Motorola’s (MOT) sagging mobile phone business needs all the help it can get, and Google’s (GOOG) newish Android smartphone platform could present a nice opportunity for the company — smartphone sales are growing faster than the rest of the mobile industry, and Google’s technology is solid. But expect to wait about half a year before you can get your hands on one.
That “social networking smartphone” that Motorola is hiring folks to work on in California won’t launch in the U.S. until Q2 of 2009, and even later in Europe, BusinessWeek reports. If Motorola can stick to a Q2 launch, that’s fine — BusinessWeek says “many analysts have been expecting Motorola to roll out an Android phone in December or January,” but we’ve never heard anything like that, and weren’t expecting anything from Motorola until later.
Perhaps more important: If Motorola’s involvement — and if they actually have anything good and/or unique up their sleeve — can coax one of the two biggest U.S. wireless carriers, AT&T or Verizon Wireless, into selling the gadget, and into Google’s Android camp.
Why does this matter? Americans overwhelmingly buy their mobile phones from their carriers, so size is important. (Even AT&T sells a strong majority of Apple iPhones to existing AT&T customers.)
The first Android phone, HTC’s G1, will go on sale at T-Mobile — the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, with 31.5 million subscribers and a microscopic 3G network — this week. And other than that, only no. 3 carrier Sprint Nextel (S), with 52 million subs, has signed up to offer Google phones so far in the U.S.
Motorola’s and Google’s big coup would be to get AT&T, with 73 million subscribers, or Verizon, with 69 million subs, involved in selling Motorola ‘GPhones’. AT&T (T) has previously said it might be interested in selling Google phones at some point, while Verizon (VZ) and Google recently announced a mobile search/advertising pact — with no mention of Android.
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