. What would you put on it? Email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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Robert X. Cringely

InfoWorld
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