Could Google’s Phone Be a Net Neutral One?

Carl Howe speculates that if Google is going to release their own phone, it’d be unsubsidized and unlocked, able to run on any major carrier’s network. That would still be contrary to what Andy Rubin said last month, and still strikes me as something that would antagonize existing Android handset makers. And you’d still have to pay for a monthly voice and data plan, the cost of which isn’t likely to be any less than the plans for subsidized phones.

But, if this is what Google has in mind, perhaps Google itself would be willing to “subsidize” the cost of the phone to some degree in anticipation of mobile advertising revenue. There’d have to be some sort of hook like that, because a starting price of $400 or $500 just isn’t going to cut it against subsidized iPhones and Droids that start at $99.

What if the Google Phone Is Data Only, With VOIP for Voice?

If there’s any truth to this Google phone rumor, I think Mike Arrington may be onto something here:

The Google Phone may be a data only, VoIP driven device. And Google may be lining up at least AT&T to provide those data services for the Google Phone, says one person we spoke with today.

The idea is that you’d just pay for a data plan, get a phone number and voice mail through Google Voice, and all your “calls” and SMS would go over IP. Lower monthly bill, no bullshit about minutes. It’s a wonderful idea — I just can’t believe any of the U.S. carriers would go for it.

Filed Away for Future Claim Chowder: Mike Arrington Says Google Is Making Its Own Android Phone

Mike Arrington says Google is definitely making its own phone, coming in “early 2010”:

Way more interesting are the rumors we’ve been hearing for months about a pure Google-branded phone. Most of our sources have unconfirmed information, which we describe below. But there are a few things we have absolutely confirmed: Google is building their own branded phone that they’ll sell directly and through retailers. They were long planning to have the phone be available by the holidays, but it has now slipped to early 2010. The phone will be produced by a major phone manufacturer but will only have Google branding (Microsoft did the same thing with their first Zunes, which were built by Toshiba).

That puts Arrington on the same side as the almost-always-full-of-shit Scott Moritz. On the other side: Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering for Android at Google, who just two weeks ago said Google would not “compete with its customers” and “We’re not making hardware. We’re enabling other people to build hardware.”

So either Mike Arrington is totally wrong or Andy Rubin is a liar.

At the outset of Google’s Android initiative, I was a proponent of their creating a Google-branded, Google-designed reference handset. But at this point, after promising their hardware partners for 18 months that they wouldn’t do that, I don’t see how Google could do it without infuriating their partners and spoiling their trust. It’d be like what Microsoft did to its PlaysForSure partners when it introduced the Zune.