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?