Rumors of a Google-branded phone based on their Android OS have kicked up again after a Wall Street Journal article, cited unnamed “people familiar with the matter” confirming the existence of the project. Latest rumors have the device arriving as early as next year.
What’s most notable is that the rumored Google-phone will launched without a carrier partner, and sold unlocked, which is an unusual approach in the US. That means no carrier subsidies, which typically knock a couple hundred dollars or so off the price of smartphones. Many are taking that to mean that the Google phone will be priced like unlocked smartphones are now, which is just ridiculous.
Just as carriers subsidize phones because they plan to make a lot of money locking people into a two-year contract, Google has other revenue streams it can tap if people are using one of its phones. For a start, its a good bet that they are already paying money out to mobile carriers and device makers in order to make Google the default search and map provider on the iPhone, and other devices. For a Google-branded phone, that money could instead go to subsidizing the cost of the phone. That’s just the start, they could also include more-intrusive mobile advertising, though I suspect that isn’t going to be necessary as the mobile ad market grows.
I’m interested to see where this all leads. Apple managed to pry control away from mobile carriers when it launched the iPhone. It certainly seems like it will be another step towards loosening the hold mobile carriers, have on users in the US at least. Of course, this just assumes that there really is going to be a “Google phone,” and that this latest frenzy isn’t just a big hoo-hah over T-Mobile’s next android phone, which is entirely plausible.