Google takes a first step at upsetting the cell phone purchase apple cart

Of interest to the gadget-loving attorneys out there, today Google announced on its blog a first step towards another attempt to change how consumers buy cell phones.  Google will offer the Nexus One "superphone" through a Google-hosted store.  The Nexus One was built by HTC and runs the Android operating system.  Google was heavily involved in the creation of the device and customized the operating system to showcase what the newest version of Android can do.  Google said that other phones on other carriers will follow.

Keep an eye on Google in this space.  As with its Google Scholar search capabilities that allow free searching for caselaw, this first step by Google into the mobile phone sales arena won't unseat the major players...yet.  In fact, the initial offering is a fairly conventional choice of a subsidized phone through T-Mobile or an unlocked Nexus One at a typical smartphone price.  The interesting part of this development is Google's ability to bring so many handset manufacturers together under the Android umbrella.  Handset makers just want to sell their hardware.  A desirable consumer experience and a solid operating system with the ability to run large numbers of third-party applications sells the hardware.  Apple proved that.  If Google gains enough traction in the cell phone space to change pricing models and, perhaps, move towards a different subsidy model, such as ad and metrics-based subsidies, could inject a new dynamic into this market.

For the mobile lawyer, this may mean a downward pressure on prices and an increase in the quality of smartphone choices as service providers compete in the one way they most easily can - offering better handsets with lower service prices.