The subversive impact of the Google Nexus One phone

17 Jan 2010|Leigh Marinner

Most of the buzz on the new Google phone is about how sweet the display is, and how the number of Android apps is far behind the iPhone but on a steep growth curve. But the real impact of the Google phone will be its upset of the traditional US mobile carrier control of which phones consumers can use. In many countries phones are “unlocked” and unsubsidized and consumers can buy the phone they want and then sign up for a plan with the carrier of their choice. In the US carriers have fought this model, forcing consumers to only use phones provided by the carrier and locking them into two year plans in order to recover the cost of the handset subsidy.

Since the beginning of Google’s work on Android as a mobile operating system, they have been trying to break the control of mobile carriers and handset makers. Google believes the success of its mobile search efforts rely on a robust and fully functioning mobile Internet ecosystem, not constrained by operator/handset maker control which limits consumer options. Android is intended to make it easier for mobile consumers to connect with the Internet, to allow content and advertising to be delivered directly from providers to devices, bypassing operators’ UI and control.

By allowing consumers to buy the Nexus One phone and not be locked into any one carrier, Google has introduced a seismic shift in the US mobile ecosystem. If several carriers using the same mobile technology (GSM or CDMA) support it, the consumer will have a choice of which carrier to use without having to buy a new phone. Because the iPhone is still locked into the AT&T network, other carriers are eager to have a real competitor. Like the iPhone, the Nexus One offers a much better mobile internet browsing experience than Blackberry or Windows Mobile. And developers are quickly building Android apps.

Apple cracked the mobile carrier control when they called the shots on the iPhone UI and pricing. Now Google is attacking the carrier control even more directly.

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