Get ready for the Google Phone (the gPhone?)

The Wall Street Journal digs into Google's wireless plans.

Published August 2, 2007 4:58PM (EDT)

The Wall Street Journal's report today on Google's plans for entering the cellphone business is a little speculative (like all reports on Google's future), but here and there you find some nuggets of fine detail:

  • Google has "developed prototype handsets" that feature powerful versions of its applications, and it has "approached several wireless operators in the U.S. and Europe in recent months, including AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless," to bring these devices to market. T-Mobile, the Journal says, appears to be farthest along in developing these plans.
  • At its Boston office, Google is "working on a sophisticated new Web browser for cell phones, people familiar with the plans say."
  • Google has recommended that manufacturers build phones with a host of technology to support its apps -- a camera, Wi-Fi, 3G networking, and GPS.
  • "People who have seen Google's prototype devices say they aren't as revolutionary as the iPhone," the Journal reports. "One was likened to a slim Nokia Corp. phone with a keyboard that slides out. Another phone format presented by Google looked more like a Treo or a BlackBerry."

The Journal notes that dealing with Google is "a double-edged sword" for wireless carriers. Google's a brand that customers flock to, but carriers are afraid they're feeding the beast -- they're handing over advertising revenue to Google, a company that did, after all, just lobby the FCC to upturn the carriers' cozy closed business model.

The paper reports: "Verizon Wireless Chief Executive Lowell McAdam said the carrier has chosen not to integrate Google's Web search engine tightly into its phones because of Google's demands to get a large share of search-based ad revenue."

But Google is irresistible, and pretty much unstoppable. The carriers know that the wireless Web without Google isn't really the Web. The carriers can give in now. Or they can wait till everyone moves over to the 700 MHz band, when, as the FCC ruled on Tuesday, folks will finally be free to choose whatever handset and applications they want on their wireless plan.

And freedom's just another word for logging on to Google.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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Google Wireless