Top 10 Google Phone rumors

Top 10 Google Phone rumors

Summary: Usually I don't post about rumors but this one seems to have legs so I'll make an exception. On Saturday Google announced on its mobile blog that it was handing out a mysterious new phone to select employees across the globe. That might have been the end of it, except that rumors started flying about whether this was the mythical "Google Phone", whether or not it would be sold to the public, and so on. Here's a roundup of the 10 most believable rumors that I've heard so far.

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TOPICS: Telcos, Google, Mobility
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Usually I don't post about rumors but this one seems to have legs so I'll make an exception. On Saturday Google announced on its mobile blog that it was handing out a mysterious new phone to select employees across the globe. Calling it a "mobile lab", the device runs Android and enables experimentation with new mobile features and capabilities.

That might have been the end of it, except that rumors started flying about whether this was the mythical "Google Phone", whether or not it would be sold to the public, and so on. Here's a roundup of the 10 most believable rumors that I've heard. Keep in mind, these are just *rumors*, because Google refuses to comment on unreleased products. I'm sure they don't mind all the free publicity though.

Rumor #10: The new phone is called the "Google Nexus One". This is a pretty safe bet because videos of the boot animation have been posted on the internet, and the name Nexus One is clearly visible on the screen. However it might be a code name and not a real product name.

Rumor #9: The Nexus One is made by HTC, and is the same hardware as the Passion, which may or may not be the same as the Dragon. One site called it "Phone 88". What is it with Android phones and their multiple names anyway? From the pictures, the phone does indeed look like the HTC Passion/Dragon photos that have been circulating, so again, that seems like a safe bet.

Rumor #8: The phone features a 1Ghz (maybe 800MHz) Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 5 megapixel camera, and 800x480 touchscreen. Earlier this year, HTC came out with a Windows Mobile phone that used the Snapdragon, and the Motorola Droid has a 5 megapixel camera with a 854x480 touchscreen. So all this sounds reasonable.

Rumor #7: The new device will be running Android 2.1, which some people claim is the same as the "Flan" version of Android (the next version after "Eclair"). I don't know about you, but I'm suffering a little bit of release fatigue at this point. 1.6 came out, then 2.0, then 2.0.1, all in the space of about a month. Do we really believe there will be another new release in another month? Wouldn't Google have given developers some hint this was coming, like a new SDK or something? Actually Google seems to love to spring new releases on us without warning. If I had to bet, I'd say it will probably be 2.1 but it may or may not be the same as "Flan". I expect it will be a relatively minor update, with features like animated backgrounds and (maybe) VOIP (see next rumor).

Rumor #6: The phone does not use the conventional network for voice calls. Instead, it uses Voice over IP (VOIP), just like Skype. All you need is a data plan and a 3G or WiFi network. These rumors seem to be fueled by Google's purchase of gizmo5, a Skype competitor. The story goes that Google Voice will handle your phone calls and voicemail. While this would be pretty cool and drive down costs for consumers I'm doubtful of this one.

Rumor #5: The new phone will use a WiMax radio, and deliver download speeds much faster than 3G. While it's true that WiMax is being tested in some areas by different carriers, this particular rumor is not supported by FCC leaks on the Nexus One.

Rumor #4: The phone will be able to function as a WiFi router, much like the Verizon MiFi device. This would allow wireless tethering for other WiFi devices in the immediate area, like your laptop. While it's true that Verizon has had this on their roadmap for the future, it's hard to see T-Mobile doing it any time soon. I think it would be more useful to allow the phone to function as a USB hub, or at least support some more BlueTooth profiles, so I can use a real keyboard!

Rumor #3: The phone will be available for sale at google.com for the low, low price of $199 on January 5th. This is oddly specific for a rumor, which lends it some credibility. One version of this rumor says that $199 is the carrier-subsidized price - you have to sign up for a 2-year commitment with T-Mobile to get that price. Another version says that Google itself is subsidizing the price. At least we don't have to wait long to see if this one is true.

Rumor #2: Google will be giving away one of these to each attendee of Google I/O 2010. Google set up this expectation last year when they gave away the Google Ion phone (which later became the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G at retail). One the one hand, I hope this one is true because I'd like to get a free phone. :) On the other hand, it can't be good business to give a way $4million worth of phones just to get people to come to their conference. And then people will expect one every year.

Rumor #1: This is my favorite one: All the rumors of the Google Phone are false, and the whole thing was made up by Apple. Why would Apple do this? Well, one reason might be to create a rift between Google and its partners like Motorola and Verizon, who it would now be competing with. Another might be to create a massive, impossible to satisfy expectation in users' minds that will come crashing down on Google when the phone doesn't materialize. Ok, I know this one isn't really believable, but it sounded fun. Better get your tin foil hat on now!

So what do you think - is the "Google Phone" real? It is just another Android phone, nothing to see, move along now... or is it the "Real Android"? Is it a "Dev Phone 3"? And why is everybody getting so worked up about this?

Topics: Telcos, Google, Mobility

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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10 comments
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  • Google Phone

    The google phone design says its the htc dragon. I think its the new developers phone, Tmo carried the first 2 why not the third.
    evilernie
    • A good possibility

      I think being a developer phone is a good possibility:

      1. It could help to motivate developers to move to the latest & greatest hardware, software & APIs.
      2. It could help to attract even more developers to Android.
      3. Just the possibility of getting one for free could boost attendance at Google I/O 2010.
      4. It gives Google & the OHA a great platform to showcase new & innovative Android smartphone concepts.
      5. It wouldn't directly compete with "commercial" Android sales.
      6. It could act as a reference platform, to get vendors moving quickly to produce their own versions.
      linuser
  • I hate gossip and speculation, but...

    this was tasteful and somewhat useful.
    T1Oracle
  • If the iPhone 3GS parts plus assembly cost is.....

    well under $200, why would Google need to subsidize it at $199? If they break even on the HW and decided to eat the development costs, it would be hugely disruptive. I would order one for sure, just to play with, use wi-fi, play games, watch videos/movies and maybe look for a carrier with a cheap, pay as you go plan. At that price it might kill Apple's margins.

    But only if the rumors are true.
    Economister
    • Yes $199 is a reasonable unsubsidized price.

      Getting it bundled with a carrier plan should make it free.

      If you agree on top of that to let Google preload it's search/mail/etc services on it and make money off your use of it Google should pay you enough monthly to cover the cost of your carrier plan.
      Johnny Vegas
    • Because $21 is not "well below $200"?

      There is still transportation and other costs to consider. Through in a
      much better screen, I would hope more than 16MB, a faster (more
      expensive) processor and you bust $200 pretty fast.

      So yes, $199 would be heavily subsidized.
      Bruizer
  • Hard to see it as an Apple rumor...

    I think the FCC filing and the trademark filing kinda knock that one down. Plus if that were true you'd think Google would stop that in its tracks rather than let it run around the net like this. The fact that its still going on tells me they are enjoying this buzz and they are going to release something. I don't think any Android device before has captured such a viral buzz. And thats probably because you knew most of them were coming. This one comes out of nowhere and possibly carries big implications.

    Also I somewhat believe the VOIP rumor could be true. It would make alot of sense when looking at one insider rumor that this phone would change the mobile landscape. I said it as soon as I read that. They are going to release an all VOIP phone and all you'd need is a data plan. I don't see why it wouldn't work either. Carriers could simply charge you a little extra for a data plan only plan in exchange for your mobile freedom. At that point it becomes a race to provide great coverage.
    storm14k
  • RE: Top 10 Google Phone rumors

    - Google invested in Ubiquisys in 2007 with femtocells and access to 3G bandwidth
    - Google bluffs Verizon into paying $4.7Billion to buy the 700MHz "C Block" spectrum, which was mandated to be an "open" spectrumin Jan. 2008
    - Ubiquisys releases femtocell apps supporting Android based devices, May 2009
    - Google releases the Nexus One, Android based 3G phone
    Leclarks2030
  • RE: Top 10 Google Phone rumors

    Android has all the hallmarks of Linux. Free. Anyone can dink
    with it. If you try to make money off of it, good luck. Wait,
    isn't Android actually a flavor of Linux? Great business model
    for success. For your linux fan boys that was sarcasm.
    dheady@...
  • RE: Top 10 Google Phone rumors

    I saw the phone at a Christmas party with my own eyes.
    Pretty slick phone.. Had a replaceable battery -
    mechanical zoom and some other need stuff. Its
    definitely coming - < 3 months.
    hsmcdonald