Out of Control Policy Blog

More Overwhelming Evidence of Cell Phone Competition

Early reviews of Google's wireless phone, the G1, exclusively available from T-Mobile, are beginning to come in. Google, which developed the Android operating system for the device, is positioning the highly-anticipated phone, scheduled to be available Oct. 22, as a response to Windows-based mobile voice-data devices and the Apple iPhone.

Early commentators, such as Om Malik, see the G1 as more of a Honda to iPhone's BMW, but he finds a lot to like about it. Tamara Chuang, "The Gadgetress" at the Orange County Register, says she "loves" the Android OS (and says regular users of Gmail and Google's organizer functions will find synching very easy). She also reports that all third-party applications available at rollout will be free.

What does this add up to? Another demonstration of the competition, diversity and functionality in the wireless market. The iPhone may still set the standard among consumers, but G1, coming at $179 with a two-year contract, compared to the low-end Apple device, now priced at $199 and sold exclusively by AT&T.

Notice also that despite Android's claim of neutrality (it can work with any wireless system), it is still being offered by one provider, T-Mobile, under a contract arrangement. Also, as the Gadgetress notes, its email, calendar and personal organizer functions seem more aligned with Google applications–that is, user might find G1 easier to use if he or she adopts some of Google's other services. I don't see anything wrong with this, but Google, as a vocal supporter of network neutrality, has in the past. It's another mixed signal from the company on tech policy.

Google should be careful. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee and a big net neutrality supporter, doesn't like exclusive agreements with service providers, applications that are closely tied to operating systems, nor long-term contracts. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.


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