There are more questions -- many more -- than answers about the Nexus One smartphone from Google. News about the device broke over the weekend with a vaguely worded blog posting from Google and other bits of information.
Observers think Google will sell the unlocked Nexus One online. HTC is said to be the manufacturer for the phone, which could be available as early as next month.
The first question is simply whether there is a Nexus One, according to Will Stofega, program manager for mobile-device technology for IDC.
"Everything is a bit fuzzy," he said. "It's a very interesting way of generating a lot of hype, but I would love to see details. For one thing, does it actually exist? I would
love to hear confirmation from Google."
Where -- and How -- Does It Fit?
Creative Strategies' Tim Bajarin assumes the device is real, but wonders how it will fit in with the rest of the wireless universe.
"The most interesting thing that needs to be answered is how it will work on multiple networks and if it will be truly open," he said. "The original way most of these handset guys work is they design product specifically for a [carrier]. So, for instance, they design for Verizon a CDMA chipset and focus on the Verizon network. One of the questions of the moment is the idea [the Nexus One] would be open, meaning consumers could go to a vendor and just buy a SIM chip or card and put it in."
That, clearly, would be the sexiest approach. But there is uncertainty on this vital point.
"There are secondary reports that Google is meeting with ... vendors to customize the phones," Bajarin said. "From a consumer standpoint, a more open device would be preferable, meaning that the user can control what network he goes on and other things. There are some technical issues, obviously."
War of the Androids
Stofega raised the question of whether Google, the prime driver behind the Android mobile operating system, may in essence be competing against some of its supporters. "Now that Google has a new-edition phone, what does that mean for the rest of the guys -- the Motorolas, the HTCs, in terms of competing with some of your customers?" he asked.
Bill Ho, a research director for Current Analysis, focused on the bigger and longer-term picture. "Is it a global play? And if 3G is the backbone ... how are they going to address the emerging markets like China, Latin America, and India?" he asked.
Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for the NPD Group, has his own set of issues, which he outlined in an e-mail. "The key questions are whether Google will offer the device directly to consumers or through carriers and, if the latter, which one -- as the device appears to support multiple bands," he wrote. "Historically, however, manufacturers do not build in support for T-Mobile's 3G bands unless the device will be offered through that carrier."
Rubin also raised a marketing issue. "With its high-end specifications, it will be an expensive device to offer without subsidization, although that would minimize competition with other Android devices," he wrote.
The answers may not come too soon. "I don't know if Google is under any pressure to move on this fast," Bajarin said. "It is more important, whatever they do, to get it right. [Industry] observers are anxious because they like to know basically what they are doing, but to be honest this has to be in Google's court, and they have to make sure the architecture, software and partnerships are right before they announce and/or ship anything."