Google could have not just one Android phone to set an example for them all, but two this year, with help from Motorola.
The phone maker has announced plans to sell an Android phone directly through Google, as HTC did with Google’s Nexus One. Chief executive Sanjay Jha didn’t spell out whether Google would have the same involvement in developing this phone as it did with the Nexus One, or whether Motorola will cede branding to Google.
For consumers, this would mean another phone available directly for purchase from Google’s Web site. This is seen as a way to wrestle some power from wireless carriers, who often sell phones directly or in partnership with major retailers.
So far, Google’s experiment with direct sales has not gone well. Customers have complained of confusion over who qualifies for a $180 Nexus One from T-Mobile, currently the only carrier to subsidize the phone. To make matters worse, Google was unequipped to deal with a deluge of customer service requests, relying on e-mail responses instead of phone support. Reportedly, the Nexus One only sold 20,000 units in its first week according to a third-party estimate.
That’s not to say another Google phone would be a bad idea. Keep in mind that other carriers will offer the Nexus One later this year. If Google can offer a range of Android phones with subsidies from several wireless carriers, that’s a big step towards breaking up the exclusive deals that lock phone buyers into one carrier.
Motorola hasn’t offered any details on the phone it’s planning for Google, but the company has proven it can make solid Android phones with the Droid and the Cliq. Including the Google phone, Motorola says it plans to release at least 20 smartphones this year, most of which will most likely be Android based.