Google vaults into global wireless ring with G1 phone

NEW YORK -- The new Google goog phone, called the G1, made its long-awaited debut on Tuesday in New York, officially marking the arrival of Google to the big-stakes game of global wireless.

T-Mobile is the first U.S. carrier to offer the device, which will cost $179. Consumers must sign a two-year contract for data and voice. Data plans will start at $25 a month. The device won't be available until Oct. 22, but buyers can pre-order on T-Mobile's website.

Technically, it was T-Mobile's announcement, but there was no doubt about who was running the show: Google. To get the device, consumers must register for a Gmail account, Google's e-mail service.

Rich Miner, group manager of mobile platforms at Google, says the requirement is tied to synchronization of the device's calendar, address book and other applications. The synchronization process owes to the design of Android, the new mobile operating system used by the G1, which was also developed by Google.

Miner says G1 achieves what Google had hoped for: a device "that delivers the best mobile Google experience" possible.

In another nod to Google, the G1 is being co-branded. The tagline: "G1 with Google."

Cole Brodman, T-Mobile's chief technology officer, says the carrier likes the association because, "Google is the face of the Internet." Brodman downplayed the Gmail requirement, noting that customers don't have to actually use it. "You just have to sign up."

Still, some may find the requirement "objectionable," says Morgan Gillis of LiMo, a global coalition that supports the idea of open-platform mobile phones. "This brings up a big question about freedom of choice."

Roger Entner, senior vice president of Nielsen IAG, says the Gmail requirement serves a larger purpose for Google: It creates a "unique identifier" for each customer that can be used, eventually, "to target ads to you. That's why they did Android — to help satisfy Google's need for ad revenue" from the mobile Web.

Miner says that's not Google's plan, although he acknowledges that the G1 clearly focuses on Google.

"You wouldn't be buying a co-branded phone" with Google's name on it "if you didn't want Google services," Miner says.

T-Mobile, for its part, is hoping to use the G1 to drive sales, Brodman says. "We hope to sell lots and lots of devices."

T-Mobile, owned by German phone giant Deutsche Telekom, is the No. 4 wireless provider, with about 25 million subscribers. The carrier has been building a 3G wireless network across the USA, with the goal of generating revenue from advanced services such as Wi-Fi, mobile broadband and video calling as consumer interest in the mobile Web soars.