Peter Kafka of MediaMemo has reported that Google's phone, code-named Nexus One, was pitched to a number of carriers, including Verizon, the nation's largest wireless provider. But only T-Mobile — which was the first to offer the inaugural Android mobile operating system phone, the G1 — has shown interest.
"Traditionally in the U.S., consumers buy phones directly from carriers, who eat some or all of the cost of the handsetsâwhich sometimes amounts to hundreds of dollarsâin exchange for signing up customers to often controversial multi-year contracts," Kafka said. "Whether or not Google will subsidize the cost of the phone — via advertising, for example — is unclear."
T-Mobile will reportedly play an important part in the launch of the phone, actively pushing it in distribution channels and offering support infrastructure. Google intends to sell the GSM-based phone unlocked, which means it could also be used on AT&T, which does not currently offer any Android handsets.
AT&T is the exclusive provider of the iPhone in the U.S., and the nation's second-largest carrier has had its share of issues with Google in the past. Months ago, the two companies were engaged in a war of words over net neutrality, and the practice of blocking calls to rural areas through the Google Voice service.
But Kafka said when the Nexus One is made available for sale, something rumored to happen in January 2010, both AT&T and T-Mobile will be selectable as carriers through a menu-style online order system. Google reportedly plans to allow customers the ability to purchase the phone and then choose their carrier.
The new Google Phone was distributed to employees of the company late last week. Since then, photos and details of the new hardware have continued to leak. The HTC-made hardware lacks any reference to its manufacturer on the prototypes distributed to employees, according to Engadget.
The phone runs the unreleased Android 2.1, which features animated home screens, 3D elements in the application tray, and a new grid icon at the bottom of the home screen that allows fast access to all home screen pages. The phone also included the turn-by-turn GPS software Google Maps Navigation, as well as the visual search Google Goggles.
A pictured prototype was running on the T-Mobile network and was seen connected to Wi-Fi. The hardware was described as "incredibly thin and sleek," with four touch-sensitive buttons on its face and a volume rocker on the side. One tipster described the phone as faster than the Motorola Droid, but lacking in multi-touch support in its Web browser.
Also noted was a quick start guide pointing to the inactive URL google.com/phone/support, which could provide further confirmation of a public release.
Update - Two versions of Google phone planned, to be released in January
Reuters reported Monday that Google plans to sell two different versions of its phone: one to be subsidized through T-Mobile by contract and one unlocked version sold through Google's website. The phone will reportedly be available as early as Jan. 5.