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Monday, December 14, 2009

A Google Phone Called Nexus One?

According to several sources, Google has given a new Google phone to its employees. It’s apparently called Nexus One, Android 2.1-based, looks like this and this, has a touch screen, and is built by Taiwan’s HTC but with no HTC branding and full design control by Google. InformationWeek quotes he Wall Street Journal saying that “Google designed virtually the entire software experience behind the phone, from the applications that run on it to the look and feel of each screen. Google appears to want to throw its brand behind a device more directly, designing a phone without working with the wireless carriers that often dictate what features they allow on their networks.” The WSJ predicts that the phone will be available in 2010, apparently (says All Things Digital) sold by Google “without getting a wireless carrier to subsidize the handset” (though they might get infrastructure help from companies like T-Mobile).

I suppose when Google gives something to every employee they’re not afraid of, perhaps indeed hope for leaks, in order to give an early promotion to their products. Google in a blog post say they consider their product “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”. Sharing this with employees from “across the globe” means “they get to test out a new technology and help improve it.”

To get a feeling for just how public this is, consider that Google put up a special Nexus One game page publicly at Non-Nexus devices will be redirected to the Android homepage, but you can still see it loading or look at the source code and some of the included images (the special Android bots are called Abominable Applet, Robo-Ralphie, Runtime Rudolph, Nutcracker Hacker, SQL Snowman, Candycane Coder, Killer App Kringle, Patch Penguin, Christmas Cookie, Emulator Elf, Rock Star, and Gmail Gifty). Note you can also turn off JavaScript in your browser to avoid the redirect. The user agent string Google looks for in the code is
Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 2.1; en-us; Nexus One Build/ERD62) AppleWebKit/530.17 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/530.17

And what’s with the name, Nexus One? John Gruber writes, “Nexus is the brand name of the series of androids (a.k.a. replicants) in Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The story concerns escaped Nexus-6 models”. (Note Sony also called its Android interface Nexus.)

If you’re a Google employee, please email me some photos of the Nexus One!

[Thanks DPic! Top image by Cory O’ Brien’s, used with permission.]

Update: I asked Cory O’Brien, who shot above photo, for some impressions from using the phone. Cory says he doesn’t work at Google but his friend does, so he was able to play around with the phone:

I don’t have any details on specs, but I can say that the phone felt quick, as the OS was snappy and the touchscreen was just as responsive as my iPhone. Sliding page to page and clicking were all instantaneous. Also, while they were nearly identical in terms of external dimensions, the screen on the Google Phone was about 5mm longer. The phone itself was unbranded with the exception of a small etched Android character on the back, and had a super solid build quality feel to it.

He adds:

The phone was brand new, so it just had all the standard Android apps. I didn’t notice any apps that stood out as being new/unique. (...) The X was part of the boot sequence.

[Thanks Cory!]


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