The Futurist: What We'd Like To See In A Google Phone

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The fact that Google is trying to take a bite of the Apple pie–that is, prepping a launch of its own mobile phone–is perhaps Silcon Valley’s worst-kept secret. As the rumors currently stand, the “Gphone” will come to America sometime next Spring, likely riding on back T-Mobile’s network, and, according to some reports, costing the Gguys several hundred million dollars in development costs.

So what will that money get them/us? If they want to compete in the ever-crowded mobile marketplace, which is increasingly filled with newcomers who made their name in other sectors of the tech biz, it’ll have to be plenty. Sure, seamless integration with Google Documents, Calendar, YouTube, etc… etc… etc… is a given. But here’s what we’d really like to see if they have any hope of getting us to ditch our iPhone/RAZR/Prada/wood block.

AD-SUPPORTED FREE CALLS:

Without a doubt, the most exciting part of the Gphone rumor-mongering is the word that phone might use ads to subsidize your minutes and texts. In other words–free calls! How they would go about doing this without completely ruining the experience is anybody’s guess. Simple SMS ads that arrive in your inbox would likely be deleted, and being forced to listen to a recording for Macy’s before you’re allowed to make a call would quickly prove annoying, or even dangerous (“Your call to 911 is brought to you by Goodyear. Goodyear: That’s driving excitement.”)

Luckily, Google is the master of ninja advertising. Google’s AdSense ads are incredibly unobtrusive–typically floating by in tiny print on the sides of pages. And you know what–these work better. When I’m not bombarded with a barrage of obnoxious ads, I’m much more likely to pay attention and click if one looks like it might be useful. In the end, however, I simply don’t believe Google would allow their ads to ruin the mobile experience or be intrusive to the point of counter-productivity. Perhaps an ad would flash on your screen while your phone dials.

The SMS bit is much easier–they’d simply add a little ad link to the bottom of your texts. No biggie, and nothing that would keep you from knowing where anybody is at. Anyway. If they can pull this off and actually reduce or destroy our monthly bills, no amount of multi-touch nonsense will be able to keep us or anybody else away from this thing.

OS:

Web portals, and Google in particular, have nearly all the making’s of a self-contained operating system. You’ve got your word processor, spread sheet, image editing software, etc.. etc…, all within easy clicking. As a result, it simply doesn’t make sense that Google would tie their phone down with an existing OS, and all the baggage that comes with it. Much more likely is that the entire interface will resemble a customizable iGoogle page–displaying exactly which programs you like, along with someRSS feeds.

Just please, for the love of G-d, don’t use Windows Mobile.

Grand Central:

Since Google, you know, own’s Grand Central, they’d be foolish to omit some of the telephoney service’s more enticing features. For example, the ability to forward calls for free would be a wonder–most carriers charge you almost a buck per call for the privilege . And, even though the iPhone already integrates ability to visually choose a voice mail without skipping through all your saved messages (one of the nicer features of Grand Central), it would be great if you could listen in live as somebody leaves a message and pick up halfway through–a rotary-esque feature that Grand Central finally brings to the digital age.

Documents:

It should go without saying that whatever word processor the Gphone uses should automatically back up your text in Google Documents. What would be really great is if you could type a document in Google Documents from home, and have the document instantly pop up in your account on your phone, ready for you to pick up where you left off. Take that Mobile Word!

Google Talk:

Using your phone for IM is so Sidekick II. If you could use your phone to talk, Skype-style, with somebody you are IMing, that’d be great. Keyboard-tap what you’d like to say, click a button to activate your microphone, and bam, they hear what you say as your chatting. Throw in some two-way videoconferencing and you’ve got the perfect mobile communicator.

Blogger:

Right now, blogging from a phone ain’t easy business, and is so troublesome that 90 percent of the time, we wait until we’re back at our laptops before making even the simplest posts. Built-in Blogger integration could revolutionize the way we blog on-the-go. Seriously.

Picasa:
Imagine snapping a photo with the built-in camera and having Picasa instantly load up for visual tweeking. No more blur, no more red eye, no more awful cameraphone shots.

Google Maps:
For the love of God, if you’re going to do this, do it right, and include an active GPS reciever.


Seth Porges writes on future technology and its role in personal electronics for his column, The Futurist. It appears every Thursday and an archive of past columns is available here.

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