Will Google’s Nexus One Kill the iPhone?

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stevejobs.jpgThe Internet is all a-Twitter with talk of Google’s latest phone, dubbed the Nexus One.  I say “latest” because Google has had a hand in several phones before, including the T-Mobile G1 and others.  Sascha Segan at PCMag.com points out the fact that Google is hardly new to the foray of mobile phones.

That’s not stopping others from proclaiming the imminent doom of Apple’s iPhone, though.  Alex Salkever at Daily Finance has a point, though, with this rant about the continual network problems that plague AT&T, the iPhone’s only authorized carrier.  The recent network outage in San Francisco and AT&T’s refusal to acknowledge it as well as their point-blank admission that their network can’t handle the iPhone users’ heavy traffic may have sealed the deal for many smart phone buyers.

As all of this was happening in the tech rumor world, Google’s new phone was being tossed around the blogosphere with leaked pictures and whispered comments about its specs.  So the Nexus One is introduced in the way so many Google things appear to be: through the underground.

And now, Time Magazine has announced its finalists for the Person of the Year.  That list includes Steve Jobs of Apple, who was recently named CEO of the Decade by Fortune.  Of course, he’s competing against the Iranian Protesters, whose green-clad Twitter hordes are voting them to the top, and President Barack Obama, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize while simultaneously sending more troops to war.  It’s doubtful whether Jobs has much of a chance against those kinds of cults of personality.

The real problem for the iPhone is really just AT&T.  The iPhone itself is a great platform, no matter who you ask, and there’s a reason it’s been the leading smart phone for so long, despite attempts by other companies to compete.  The Achilles heel of the iPhone is its network exclusivity and that seems to be what Google is targeting with their Nexus homing missile.

The problem for Google is the carrier networks.  There are three different spectrum bands using two different radio standards.  This is in part because of the licensing required for the phone carriers to use the radio bands that mobile phones operate on and partly because of exclusivity deals.  Of course, 3G is available on three of the four carriers, but coverage is so limited that it’s all but useless right now.

So an unlocked GSM phone from Google may not be the iPhone killer the current blog meme would love it to be.  Price tags will be another issue, since without locking into one carrier, Google is not likely to be able to sell their phone at a price that competes with the iPhone, who receives heavy contract subsidies from AT&T.

Further, using the GSM network as Google is proported to be doing, limits the Nexus One to only AT&T and T-Mobile.  While this directly competes with the iPhone, it leaves the Android-using masses on Verizon and Sprint out in the cold.  Perhaps Google plans to release two versions of the phone, one for each network?

One can only dream.  Meanwhile, most of us will just keep using our iPhones and hope that AT&T figures out how to improve service somehow.

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