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What You Missed In Google Phone News Over The Weekend

Did you have something to do this weekend other than scan tech news and Twitter for “Nexus One”? Here’s the quick-read lowdown on what the “Google Phone” is (and isn’t), what it looks like and when it might arrive.

On Friday, CNET producer and podcaster Jason Howell got to play with a phone given out to Google employees on Friday. He posted about it, of course, to his Twitter account, and was backed up by Google employees registering their own thoughts, with such descriptions as “an iPhone on beautifying steroids”.

Google’s given out “developer” models, or non-carrier-locked phones, of its latest Android projects to employees before. They’ve even doled them out to conference goers. This time, however, they acknowledged in a blog post that they were handing out the phones for use as a “mobile lab” in internal testing — known as “dogfooding” or “eating your own dogfood”, in developer parlance. It’s dubbed the Nexus One, which, as Daring Fireball points out, is a reference to the androids in Blade Runner.

Then the Wall Street Journal breaks the news wide open on Saturday (modified numerous times since then) that Google isn’t just producing a new phone with a telco partner. They’re going to sell the phone, unlocked, directly to consumers. The general reasoning cited in (anonymously) sourced news reports and blog analysis is that Google wants to stake its claim in the smartphone advertising market, which is growing at a faster rate than standard internet-based advertising.

What is this device? It is, supposedly, an unlocked version of the rumoured HTC Passion, with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor (roughly twice as powerful, at least in specs, as the chip that powers almost every Android device right now, except the Droid), a 3.5-inch OLED screen, and only a trackball-style pointer for physical buttons on the front. It would, of course, be running a new version of Android, 2.1, and have its hardware and software designed entirely by Google — not that the G1 and Droid weren’t similarly Google-sponsored setups.

Where and when can you get it? Multiple posts and reports agree only on an estimate of early 2010. As for where, beyond Google just posting up a page and offering it through Google Checkout, blogs have sniffed out sources stating that the phone could be offered physically through Best Buy and T-Mobile stores in the US. Once purchased, you’d choose your wireless voice and data carriers through a software menu upon starting up the phone.

The big question mark at the moment is pricing. If sold unlocked, without any subsidy from the wireless carriers who normally drive down prices in exchange for two-year agreements, it could be quite a chunk of change: the iPhone, for example, actually costs AT&T about $US599, but it sells the model for $US199 to make it more palatable.

Here’s a quick list of related reading:

What do you think of all the Google Phone/Nexus One hoopla? Is a phone that’s actually unlocked and designed front-to-back by Google something you’re intrigued by? Tell us your take in the comments.


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