Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My take on the Nexus One "Google Phone"

I think it's an experiment to test the American consumer's tolerance to a more open model for mobile telecommunications. Right now, we generally begrudgingly accept the subsidized phone hardware with a two-year expensive contract model. But, there are already a couple of other similar experiments going on:
  • T-Mobile has introduced an alternative set of plans (Even More Plus) wherein you pay more up front for the device,  but get a cheaper monthly rate for the same services. If they would extend the lower pricing but allow you to "bring your own device", that would be nice.
  • Nokia is offering their N900 only as  fully unlocked and completely un-subsidized device.
I see this as a way to test the waters and see if we are willing to look to a model more akin to how we deal with our computers and ISPs. Most of us would think it was completely ludicrous if Apple would only sell us a Macbook for $899 with a two-year contract from Time-Warner's Roadrunner division. But somehow we have allowed this business model to prevail for the devices that are always with us. Just replace Macbook with iPhone, $899 with $199, and TW/RR with AT&T if you doubt that statement.

If all of this had been imminent 6 weeks ago, I probably wouldn't have purchased the Droid. I really do like the device, but now I'm stuck with Verizon for 2 years and will have to deal with crazy stuff if my hardware fails during that time. I was also glad that there was no VCast NASCAR that I can't remove from my phone's ROM. That would actually have been a deal-breaker, despite the other compelling features and functionality.

Having a model where I can pick the "best of breed" for the device and the carrier independently -- while finding a way to not get reamed on the price of both -- seems like a fundamentally good thing to me. If this is indeed Google's intent, then I certainly hope it proves to be successful. Outside of things that are essential for functionality, I would prefer if this model also means that no "crap" will be installed on the ROM -- giving the device's owner more control.