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Walmart to sell Android G1 at discount. So what?

Walmart will begin selling the HTC-manufactured, T-Mobile-supported, Google Android-powered G1 phone at a discounted price starting Wednesday, a Walmart spokesman confirmed last night. Walmart will carry the phone in 550 of its stores at the reduced price of $148.

T-Mobile G1Walmart will begin selling the HTC-manufactured, T-Mobile-supported, Google Android-powered G1 phone at a discounted price starting Wednesday, a Walmart spokesman confirmed last night.

Walmart will carry the phone in 550 of its stores at the reduced price of $148.88 for new customers and existing customers eligible for an upgrade who sign up for a two-year agreement.

Which, if you do your rollback math correctly, is a grand total savings of $31.11 over buying the phone directly from T-Mobile at $179.99.

For a phone that's simultaneously reaching for the iPhone and mass popularity, I'm a bit puzzled at why anyone should really care. Just who is really going to walk out of Walmart feeling like a winner with this?

It seems to me that the shopping audience that Walmart attracts may have a passing interest in the Great Google Hope. Who wouldn't? A Sidekick with Google Maps and the Internet and all of that? Sounds good! A great way to get people to upgrade from their standard, "dumb" cell phones, I'm sure.

But then there's the matter of that pesky, pricey data plan. Suddenly, that $30 savings went out the door. Sure, money saved is money saved -- but if you're penny-pinching with a G1, perhaps its time to reconsider the free "dumb" (but hardly stupid) cell phone that your carrier is offering you.

Yesterday I asked if a $99 iPhone would rule the world. A lot of people responded with concerns about the data plan. So how, exactly,  does T-Mobile expect this discount to make a difference? Certainly with consideration to the recession we're in? Won't it just tarnish and dilute the brand?