Don't Believe the Hype: 4 Reasons Why the 'Google Phone' Is Overrated

The case against Google's own much-hyped smart phone

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Lighting up the tech world, the Wall Street Journal reports that Google has designed a mobile phone it will sell directly to consumers by the end of next year. The search giant's new phone is called Nexus One and will be manufactured by HTC. Techies are greeting the news with euphoric excitement: "This means Google is making hardware," marvelled TechCrunch. While most phones are sold through a wireless carrier, Google will sell the device through its Web site, prompting some to declare the death of the iPhone and the end of the middleman (i.e. phone companies like AT&T and Verizon). But is all the feverish hoopla misguided? Here are four reasons not to get swept up in the Google fanfare:

  • Not Google's Hardware, writes Pete Cashmore at Mashable: "While we all want to believe in the mystical Google Phone – and another iPhone competitor to increase innovation – what’s shaping up here is little more than...Google’s software on someone else’s hardware. I’d love for this phone to be called the 'Google Phone'. But right now we don’t have the evidence to make that assumption."
  • Prohibitively Expensive, writes Ian Betteridge at GigaOm. Since the Google phone won't have a mobile carrier subsidizing its cost, it will be largely unaffordable. By his estimates, a Google phone would set consumers back $400 to $600.
  • Self Destructive, writes Philip Elmer-DeWitt at CNN Money: "If Google were to try to sell a smartphone below cost, the company would be facing a 21st century version of the Microsoft antitrust trials, and the start of a long, slow decline."
  • Dishonest Coverage  A reporter at Technovia blasts tech bloggers for over hyping the phone and letting "facts get in the way of page views." He specifically targets the news blog TechCrunch for reporting that Google will "dictate every last piece" of the phone's design and functionality when in fact it will merely contribute "a lot of input." He also slams TechCrunch for claiming that Google's behavior is unprecedented. The search giant has been "'making hardware'– as in rebadging other people’s hardware with its own custom software – since 2002, when it first launched the Google Search Appliance," he writes.
[This] is a classic case of what happens when reporting collides with enthusiasm. In the rush to get the exciting post up and out, they simply haven’t thought about what they were writing."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.