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Google Releases Experimental Phone To Employees 141

Posted by kdawson
from the it's-just-dogfood dept.
alphadogg, as is his wont, sends in a Network World piece on the resurgent rumors of a Google Phone. "Google has handed out a new mobile phone running its Android software to some employees, stirring another wave of speculation that the oft-rumored Google Phone is real. In a blog post on Saturday morning, Google said the phones are being distributed so that workers can experiment with new mobile features. It did not say the device will be a Google-branded phone. Since even before Google unveiled Android, onlookers have wondered whether the search giant will release its own phone. Instead, it released an open source operating system that other hardware vendors can use to make phones."
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Google Releases Experimental Phone To Employees

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  • by Daetrin (576516) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:27AM (#30420966)
    Is there anywhere enough details available to say if whatever this thing is will be better than the Droid? (At least the impression i've gotten without doing a great deal of research is that the Droid is the best Android phone out so far.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tangent3 (449222)

      Specs seems equivalent to Droid, with a faster processor, minus the physical Qwerty keyboard

      • And an oled screen, news on other sites said it was going o be manufacturered for google by HTC. and in fact sounded identical to the HTC Passion/Bravo.

        We'd probably need some deep specifications to tell them apart.

    • by beakerMeep (716990) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:38AM (#30421010)
      I'd say it would be about equal to the Droid. Here's the rumors I've heard/read: - Processor speed will probably beat the droid, - HTC SenseUI will be nice, - Battery will probably be worse due to the stronger processor. - Screen should be nice an beautiful like the droid's, maybe ever more stunning. - Haven't heard anything about an LED flash like the droid's - No hardware keyboard - Sounds like T-Mobile's (weird flavor of?) GSM. - HTC Trackball v Moto'd directional pad - No discount, so looking at $300-800 ish? Full bias disclosure: I own a Droid and love it. Plan to marry it. Verizon has me by the balls in the prenup though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kamikazearun (1282408)

        No discount, so looking at $300-800 ish?

        Some estimate,that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tumbleweed (3706)

        Battery will probably be worse due to the stronger processor

        Maybe not - the screen is an AMOLED, which should use less juice than the Droid's. Dunno if it's enough to make up for more juice for the CPU, so only time will tell.

        This phone seems to be the HTC Passion, the CDMA version of which (the Bravo) is rumoured for Verizon in 1Q2010, so if you don't need the crappy keyboard of the Droid, and want a faster processor, better screen, and FM radio, that would be the one to wait for (assuming the rumours are

      • by sznupi (719324)

        It almost seems like expectations of constant race towards put some number here times faster hardware shifted from PCs to smartphones... (since the former are good/fast enough for some time now)

        Fast/high pixel count hardware doesn't make the phone "best". Where's long battery life? Sturdiness? Low price with rest of the features balanced? (yes, that includes two I mentioned previously)

      • by the ReviveR (1106541) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @08:55AM (#30422046)
        Most americans seem to have quite a hard time comparing prices simply because most of the time your carriers subsidize so much of the actual price.

        Here are some prices from one of the cheaper web stores in Finland. Please note that these have taxes included and probably the "europeans are idiots" bonus (1 dollar = 1 euro)
        • iPhone 3GS 32GB - 528 euro (+ 12 month contract with "normal" prices)
        • iPhone 3G 8GB - 396 euro (+12 month contract with "normal" prices)
        • HTC Hero - 489.90 euro (no contract)
        • Motorola Milestone - 549.90 euro (no contract + 50 euro for localized keyboard)
        • Nokia N900 - 569.00 euro (no contract)
        • Samsung Galaxy i7500 - 489.90 euro( no contract)
        • Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Android - 749.90 euro (no contract)

        Based on these it would seem that most top of the line phones actually cost around 500 - 600 euro (that is probably 500$-600$ in US) and even correlates pretty nicely with release schedule. Don't get the price on the Sony Ericsson, though it isn't actually out yet I think.

        • Math fail. (Score:1, Informative)

          by ImYourVirus (1443523)
          Sorry but your math fails. 1 usd != 1 euro

          1 U.S. dollar = 0.684134911 Euros
          1 Euro = 1.4617 U.S. dollars

          500 Euros = 730.85 U.S. dollars
          500 U.S. dollars = 342.067456 Euros
          • Re:Math fail. (Score:4, Informative)

            by the ReviveR (1106541) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @11:40AM (#30422856)
            I am perfectly aware of current EURUSD conversion rate. What I am trying to say is, most electronics and software in EU is priced like the conversion rate would be 1 dollar = 1 euro. For example computer games on steam are priced about 50 dollars in US and about 50 euros in EU (I am talking about english version in both cases). I do not think anyone could explain the current difference based on actual expenses.

            I know the rates wary from case to case, but while the actual value of dollar has gone down and euro has gone up, the actual prices in US haven't risen at the same rate and prices in EU certainly haven't gone down. Most big companies seem to charge what ever the market can take.
          • Sorry but your math fails. 1 usd != 1 euro

            1 U.S. dollar = 0.684134911 Euros

            1 Euro = 1.4617 U.S. dollars

            500 Euros = 730.85 U.S. dollars

            500 U.S. dollars = 342.067456 Euros

            Yes dear, we know this. Go back to sleep.

            The point that was being made is that goods marketed by US companies often have the same sticker price in UK pounds as in Euros as in US dollars. Mind you the UK/Euro price typically does include VAT (European sales tax) whereas the US$ price may not include sales tax... but there's a pretty common practice of charging European customers more, because, well, we're on average richer and prepared to pay more. Or else Americans are stingier. Or something.

      • by sucati (611768)
        What exactly do you mean by "weird flavor"? Would this work on AT&T?
      • It will not have the sense UI. It has the normal android UI but modified slightly .... with lasers (no I'm not joking). The screen will definitely look better thanks to the OLED technology. And this OLED technology also helps the battery life - it may have better battery life than the Droid. Also, early images of the device clearly show a flash light (http://www.cellphones.ca/news/upload/2009/10/htc-passion-back.jpg) (yes that's the Nexus one, not the passion/bravo. There was a lot of early confused about
      • Main issue is the missing keyboard, I have an HTC Hero and I miss the keyboard really, while you are better off than with T9 the autocompletion does get you only that far.
        I will use my Hero for the next year, but I am pretty sure I will get a phone with a slideout keyboard after that!
        And yes HTC Sense is nice, but I think the biggest + simply is the 7 homescreens instead of 3.

    • by Rennt (582550)
      Droid has the best specs, but the materials and build quality of the handset itself is disappointing. HTC units feel much nicer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014)

      I think it probably depends on what aspect of the Droid you are talking about. I think the most interesting thing about the Droid is its lack of non-proprietary video out connectors. The upshot is that you can't use the droid to drive your TV by putting it in a docking cradle, as you can with the iPhone. It's a significant, but interesting limitation,and if the Google phone is like that as well that tells us something.

      My theory is that the big difference between Android and the iPhone is that ultimately f

  • Any good? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

    I've been quite unimpressed so far with the current Android phones, so I'm very interested in what features Google would add on top of the base Android OS. I'm particularly interested in how they intend to support Exchange users.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Not sure where you are or what provider you are with, but Exchange sync is offered by at least one carrier selling Android phones in Oz and there are apps for it in the market if your carrier doesn't offer it. It's not really Google/Android's job to supply software to sync with a proprietary system from some other company, but vendors are free to value add to attract customers.

      This is what I think makes Android so promising. It's an open OS that is available to any manufacturer to implement and they automat

      • Yes, I'm aware that they have no responsibility to release an Exchange client, but if they are developing a phone that takes the user experience above and beyond the current crop of Android phones or even iPhone (good luck at that), it would be really nice for them to include a good Exchange client.

        Then again, they may try to take the phone in a completely different direction. If that's the case, we'll have to wait and see whether it's useful for a very large segment of business users.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by beakerMeep (716990)
          I don't know a lot about Exchange, but couldn't you also say it would be really nice for Exchange to support more standards for other devices to connect? (IMAP maybe?). Seems an appropriate devil's advocate question. Cue Keanu Reeves.
          • Exchange has both POP3 and IMAP servers available (at least in 2007) but both are disabled by default.

          • by lukas84 (912874)

            EAS allows you to sync contacts and calender, but for mail only you could use IMAP.

            (Though Exchange's IMAP support isn't really good)

            • by rabbit994 (686936)

              Newest Android OS supports Exchange ActiveSync which Microsoft's recommend way of pulling data off Exchange server for mobile devices. I haven't been able to fully test it though since our demo model from Sprint hasn't arrived at the office. We are hoping to support it but it depends on how much Google implemented it. For those who don't know, Microsoft licenses Activesync to companies and Google bought it to use with GMail and Android.

              • by great om (18682)

                it doesn't, at least on the Droid variant, support remote wipe, making it against the regulations for most company's exchange/activesync policies. Even my company which allows users to have nearly whatever they want) will not allow android because of this

              • Newest Android OS supports Exchange ActiveSync which Microsoft's recommend way of pulling data off Exchange server for mobile devices. I haven't been able to fully test it though since our demo model from Sprint hasn't arrived at the office. We are hoping to support it but it depends on how much Google implemented it. For those who don't know, Microsoft licenses Activesync to companies and Google bought it to use with GMail and Android.

                I have it on my (Cyanogen [cyanogenmod.com]) G1 - it works very well. It is a separate app from the GMail app, though, so you end up with two separate inboxes.

          • I don't much about electricity, but it seems like the power companies could support more standards for devices to connect? It's so inconvenient to have to use an ac/dc converter....

            I don't think it makes much sense for MSFT to support a lot of different standards for Exchange connectivity. If they have standard, published APIs for the various types of platforms we use, which they appear to do, I think that's a pretty good place for us to be. Not so many years ago, the MSFT party line was pretty much, y

        • Yes, and they don't supply the product that consumers buy. It's up to vendors.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sznupi (719324)

        There is one downside to each manufacturer having their own implementation - the market fragments. Especially when some phones don't get updates to newer OS versions (that's already happening). Also, the benefits of open app market look nice on paper...but haven't materialized.

        That said, I also agree that history will repeat itself in regards to Apple loosing dominance. But I have some doubts if it will be due to Android...

        • by peragrin (659227)

          well it's been 8 years of ipod killers and none have really shown up. I figure the iphone won't have any real competition until at least 2012. and then the apocalypse will happen so it won't matter.

          The trick with the ipod, and the iphone is the complete package is balanced just right. hardware and software. It can be the best hardware out there, but if he average luser can't use it then it is useless. Now admittedly I haven't played with a droid yet. or andriod 2.1 so i haven't seen how much it has im

          • by Anonymous Coward
            well, if you are talking about apple's marketing + RDF effect + fanboy cult, yes, there has not been any ipod killer. If you talking about better functional devices, there have been few superior to ipod devices.

            For iphone, well, as you have been living under a cave for some time, you would not know this phone called Droid from Motorola running Android. It's first real Android device matching iphone's processing power and aesthetics. And now that Motorola and Verizon have matched Apple and AT&T's marke
          • by sznupi (719324)

            What do you understand by "iPod killer"? Or what means seriously competing with iPhone?

            Marketshare? Visible momentum of one manufacturer with small product line? Yes, those two Apple devices are darlings of US and few other markets. But they represent a small minority of each class.

            For quite a few years mobile phones with audio player functionality vastly outsold iPods (it's more or less "they ship in bigger numbers in given year than all iPods ever produced up to that point"). iPod popularity isn't very ty

    • Re:Any good? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by V!NCENT (1105021) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @06:35AM (#30421614)

      Google will not release their own phone. Here's why:

      Google likes to dominate the software spectrum. If they release their own phone, then companies will look a bit suspicious at their "you can use our OS too!, fro free!"

      In the end that will result in less Android phones and thus less people that use Google products and less people to click on their adds, which is their main source of imcome anyway.

      The best Android phone I've seen so far is the HTC Hero. It whipes the floor with the iPhone in every aspect. Except for the fact that it doesn't help Microsoft with growing the Exchange user base...

      • Well I have a Hero but it lacks the speed of the iPhone this is multitasking inherent, and that some parts of the OS and the drivers are not optimized, heck even the 3d graphics are not that well optimized yet, the phone could do more from its hardware, there are rumours that HTC simply was to stingy to pay for the optimized qualcom 3d drivers, whether it is true or not I do not know, the qualcom test reveals around 30 fps.

        But it is way better than an iPhone for its openness.

        I just hate the head in the arse

      • by mjwx (966435)

        The best Android phone I've seen so far is the HTC Hero. It whipes the floor with the iPhone in every aspect.

        Most Android phones do.

        Except for the fact that it doesn't help Microsoft with growing the Exchange user base...

        Try using Touchdown [nitrodesk.com], by far and above the best mobile Exchange client I've ever used even on WinMo. US$20 a license but it will only take one telco to start buying the licenses and adding them to the cost of the plan to win over business users.

    • Android 2.0 Highlights [android.com]

      Multiple accounts can be added to a device for email and contact synchronization, including Exchange accounts. (Handset manufacturers can choose whether to include Exchange support in their devices.)

      The Droid was the first Android 2.0 device.

  • Dumb rumors (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Undead Waffle (1447615) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:34AM (#30420988)

    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

    I'm reading this as "some hardware manufacturer invented the big red button and we want our employees to be able to play around with what the software will do when the big red button is pressed." Or maybe they're just talking about faster processors, more memory, or some other somewhat minor upgrade. I see nothing to indicate they're going to enter the phone market themselves especially since it mentions the hardware is from "a partner".

    • by adamchou (993073) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:15AM (#30421368)

      what the software will do when the big red button is pressed

      You will get one million dollars, but someone you don't know will die... that or a staples employee will appear out of no where and say "That was easy!"

      • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @06:56AM (#30421698)

        You will get one million dollars, but someone you don't know will die... that or a staples employee will appear out of no where and say "That was easy!"

        Can it be the Staples employee that dies? Cuz that's a deal I could live with. So to speak.

      • by Z34107 (925136)

        You will get one million dollars, but someone you don't know will die...

        CLIKCLIKCLIKCLIKCLIKCLIK...

        **counts upward to 9 billion**

    • Re:Dumb rumors (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jabithew (1340853) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:30AM (#30421410)

      I can't see Google releasing their own hardware; it seems like a Slashdot wet dream. If you look at their current strategy with Chrome (OS) and Android, it seems like their attitude is that if you look after the software, the hardware will look after itself.

      It would also be quite outside their core competence. Google have never done any hardware releases for consumers, and there's no reason at all to expect them to be any good at it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by slifox (605302) *
        You're probably right that they won't make the hardware -- at most they'll probably contract HTC to do it...

        The real question is if Google is going to find a way into the cell phone service-provider business... be it on the physical infrastructure side (unlikely), or on the communications service side

        There's been some past /. discussion on this, and what I gathered from it was that Google will put themselves at odds with the infrastructure owners (e.g. AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc) by forcing them
      • Subcontracted, but a hardware device with their branding on it

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Appliance [wikipedia.org]

    • by cfriedt (1189527)

      I see nothing to indicate they're going to enter the phone market themselves especially since it mentions the hardware is from "a partner".

      I guess I missed the 'partner' keyword on my first read. That would seem a little bit more realistic than for Google to start manufacturing themselves. It would certainly make the OHA continue to resemble more of a playground than a battlefield.

      One interesting note, is that the article does not explicitly say its a phone but rather a "device". Could this finally be the next step in the evolution of Qualcomm's SmartBook [youtube.com]? Personally, I see it as a highly compatible platform for the Chrome OS [chromium.org].

  • WSJ says it's real (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:39AM (#30421016)

    The Wall Street Journal says it's real [wsj.com].

    I was doubtful myself, it seemed really weird that Google would compete against partners like this. It seems like most technical people that would even want Android to start with would flock to this phone and drop the others. Heck, I might even buy one to have something to tether my iPhone to when traveling internationally!!

    I had a chance to try out a Droid, and it was still pretty pokey (especially when using the built in browser). Perhaps the Google phone will finally hit a good performance stride.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The Wall Street Journal says it's real [wsj.com].

      I was doubtful myself, it seemed really weird that Google would compete against partners like this. It seems like most technical people that would even want Android to start with would flock to this phone and drop the others. Heck, I might even buy one to have something to tether my iPhone to when traveling internationally!!

      I had a chance to try out a Droid, and it was still pretty pokey (especially when using the built in browser). Perhaps the Google phone will finally hit a good performance stride.

      And from that link:

      The phone is called the Nexus One and is being manufactured for Google by HTC Corp.

      But unlike the more than half-dozen Android phones made by phone manufacturers today, Google designed virtually the entire software experience behind the phone

      Subscription required beyond that.

      So it's made by HTC. And "designed virtually the entire software experience" isn't saying much. Sounds like another "myTouch 3G with Google" sort of deal.

      • So it's made by HTC. And "designed virtually the entire software experience" isn't saying much. Sounds like another "myTouch 3G with Google" sort of deal.

        Yeah, but Google pushing it and spending a lot of development time on it is a big deal. Because they are cutting out the carriers. That is the deal, that is surprising.

    • Actually this is system inherent, the main issue simply is multitasking, the phone terminates on a LRU algorithm the programs once the ram runs out, so if you do a lot on the phone some task might drag you the processor cycles away or the phone stops for a second to kill another app and reclaim the ram. Also if you switch the keyboard direction it can happen that the phone has to load the keyboard app for the proper keyboard because the app was terminated.

      I can see that pretty well on my phone, first it is

  • It's the season (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mknutty (1684802) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:43AM (#30421034)

    Google likes to give its employees little toys every year for Christmas. There aren't that many Google-related toys out there to give, so they could end up picking a phone even if it's nothing special.

    Oooorrr... it could be teh awesomest Googlest phone evar.

  • Well... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:46AM (#30421040)

    Well, at least they are testing them on employees rather then the general public.

    Probably cost them a lot less in legal fees when the batteries start exploding.

  • by C18H27NO3 (1282172) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:47AM (#30421046)
    This is probably how a phone call would proceed on a Google phone:

    555-1212

    Results 1 - 30 of about 499,000 for 555-1212. (0.24 seconds)

    www.555-1212.com

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directory_assistance

    phones.whitepages.com/703-555-1212

    . . .
    et al.

    Somewhere in there would be the option to dial the number you wanted. If you happen to have SafeDial turned on you can forget about ever connecting to your sex^H^H^Hchat line. In all serious I would think that perhaps they are trying to incorporate something Googly to reach a larger userbase but certainly their own phone with that ability would be much more lucrative.
    • by WGFCrafty (1062506) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:58AM (#30421082)
      Safe dial?

      Is this like safe phone sex?

      For porn from your phone the only answer is SexDial(tm)!
      • by c6gunner (950153)

        Safe dial?

        Is this like safe phone sex?

        For a low, low, introductory price, specially trained Google technicians will come to Your Home and install a Gondom on your telephone receiver!

    • maybe it will have something like safari's "private browsing" so you can still call your phone sex line without anyone knowing...
    • This is probably how a phone call would proceed on a Google phone:

      555-1212

      Results 1 - 30 of about 499,000 for 555-1212. (0.24 seconds)

      Did you mean 9545-1212 ?

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:52AM (#30421056)

    it appears to be the HTC passion. The twitter hype of this thing is extraordinary, it's like viral advertising only done right.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This sounds like SOP for google... set up an open source beta, have everyone test and improve on it, and then begin selling an updated final version. Think about how they used chrome to attract open source devs and now are releasing chrome OS as a separate platform. They also did the same with gmail... collecting a huge amount of users with the beta then released a for fee version for businesses

  • Nexus One (Score:5, Informative)

    by tuxliner (589414) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:10AM (#30421356)
    You can see a picture of this device here [engadget.com]
    • My God that thing is HUGE!

      Oh,I didn't see the hand. But I saw how tiny the Blackberry was next to it and thought...

      .

    • After five revisions, will they superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the hardware engineers who created them?

      Or will they just have a screensaver with electric sheep? ;)

  • Wow, if Google starts eating its own dogfood, by taking the leap into the handset manufacturing business, then I'll most certainly be eating my own words [slashdot.org].

    I honestly thought that they would be more of a nonpartisan member of the OHA, focusing entirely on the software side of things. With a handset manufacturing division, they would be directly competing with the manufacturing members of the OHA. However, with Google's superiority in software, I doubt that the competition will be able to keep up, at least in

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tumbleweed (3706)

      Wow, if Google starts eating its own dogfood, by taking the leap into the handset manufacturing business, then I'll most certainly be eating my own words.

      Just because Google gives out some handsets to its employees, doesn't mean it's getting into the handset business. They may just be wanting a bigger inhouse testbed, which would be a great idea.

      I liked the sound of Arrington's recent rumour about a WiFi/Skype-only mobile phone from them, though. That would be an interesting option to have, if you could _on

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Wow, if Google starts eating its own dogfood, by taking the leap into the handset manufacturing business

      The HW is manufactured by HTC, the OS is owned by the OHA (in a manner of speaking, as much as one can own open source, they at least have the rights to the Android(TM) trademark) and most of the SW is Google. The only difference with the Google Nexus One is that Google are handling the Marketing and Distribution.

      Google have been dogfooding Android for a while with the ADP (an unlocked developer vers

  • I can't wait for a new Google Phone to be honest. I love my HTC Magic and Android phones in general, but knowing Google, this'll be a free beta!
  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @06:45AM (#30421656)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I got my Nokia n900, and it's really GREAT, even better than expected. After few weeks it's out, there's already Pidgin, OpenVPN, and many more. Sure it crashes a bit, but that should be because it's still a quite young phone, and I hope that it's going to be fixed.

    I quite hate the Google concept where things are SUPPOSED to be opened, but in fact, you get something which is not really modifiable. I don't see how this will change sooner or later.
  • I don't see any benefit for Google to get into the device market. They seem to be doing great staying in the software/advertisement market.
    • "Companies that are serious about software design their own hardware."-- Steve Jobs

      I imagine it's much more difficult to test new ideas for Android and mobile software if you don't have your own in-house-designed hardware device to try it out on.

  • I didn't see it say if it was a CDMA or GSM phone. Does anyone know what network Google has had its internal phones on before? I heard they gave out some G1s, which would have been GSM...did they give out Droid phones (CDMA) internally as well?
  • Thank you fo pointing out the obvious. The Media is going crazy trying to create controversy where there isn't any. It actually makes no sense for Google to alienate all the telephone makers by making their own phone.
  • Google just gave a bunch of Android phones to a bunch of competent devs.

    I'm not very familiar with the app situation, but if /I/ were a dev with ~20% time for personal projects, and I just got handed a shiny new toy (and a shiny new toy that everyone around me had) I would definitely consider developing for it.

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