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Google Phone is real but probably just a gift UPDATE: Google responds

December 12, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka


Google Phone is real but probably just a gift UPDATE: Google responds

The Google Phone is the little rumor that could. Originally thought to be a carrier-free, unlocked, Google-branded smartphone to be sold in stores, it morphed into a rumor about the phone being a T-Mobile-tied, HTC-branded smartphone. Now, there’s rampant talk that “The Google Phone” – whatever the heck it is – is real and filtering into the hands of Google employees.

Everyone is reporting this as some game-changing move from Google going into direct competition with its clients, but I don’t think that is what’s happening. I strongly believe the “Google Phone” in question is really just a gift to Google employees. Here’s the latest update on the rumor and why it led me to this conclusion.

Three users on Twitter are claiming to have recently seen the Google phone, saying it is an Android 2.1 phone built by HTC slated for release in January 2010. A friend of a Google employee who saw it went so far as to tweet that it is “Like An iPhone on Beautifying Steroids.” If these users, one of whom is a Google Product Manager, are to be believed, a number of Google employees received the phone yesterday.


Tweet from Leslie Hawthorn, Google Product Manager

As I look at the word ‘December’ on my calendar, I remember what Google was doing this time last year: giving unlocked Android phones to employees in lieu of a holiday bonus. Could Google be doing the same thing here?

I believe the so-called Google Phone is really just a version of an HTC phone set for release next year that has been customized for Google employees. This is similar to how Google gave employees ADP Dream phones (G1) for Christmas and I/O attendees Ions (HTC Magic). The phone is unlocked, but only so employees can use AT&T or T-Mobile SIM cards, not because Google plans to sell it in stores next year.

Likewise, I do not believe the “Google Phone” will be tied to one carrier, and if it is, that’s not in line with the statements that started this rumor. If a phone is designed by HTC, runs Google Android, and is delivered through a carrier, it is not a “Google phone.” It is an Android phone, just like the dozen or so that came before it.

Howell says that clarity on this issue is likely in the next few days. Let’s hope that proves to be the case so we can put this issue to bed.

UPDATE: Google blog post….hmmm

At Google, we are constantly experimenting with new products and technologies, and often ask employees to test these products for quick feedback and suggestions for improvements in a process we call dogfooding (from “eating your own dogfood”). Well this holiday season, we are taking dogfooding to a new level.

We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it.

Unfortunately, because dogfooding is a process exclusively for Google employees, we cannot share specific product details. We hope to share more after our dogfood diet.

Posted by Mario Queiroz, Vice President, Product Management