The Google Phone

The Observer revealed yesterday that Google is working on a phone. This didn’t really surprise me because it makes sense for Google to release a phone: they have a lot of services that would be useful on the go. I would welcome a phone that can do Gmail, RSS, social networking, gtalk A/V, youtube, office format reader, picasa web album uploading and management, gcal, gmaps etc.

The important thing to remember here is that when you do a change with the Google Phone on one of the services, the change is also visible when you later login to Google with your desktop PC. In other words, your phone is always synchronized with your desktop, and this is something that no other phone offers, not even the Blackberry. The phone could be seen as an extension of Google’s always-ON service that they are preparing through their desktop Linux-based Google OS.

There is one more important thing to remember about the Google Phone: Google will try to give it away for free. Just a few weeks ago a Google exec said that in 1-2 years phones will be so cheap to manufacture that companies can give them away for free (and then get the money back via ads — Google is a big ad company in reality, don’t get fooled by their geekness). This leads me to believe that Google will try to indeed give away their phone, but if my (speculative, based on the Google services’ needs) specifications are to come true, this will cost dearly to Google, about $100 per device: Linux open source base which immediately translates to at least 200 Mhz CPU with 64 MBs of RAM, 64MBs overall storage (about 25 MBs free), miniSD slot, GPS, 1.3 MP camera (cameras are the most expensive parts of phones today), 2.5″ LCD 320×240 landscape (no touchscreen), qwerty keyboard (a’la Treo), Bluetooth 1.2, WiFi (for use with the Google WiFi service too), quadband GSM and EDGE.

I believe that EDGE class 12 is enough to work “online all the time” with Google’s services and even to download mp4 thumbnail-size YouTube videos (EDGE varries between 7 and 16 KB/sec in reality, depending how far you are from a GSM tower). The 2.5″ landscape screen and keyboard is making the phone bigger than existing feature phones, but on par or even smaller than most keyboard-based smartphones. In fact, the phone doesn’t have to be bigger than an iPod Video is today. Look at this iPod Video picture: it has a 2.5″ landscape QVGA screen too and there is enough space for a keyboard and directional pad/softkeys. This enclosure wouldn’t make a too large Google Phone — for what the hardware can do it is a good compromise.

Google will have to work extra hard to compete with Apple’s music player and iTunes Video store for their own iPhone. Many users might choose Apple’s “life is a party” media phone approach rather than Google’s “life is work” services phone approach. Anyways, 2008 is going to be interesting if this Google Phone is ever released…

On other mobility news, I am awaiting two new phones this month for a review: the Motorola L7 and the LG U8500. Hopefully, this LG model has the latest Obigo browser in it (not like the stupid LG Chocolate GSM that I got last month that had an Obigo version from 2004).

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