July 31, 2014

Google Phone Gallery Launches, "with Google" Confusion Continues

Google.com/phone, formerly Google’s storefront for the Nexus One, has been relaunched as the Google Phone Gallery, letting users compare Android phones available in 14 countries from a variety of manufacturer and carriers.

Note that it is not a comprehensive list of Android devices. Rather, it seems to be a selection of phones that Google has decided to highlight.

While the stated intent of the gallery is to be a tool to help consumers compare and make decisions, Google is using the strength of its imprimatur to endorse certain phones and not others. That certain phones are not included in the gallery is a way of expressing disapproval with, for example, Verizon’s Fascinate (which leaves off Google Search for Bing) without being directly punitive.

Also of interest is that the “with Google” logo is prominently displayed by some of the devices in the Gallery, and that the list can be filtered to only show phones “with Google.” The site explains that “‘with Google’ phones have been optimized for use of Google mobile services, providing easy access to Search, Voice Search, Google Talk, Google Maps, Gmail, Sync, YouTube and Android Market (where available).”

This is the clearest (only?) explanation of what “with Google” means that I recall, but matters become confusing again when you consider a couple of issues:

  • The explanation is not substantively different from Google’s description of all phones in the gallery, which “include Android Market, Google Search, and other Google Mobile services such as Gmail, Maps, and YouTube.”
  • The gallery itself makes it easy to see phones with the “with Google” label next to those without it, and there’s no rhyme or reason to which phones get the designation. The EVO 4G, Droid Eris and Droid Incredible, all with HTC Sense, get the “with Google” label, but the HTC Desire, another Sense phone, does not; Motorola’s Droid X and Droid 2, with their “light” Blur skins and locked down bootloaders, get the “with Google” label, but Samsung’s Vibrant, Epic 4G and Captivate do not. And all of those phones have the requisite Google apps mentioned in the explanation.

It will be interesting to see how the Gallery evolves. I’m glad to see Google begin to give a quasi-certification to phones that meet certain standards, but hope that the question of what “with Google” means will be made more clear.