Spare me the 'Google Phone' hype
Once again, the digerati are frothing over a magical new gadget that will revolutionize the market as we've known it -- this time, the market being the smartphone business, our collective savior being Google and the gadget being a phone running Google's Android software and designed by that company to be sold directly to consumers.
My colleague Cecilia Kang summarizes the chatter in a story in today's paper, which notes how almost all phones are instead sold locked to run on only one carrier.
Google's new device, allegedly built by HTC to its specifications and called the Nexus One, emerged over the weekend in a post on the Mountain View, Calif., company's mobile blog. It apparently runs an upcoming 2.1 release of the Android operating system, uses a touchscreen keyboard and offers a few other refinements over current Android devices.
Since a lot of people had speculated about, hoped for or outright predicted the arrival of such a phone -- see this breathless post at TechCrunch from last month -- speculation quickly got out of hand in comments on stories about the Nexus One/Google Phone and posts about the news on Twitter.
But a closer look at the specifics of this phone suggests it hasn't earned that excitement. As multiple reports revealed yesterday, a Federal Communications Commission-mandated testing report -- something required of every mobile phone before it goes on sale -- indicates that the Nexus One will offer 3G speeds on only T-Mobile's network. On AT&T Wireless, the only other nationwide carrier its GSM circuitry supports, the Nexus One would be limited to far slower "EDGE" data service. On Verizon Wireless and Sprint, which use the incompatible CDMA standard, this device would be a brick.
Problem is, T-Mobile's 3G network can only be described as scrawny, limited to major cities, parts of their suburbs and some highways between. It would be downright cruel for Verizon to target this Bellevue, Wash.-based carrier with one of its "There's a map for that" coverage-comparison ads.
In a follow-up piece, PC Magazine reporter Sascha Segan tried to decode the fuss over the Google Phone, and this part sounds right to me:
The idea that gets everyone hot under the collar is that Google may sell a phone directly, magically compatible with all U.S. carriers, but somehow without the restrictions and bindings that U.S. carriers place on devices.
The impossibility of such a thing, given the current state of technology in the market -- check back in 2012 or so -- has yet to stop people from dreaming. But, please, leave me out of this exercise.
Look, if you've been dying for an alternative to the iPhone that works on a network besides AT&T's, there are plenty of fine Android phones already available, and at subsidized prices comparable to those of Apple's smartphone. Give them a shot -- and stop wasting your time waiting for some uniquely Google-blessed Android device to serve as the second coming of the Jesus Phone.
December 15, 2009; 12:13 PM ET
Categories: Gadgets , Telecom
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