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What would your phone do?
November 5, 2007 10:04 PM   Subscribe

Where's my Gphone? "Despite all of the very interesting speculation over the last few months, we're not announcing a Gphone. However…"
posted by tellurian (48 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm probably the biggest Apple fanboi around these parts, but I was really skeptical about getting an iPhone. After having jumped into using one this past weekend — where I didn't have a network connection for my laptop — I feel that Google's gPhone will really have to impress to take any wind out of iPhone's sails/sales. Being "open" — and at this time, vaporware — may not be enough if Apple has a year and a half of lead time to offer a second generation product with an SDK.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:18 PM on November 5, 2007


I'm wondering how this will interact with OpenMoko, the other open phone platform (The one that very nearly has hardware out, if anyone is bying me a christmas present). Ironically, I will now go Google for information on the topic.
posted by the number 17 at 10:28 PM on November 5, 2007


I think if the gphone providers can do it right, I'll get a google based phone next instead of Apple.

I'm not exactly thrilled by Verizon at the moment, and I expect a google phone to be way cheaper than the current iPhone offering, both in terms of hardware price and monthly fees.

Also: w00t!
posted by chlorus at 10:41 PM on November 5, 2007


The secret strength of Apple's platform is the graphics rendering stack, how tightly it is integrated into API in a reasonably nice OO-way.

Plus the simplicity of a common hardware platform (touchscreen, oomphy CPU, HVGA high-density display) really helps.

Topping it off is Objective-C (getting ObjC++, my weapon of choice, working last week was a very happy time for me).

The synergy of these things altogether is going to be hard to top with the usual dumpster-diving cobbled-together systems design approach of the Linux community.

So far, this looks to me like another Zaurus Linux PDA effort. I've still got the SL-5000D around here somewhere.

That said, I much prefer my Samsung A900 to the iPhone as a phone. I got an iPod Touch because it was the coolest platform for me to work on some ideas, since it is suboptimal as a PMP; I am not terribly confident in Apple's ability to capture the market with this touch generation as it has with the iPod.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:01 PM on November 5, 2007


First no flying car, then no jetpack, now no gPhone? Christ, just wake me up just before we hit the Singularity.
posted by zardoz at 11:13 PM on November 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


Well, no copy left kind of sucks, but it is still a big fuck you to microsoft (and apple). I think I will stick with Openmoko.
posted by scodger at 11:40 PM on November 5, 2007


What about the Y!Phone?

it will be purple with a big smiley face on it
posted by davejay at 11:46 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think this was meant as competition to the iphone. Rather, I see it as Google's way of opening up development frameworks, much in the same way it's trying to do with social networks.

More crucially though, I'm struck by the fact that HTC is onboard here. HTC is one of the largest Windows Mobiles-based manufacturers out there; at least in my circles, I wouldn't have seen a Windows Mobile device hadn't it been for HTC. What does this entail for Microsoft, then?

Additionally, I found this article they've linked to rather interesting:
America, USA and Canada are dead last in the industrialized world, with much of the developing world passing them in phone penetration, yet even USA reached 75% penetration .... The Western European average per capita penetration is already 110%, leading countries like Italy, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Israel have penetration rates at about 140% (yes this is per capita). And yes, over 100% penetration rate means that some in the population have more than one phone (and are charged for using both/all)
Know a couple of people who carry two mobiles regularly, but it's rather interesting to see a whopping 40% doing that. Or, does it refer to people like me who have different pre-paid SIM's for different countries?

This is fascinating too:
I already mentioned that already three countries have seen the tipping point, more people now access the web via mobile phone than via PC in China, Japan and South Korea
I don't know if we in Singapore already have that sort of figures, but I wouldn't be surprised if we do; am already being tempted into signing up for all those mobile2.0-isque sites such as fring.com and so on.

Also, how would Mefi look on a small screen?
posted by the cydonian at 1:10 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Know a couple of people who carry two mobiles regularly, but it's rather interesting to see a whopping 40% doing that. Or, does it refer to people like me who have different pre-paid SIM's for different countries?

I have one SIM (subscription) for my phone, one for the 3G HSDPA datacard in my laptop (3.6 Mbps), another one for the home router, and a prepaid SIM from a UK operator that I use when I am in London.

140% penetration is nothing compared to what is possible.
posted by three blind mice at 2:01 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was shocked when I was in the US to discover that you have to pay for receiving calls on a mobile phone.

Ask anyone in Europe and they will consider this to be nuts. I am not surprised that people were less willing to buy mobiles in the US if this was the case. Usage in Europe ramped up dramatically (around 99-00) when companies really started to roll out the cheap pay-as-you-go phones. I don't think you would have seen as radical an upsurge if it weren't for the ability for teenagers to stick a fiver on their phone as and when they had the funds to do it and couldn't control their spend.


I have one SIM (subscription) for my phone, one for the 3G HSDPA datacard in my laptop (3.6 Mbps), another one for the home router, and a prepaid SIM from a UK operator that I use when I am in London.

140% penetration is nothing compared to what is possible


I agree. But in addition, I think the thing is that in Europe there are many people with more than one mobile phone, never mind 3G laptop cards (which are being very heavily marketed at consumers rather than just for business at the moment) and international sims for holidays. So the numbers could ratchet even higher. 300% penetration could become the norm.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:46 AM on November 6, 2007


I was shocked when I was in the US to discover that you have to pay for receiving calls on a mobile phone.

Ask anyone in Europe and they will consider this to be nuts.


But you do if you've a phone from one EU country and you're using it in another....
posted by brettski at 3:30 AM on November 6, 2007


how lame. goggle can't even set up a blog without having to use blogspot. amateurs.
posted by rare_g at 3:31 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why Google doesn't just focus on the underserved sector that Apple's ignoring. I would happily purchase a G-Jammer.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:09 AM on November 6, 2007


More crucially though, I'm struck by the fact that HTC is onboard here. HTC is one of the largest Windows Mobiles-based manufacturers out there; at least in my circles, I wouldn't have seen a Windows Mobile device hadn't it been for HTC. What does this entail for Microsoft, then?


I'd say, quite something, since Samsung and LG, two other big Windows Mobile-based phone makers, are also on board. And so is Motorola. Symbian-based Nokia and Sony Ericsson, on the other hand, are conspicuously missing from this alliance.

Ballmer must be popping a coronary...
posted by Skeptic at 4:16 AM on November 6, 2007


I was shocked when I was in the US to discover that you have to pay for receiving calls on a mobile phone.

What if someone is calling you from a land-line? Who pays for the bandwidth?
posted by octothorpe at 4:23 AM on November 6, 2007


Think of what a customer wants. When you're redoing your kitchen, and you're choosing appliances, do you go out looking for some consortium devoted to food temperature management and environmental control technology? No. You go looking for a refrigerator. And you look for the coolest, best-looking, best-designed refrigerator, made by a company that put loads of effort and genius into making something mindblowing. That's why iPhone has taken off. Because it's beautiful. It's amazing. It works. It restores a sense of childlike wonder to people's lives. It wasn't made by a consortium. It couldn't be created by a committee. It is the product of one vision, one man, one genius -- that would be me -- with, to be sure, a bit of help from a few other people who played minor roles.

- Fake Steve
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:38 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]



What if someone is calling you from a land-line? Who pays for the bandwidth?

It's always the person who places the call that pays in the UK.

I would get so pissed off if a telemarketing company (or whoever) used up my 'free' minutes just because their electronic automated dialler called me and I foolishly answered. I think it must lead to an awful lot of ignored and hung up calls in the US. Does it?


But you do if you've a phone from one EU country and you're using it in another....

yeah, that's true but they are different countries at the end of the day. The thing is, I am sure that the paying upon receipt is unique to North America, so it's not just like that in
Europe. It's the same in Oz, Asia and other places too AFAIK.


apologies for derail
posted by ClanvidHorse at 4:44 AM on November 6, 2007


But you do if you've a phone from one EU country and you're using it in another
Dawn of the Eurotariff.
I'm in the market for a new phone so this Gphone announcement is interesting. In view of the fact that iPhones are not available here in Australia yet and the high prices predicted, I'm going to hang and see what develops. It would seem to me that because Android will be free, handset makers won't have to buy the operating systems and so the phones it comes on also could be less expensive, plus the amount and diversity of applications will be greater, too.
posted by tellurian at 5:24 AM on November 6, 2007


It is technically against the law for telemarketers to call cellular phones in the US. Which is not to say they don't - a few months ago I started getting daily calls from a spanish-language ad service.

I called the Federal Trade Commission after the second, and they said they needed a company name. So the next call I stayed on the line and got... someone who spoke spanish. I proceeded to use bad spanish to get through to a manager who spoke English. I managed to get them to take me off their list, and get the company name (and then through the web, the location) for the FTC to abuse.

(The woman at the FTC hotline thanked me - apparently they had gotten a number of complaints, but I was the only one to get the company name and location.)

So now that I've diverged: telemarketing calls to US cellphones is illegal, some companies do it anyway, if you're smart you can smite them like the hand of God.
posted by mephron at 5:31 AM on November 6, 2007


What if someone is calling you from a land-line? Who pays for the bandwidth?

Calling mobiles costs more than calling landlines. In the UK at least, mobiles have their own prefix (07xxx) rather than using geographic area codes, so you know which kind of number you're calling.
posted by cillit bang at 5:34 AM on November 6, 2007


When did Google decide to stop innovating and start inviting a bunch of failed innovators to form consortiums around vaporware? Samsung will release a quality phone and MySpace relases a quality API. Right. I can't wait for GoogleOpenOS, based on a collaboration between Sun and the old WindowsME team.
posted by scottreynen at 5:44 AM on November 6, 2007


Huh. I just got a dealie in my email yesterday for the gPhone, but the G wasn't for Google, it was for something else entirely.
posted by davelog at 5:48 AM on November 6, 2007


The last time I went home to Toronto, I dropped $20 on my pre-paid sim card from Fido. I made only two outgoing calls, but still blew through the 20 bucks in about two weeks.

It was nice to get back to the UK after that.
posted by generichuman at 5:50 AM on November 6, 2007


"It's always the person who places the call that pays in the UK. "

This wouldn't fly in the US, because people would flip the fuck out if they were charged to call a local number just because some clown on the other end decided it would be fun to have a phone in his pocket. That's the thing you need to understand: in the US, local calls cost nothing to initiate and nothing to receive, and cell phones can and do have local numbers.

In this scenario the caller isn't making a choice to use metered airtime, the receiver is. Therefore, the receiver should (and does) pay for the service he is using.

"Calling mobiles costs more than calling landlines."

In the US, this would have retarded the adoption of cell phones to the point where they'd still be a novelty today. Americans don't like to pay for someone else's convenience feature, particularly when the alternative is free.

"I think it must lead to an awful lot of ignored and hung up calls in the US."

If the caller is not in my contact list, I do not answer my cell phone. This has nothing to do with the cost as I have enough airtime banked that I could place a 48-hour long call without incurring a fee beyond my monthly plan payment. This has to do with the fact that I hate answering the telephone.

In any case, as to the topic: Mobile phone platform announcements are a dime a dozen these days. Hardly a year goes by without one, but the vast majority of phones get sold by wireless telcos that cripple the device in hopes of raking the user over the coals for ridiculous bandwidth charges to convey three dollar MIDI files. The fanciness or ease of development for the underlying platform primarily serves the telco department in charge of ripping out features and locking down end user access to the device.
posted by majick at 5:50 AM on November 6, 2007


I won't ever go back to WindowsMobile (unless there are major software changes), and am quite happy with my iPhone. The gPhone will have to have some pretty impressive features for me to change. I gCan't iWait!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:52 AM on November 6, 2007


What if someone is calling you from a land-line? Who pays for the bandwidth?

Ah, but do you expect to be billed on a landline as soon as you hear a dialling tone? You're using bandwidth as soon as you pick up the receiver, whether or not you successfully connect the call.
posted by alasdair at 6:20 AM on November 6, 2007


is anyone else getting sick of the googles? All this hype, all this steam, all these pie-eyed developers in their infomercial riding the hype, indeed joking about it, while the whole time talking about the new frontiers they are opening up...?

I call bullshit, shutup and write some code.

I see in the not too distant future a serious wakeup call for this company. It will come when people realize paying $50/hit for some keyword is not a good use of their advertising dollars and people realize google has 1 viable, cyclical revenue stream and 10,000 self-important developers producing little.

What was the previous big thing, an AJAX spreadsheet app? Neat, in an evolutionary-next-step sortof way, but worth the billions in marketcap and "genius" time spent? Does anyone really use it? Or was the next big thing googles giant wifi initiave that went where exactly? Or the "search appliance"? How they selling?

whatever.
posted by H. Roark at 6:22 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's an operating system for mobile phones based on Linux.

Innovative? No. Earth-shaking? No. Something the average user knows and cares about? No and no.

Fake Steve has got it right, it's the overall design that matters. None of Google's partners has that capability, despite prowess in certain areas.

Palm, on the other hand, ought to pay attention to this. I have a Treo and it's a great phone that could only benefit from a better OS. Since they've committed to going to Linux anyway, this could cut their time to market considerably.
posted by tommasz at 6:29 AM on November 6, 2007


Sure, individual local phone calls are "free" in the US from a landline, but you still have to pay a monthly fee that covers all those "free" phone calls. In fact, with my landline, even long distance is "free."
posted by drezdn at 6:32 AM on November 6, 2007


It's encouraging news to me because it's a great software maker, Google, combining with some good hardware makers, Samsung, HTC and especially Motorolla. Moto has always had excellent hardware, the StarTac, the Razor, etc..., but their phone software has always been less pleasant to use than milking an incontinent goat. Windows Mobile is only slightly easier to use, so I can see why HTC is on board too. Compare the number of click to open an adderss on a WinCE device vs a Palm for example. It's user-hostile design at it's finest.

Since UI is arguably one of the things Google does best, I'm very curious to see what the end result is.
posted by bonehead at 6:41 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


What's a landline?
posted by birdherder at 6:43 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am interested in what Google does with this but I am skeptical about how much they can get the big telecoms to co-operate with them. Verizon slaps the sucky BREW software on every phone that they sell and does their best to disable any feature that someone might find useful. I doubt that Google can convince them to move to an open platform.
posted by octothorpe at 7:21 AM on November 6, 2007


I doubt that Google can convince them to move to an open platform.

The market might, if the applications are compelling. But it has to be about usability.

Cost isn't everything — people keep buying iPods despite cheaper MP3 player options. If the product has features people want, they will pay for it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:29 AM on November 6, 2007


Since UI is arguably one of the things Google does best

Arguably for sure. I don't want my phone's interface to look like a Google web app. Especially when compared to the glitz and glamour of the iPhone, or just about any consumer level device out there. I don't think Google's aesthetic (or lack of) will fit very well in this market.
posted by o0o0o at 7:33 AM on November 6, 2007


So... there's no UI prototypes whatsoever? And in fact there's no indication that google will actually make a UI? Or that all of the phones that are based on this technology will have similar looks or applications at all?

This sounds like a good deal on some middleware for phone makers. I just don't see the there there.

Dealing with carriers is gonna be a new experience for google. I wouldn't bet against them but I can't see what they're going to do that's so great.

Presumably a mobile firefox+gears is going to appear someday?

The really funny thing is the talk about a "fantastic new OS for phones". The iphone runs on osx. That's a plenty sophisticated OS. Apple waited until they could cram it in there which means they dodged a windows/wince type split.
posted by Wood at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2007


Mephron thanks for your effort on that spanish telemarketing firm. I always get pissed off when I answer the phone and get that voice!
posted by stratastar at 7:49 AM on November 6, 2007


I think this will be like many other Google products - trumpeted by Google fangeeks, but ignored by the general public at large.
Kind of like the time Transmeta was going to be putting Intel out of business and we'd all have Crusoe processors on devices running Linux.

Instead, they turned into IP lawsuit whores.
posted by drstein at 10:03 AM on November 6, 2007


eustacscrubb, quoting: ... It restores a sense of childlike wonder to people's lives....

That people routinely say things like this with regard to stuff like mobile phones is something I find fascinating and troubling, at once.
posted by lodurr at 10:09 AM on November 6, 2007


tommasz: Fake Steve has got it right, it's the overall design that matters. None of Google's partners has that capability, despite prowess in certain areas.

Um, yeah.

LG, HTC, and Samsung -- yeah, they really suck at design.

Interesting that you point to Palm, who have been living on borrowed time for a couple of years, now, and couldn't "design" their way out of a paper bag.
posted by lodurr at 10:13 AM on November 6, 2007


Uh, lodurr, meet Fake Steve Jobs.

Namaste
posted by the number 17 at 10:19 AM on November 6, 2007


I don't think Google's aesthetic (or lack of) will fit very well in this market.

Have you seen their mobile applications? Google Maps is particularly impressive on the phone. I much prefer it to the barebones version that came with my blackberry through my service provider. Gmail and callendar on the phone are pretty well thought out too. I think they've got a pretty reasonable track record here.
posted by bonehead at 10:21 AM on November 6, 2007


the number 17, you're, like, totally right, I, like, so totally missed the fact that when tommasz said "fake steve got it right", he was being sarcastic like Fake Steve. Totally.
posted by lodurr at 10:51 AM on November 6, 2007


Google is such a vast company.... they do so many things in such a profoundly sub-optimal way from the perspective of user experience, that a little skepticism is richly deserved. It will all depend on how seriously they take the challenge of desiging and testing the UI.
posted by lodurr at 10:52 AM on November 6, 2007


Also, how would Mefi look on a small screen?

I read Mefi on my iPhone on a regular basis and it looks just fine to me. You can zoom text to fit.
posted by streetdreams at 11:17 AM on November 6, 2007


Small screen and even poor resolution make surprisingly little difference. I used to surf the web in Opera on my first generation Archos PMA, which wasn't as high res as an iPhone. Web pages were surprisingly useful. I don't know how fingertip touching would work with small links -- I imagine it would be a nuisance to always be zooming to get access to some small link (those 5-links-in-5-letter-word MeFi FPPs would be murder), but that would be a problem for anything, gphone or iphone or oMokoPhone.
posted by lodurr at 11:37 AM on November 6, 2007


iPhone (and now the iPod Touch) has the only 'mobile' browser which doesn't make me want to stab my eyes out. I canceled my data plan on my old HTC Wizard because it was just too painful.

It's pretty amazing to have wikipedia ready to rock in your pocket. The term 'walking encyclopedia' is now an apt description.
posted by mullingitover at 11:53 AM on November 6, 2007


mullingitover, what have you used? I haven't used a graphical browser on a phone or even on a phone device -- I've used Opera and Konqueror on the Archos, and that's the limit of my own small-screen experience. The Wizard I assume would be IE. Can you go into detail about what was bad about it? Did it just do a really bad job on the zooming? Bad resolution? Bad type? Just hurt to look at (so maybe a function of screen brightness)?

Curious, here.... I reckon to have a real mobile device someday, though not soon, and while it's more likely to be a UMPC than a phone I'd like to know what the issues are.
posted by lodurr at 12:21 PM on November 6, 2007


What about the Y!Phone?

Actually, Yahoo's "GO" is an integrated suite (Flickr, YIM, News, Search, Local, Mail, Weather) that looks pretty cool on my phone and has an interface that does the same swishy-slidey reveal thing that Apple is fond of. It's been around for a couple of years. It looks cute.

iPhone (and now the iPod Touch) has the only 'mobile' browser which doesn't make me want to stab my eyes out.

I just don't get the attraction of "surfing the entire web" on a small screen. The whole iphone browse-scroll-zoomin-scroll-zoomout thing is a right pain in the arse that only looks good in ads but is decidely sub-optimal for prolonged use. Even though I have Opera Mini and Mobile on my phone (HTC Hermes, AKA Sprint Mogul), I tend to spend most of my time reading updates through RSS. Otherwise there's just too much extra cruft, banner ads, all that crap. Seriously, who "surfs" anymore - I just want to get to the information, formatted with the fonts I like.
posted by meehawl at 4:31 PM on November 6, 2007


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