To the surprise of no one who pays even cursory attention to mobile phones, today Google announced the Nexus One phone and their new Google phone store. In case you were hiding out, here are the event highlights:
- The hardware is leading edge. Manufactured by HTC, the Nexus One sports a high resolution 3.7" AMOLED touchscreen, a screaming 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, powerful 3D graphics capability, and the usual array of sensors including GPS, compass, accelerometer, light, and proximity. Its 5 megapixel LED flash-equipped camera is on par with most high-end phones (surpassing the iPhone 3GS) and the addition of a second microphone provides active noise cancellation for voice (calls and input).
- The software has advanced considerably. Erick Tseng, Google's presenter and a senior product manager, showed off a lot of eye candy from the Android 2.1 platform including live, interactive wallpapers and applications like the forthcoming Google Earth that showed off the phone's 3D capabilities. More meaningful is the integration of voice as an input mechanism throughout the platform, going further than anyone yet has to place voice on par with the keyboard for inputting text. As Erick put it, Android 2.1 "voice enables every text field in the phone."
- It's available directly from Google — exclusively. The new Google store, from which consumers can buy a Nexus One right now, appears to do a nice job of streamlining and optimizing the process of buying a phone (with or without service) online, including a virtual experience that's probably as well as one can do without actually hefting and touching the device. But, beyond the experience itself the store breaks little new ground — its primary differentiation is that it has an exclusive on what is likely to be a very hot device.
Pretty far from the breathless speculation that's been flying around the Web since the initial news of Google "dogfooding" that broke several weeks ago. So what are the key take aways from Google's announcements?
- Google has taken responsibility for driving Android innovation. We think Google is sincere when they praise their Android partners for the quality of products and pace of innovation over the past year following the introduction of the HTC G1. But that praise doesn't mean they're satisfied. Google's tremendously skilled software engineering resources allow the company to drive innovation in software more quickly than their partners, and they are clearly taking that responsibility on. And it's good news for their partners who will inherit the benefits of that innovation — provided they can keep pace.
- Google will be an influential phone retailer…in the future. Google's influence in phone retailing today is limited to improving the online buying experience. But as they add operators (beyond Verizon and Vodafone who will debut this Spring), countries (today you can buy one from the US, UK, Singapore, and Hong Kong) and languages their impact will expand. At a minimum, Google will shift some buying from physical retail to the Web based on their massive customer base. But Google will also act as a kingmaker for its hardware partners based on its anointing certain handsets as exemplary "superphones", not unlike how Apple can make an application by its promotion in the App Store and in its advertising.
- Those awaiting another iPhone-like revolution are in for disappointment. There seems to be a default question posed with each new 'hero' device that gets launched: "Is this the iPhone killer?" Alas, the mobile phone industry is moving so quickly that these new devices cannot bring the level of change in experience that the first iPhone established as a game changer. We're in for continued, steady, incremental improvements — if that depresses you, you're seeing the glass as half empty. Those willing to spend to keep pace with this rate of innovation will find their mobile experience continuously improving, and that's good news.
As we said earlier, 2010 will be a big year for Android and we're looking forward to it. My question to you is: how many of you in the US that are not a T-Mobile customer are willing to switch just to get the Nexus One?