We weren’t at the National Press Club meeting in Washington on Friday, so we don’t know the context for Sprint Nextel (S) CEO Dan Hesse’s speech. But we are surprised to hear him slam Google’s (GOOG) Android mobile operating system: It’s not yet “good enough to put the Sprint brand on it,” Hesse reportedly said, according to Reuters.
Why is this surprising to us? Because other than Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone — exclusive to Sprint’s much larger rival AT&T for at least a few more years — Google’s Android project is one of the few things in the mobile industry that people are actually excited about. And it’s definitely better than most — if not all — of the software running on the phones Sprint sells today.
Sprint, which has been rapidly losing customers while the rest of the industry is still growing, needs Android — or anything exciting, to attract new customers. And as one of the founding members of Google’s Open Handset Alliance, Sprint, in theory, should be the next carrier to get its hands on an Android-powered ‘GPhone’.
Which might be why Hesse is lobbing insults at Google. Sprint had hoped to get an Android phone in its arsenal by the end of the year to compete with the iPhone at Christmas, the WSJ reported in June, and because of delays — some outside of Sprint’s control — it won’t have one.
[T-Mobile’s] launch is taking up so much of Google’s attention and resources that Sprint Nextel Corp., which had hoped to launch an Android phone this year, won’t be able to, a person familiar with the matter said. …
One hold-up at Sprint is that the carrier would like to develop its own branded services based on Android, rather than just carry a phone with the built-in features Google plans to offer, the person familiar with the situation says. A management shake-up at Sprint, which brought in a new chief executive this year and, more recently, a new executive overseeing product development, may have also contributed to the delay. Sprint is now considering scrapping plans for an Android phone for its current third-generation broadband network and developing one that will work on the faster “4G” network it is helping to fund along with several partners, including Google, the person adds.
After having spent a week playing with T-Mobile’s Android-powered G1, we don’t think it’s for everyone — there’s still some missing features, and some rough edges that Google and T-Mobile can smooth with software updates. But the G1 is a powerful phone with strong Internet features. And it would make a good complement to Sprint’s fast 3G network, which is much larger than T-Mobile’s — a strong selling point to geeky early adopters.
Meanwhile, Sprint will be stuck trying to court gadget-seekers this Christmas with its iPhone-lookalike Samsung Instinct and some phones running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, as it goes up against AT&T’s iPhone, T-Mobile’s G1, and Verizon’s new touchscreen BlackBerry. Not the position we’d prefer to be in, either.