December 14, 2009 2:00 am

Google confirms test phone exists

Rampant speculation about a forthcoming “Google phone” has forced the company to confirm work on an experimental handset and software.

As pictures of the phone began appearing on the internet at the weekend, Google said in a blog post that it had given the device to employees across the globe but could not share specific product details.

A Google-branded phone would be a controversial departure for the Silicon Valley company. It has won wide support for its Android mobile operating system from operators and handset makers, but producing its own phone would be seen as competing with its partners and would represent a rare venture by Google into hardware.

The TechCrunch blog reported at the weekend that a phone known as the Google Phone or Nexus One would appear in January. It would be made by HTC of Taiwan and would be an unlocked GSM phone sold directly by Google or through retailers, rather than through any particular carrier.

In October, Ashok Kumar, Northeast Securities analyst, said Google would come out with its own self-branded smartphone by the end of this year. It would follow up with a series of phones running Android, as well as launching a branded netbook running its new Chrome operating system early next year.

Mr Kumar said he had spoken to Google’s original device manufacturer partners in Asia, who would supply the phones.

However, Andy Rubin, head of Google’s Android development, has said in response to speculation that Google is not making hardware but enabling others to build it.

Google could be motivated to bring out its own phone if it needed to drive adoption of Android, but the operating system has taken off over the past six months with a number of Android-based smartphones appearing from manufacturers including HTC, Motorola and Samsung.

This is also not the first time the company has given away experimental handsets to those working on its software.

At its developer conference in May, it gave every attendee an HTC phone running Android. The handset later appeared in a slightly altered version as the myTouch model offered by T-Mobile in the US.

In the blog post on Saturday, Mario Queiroz, vice-president of Product Management, said Google was just continuing with its practice of asking employees to test products and suggest improvements.

“We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe,” he said.

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