Posted October 15, 2007 5:18 pm by with 8 comments

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The highly-touted, much-rumored GPhone may (or may not) actually be a reality—but it may not take the form we’re all expecting.

Ever since the rumor first began late last year, the GPhone is portrayed as the next-gen iPhone. We all hoped, however, that it would be the cheaper alternative. However, USA Today reports today that the GPhone may go another route: low cost, low tech.

Aside from the most recent infamous leaked pictures (which confirm the low cost/low tech theory), USA Today cites Google’s recent acquisitions of Jaiku and Zingku as evidence of this direction. (Okay, the didn’t really cite the photos. But they should have.)

That scenario gained credence last week after the search giant announced its acquisition of an obscure Finnish start-up, Jaiku, holder of key Short Message Service patents. SMS is text messaging, the technology that enables the exchange of short messages between billions of ordinary cellphones. . . .

Jaiku is key to a strategy Google has nurtured. To help its mobile push, it also acquired mobile social network Zingku and amassed expertise by participating in WebKit, an open-source browser development community. And it has expanded “Google SMS,” a free service that sends answers to inquisitive texters.

The low tech/low cost phone would be “aimed at young users” and “sell at a fraction of the price of an iPhone, RIM BlackBerry, Palm (PALM)Treo or Microsoft (MSFT) Windows Mobile smart phone,” according to Trip Chowdhry, analyst at Global Equities Research. Of course, we have to ask: how young is “young”? Is this “young” as Neil Patel defines it, or “young” as Andy defines it? 😉

There is (at least) one problem with the plan:

One major hitch: Cellphone carriers are insisting on a cut of ad revenue. “The carriers want money any time the phones are turned on, especially if the call is to Google,” [The Envisioneering Group’s research director Richard] Doherty says.

However, this doesn’t appear to seriously impede Google’s rumored plans:

Device makers have basic GPhone designs ready to go. Once Google signs an agreement with a launch carrier, “GPhones could flow into the market in a matter of weeks,” he says.

Or perhaps they won’t sign with a carrier, after their wireless spectrum bid/bluff that pushed for open applications, devices, networks and access.


  • I wonder if low tech is a good way for Google to brand it’s phones. You generally think high tech with Google and I wonder what appealing to the opposite market would do for them overall.

  • I’ve spoken quite extensively with some inside folks at Google re: the gPhone. I can tell you that the market is not really the younger segment (at least not any more so than any new phone is aimed at the younger segment).

    Also, take it for what it’s worth, but the cel-phone carrier deals (at least for America) have all been worked out already.

    I’ve posted most of this stuff to my blog already. If you’re curious on other details, twist my arm and I’ll send you the URL. 🙂

  • I bet it can’t be that low-tech if its from Google…:-)

  • Right now the rumors for GPhone handsets center around two main things:

    1)Manufactured by HTC.
    2)Running on Linux with Java-based apps.

    I don’t know if this necessarily means “low tech”. It’s still a “smartphone” and it’s running on what we can assume is going to be nice hardware (after all, if it’s from HTC then it will probably be damn decent).

    What I see coming from this strategy is greater compatibility with more services. Instead of being locking out 3rd party services and applications, the more standard “low tech” solutions will let more people and businesses hook into the GPhone and expand it accordingly.

    Of course, I could be way off. But the way I see it, I’m going to be much more likely to customize my phone if I don’t have to depend on hacking a kernel or learning how to program for radically new tech.

  • Lo tech or not, if they can offer low cost and go for volume, they will win.

  • Okay, enough rumors, enough may / may nots.
    Until a week or two ago it was going to be a phone, by some korean company, there even were some possible pictures of the phone.
    Now its not a phone at all, it is an mobile OS.
    what should we believe? Is someone kidding us?

  • A Phone, manufactured by a *taiwanese* company (HTC), with an OS designed by Google. That’s what the ‘rumor’ has always been, or at least what I’ve been saying since the beginning. As the game of telephone progresses in iterations away from my blog, where I originally posted the information, the information has become diluted somewhat.

  • Jordan McCollum

    We may not be the fount of all knowledge, but we have been covering the rumors—of which there have been many—since last year. For example, we wrote about the HTC deal two weeks ago, based on a Forbes report.

    I don’t see how that might have prompted USA Today to write this piece, since its contention is quite different than the HTC deal that we’ve mentioned before.