Is Verizon More Open Than Apple? New Android Phones Will Support Google Voice

During a conference call that just ended to discuss Verizon’s new strategic partnership with Google to carry a line of Android phones and other devices, Verizon pitched itself as having seen the light and now embracing open platforms.  Google CEO Eric Schmidt even commented that when Google started negotiation with Verizon 18 months ago, “We did not know that they would also take a leadership position on openness, which was surprising.”

Pressed on this issue during the Q&A, CEO Lowell McAdam was asked whether Verizon plans to support Google Voice (which Apple doesn’t).  McAdam’s response: “Yeah, I guess we do. You either have an open device or you do not.”

If you remember, Apple’s rejection of Google Voice on the iPhone (available only on AT&T in the U.S.), is what got it in hot water with the FCC.  But apps like Google Voice threaten to take away some control from the carriers.  So it is refreshing to see the biggest wireless carrier in the U.S. (Verizon Wireless has 85 million customers) embrace it, at least in theory.  We’ll have to see if and how it is actually implemented.

Other details from the call:

  • Verizon will launch two new Android devices this year, with an entire family planned for the following years.
  • Those devices will include not just Android smartphones, but “specialty devices” such as netbooks, PDAs, and even simpler feature phones.
  • Smartphones currently make up 40% of Verizon’s handset sales, up from 10% a few years ago.
  • There are currently 9 Android phones on the market.  With the Verizon deal, that will go up to at least 11 before the year is out (earlier Google had hinted at 20 devices by year’s end).
  • Currently, Android phones are on 26 carriers in 32 countries, and there are 10,000 apps.
  • But 10,000 is not enough.  Part of the deal involves joint development of leading edge apps specifically for Verizon Android phones. McAdams noted that “both companies are committed to devoting substantial resources to bringing the latest applications to customers.”
  • Google CEO Eric Schmidt says, “This is a major deal for us.”
  • When I asked how many total Android phones are in consumer’s hands, Google’s Andy Rubin made up some excuse about how its too “hard to track.”  And I thought that math was Google’s strong suit.