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Google's new Android strategy will circumvent carriers like Verizon

Published: Wednesday, May 16 2012 11:41 a.m. MDT

FILE - This Oct. 1, 2011 file photo, shows the Google logo at the Google headquarters in Brussels. Google is sifting through the photos and commentary on its blossoming social network so its Internet search results can include more personal information. (AP Photo/dapd, Virginia Mayo)

Virginia Mayo, AP

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Google, the company that produces the Android operating system for cellphones and tablets, is working with leading phone manufacturers like Samsung and HTC on a shift in product distribution that will encourage customers to buy Android phones directly from Google and thus cut out the proverbial middle men: cellular-service carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile.

"The new (smartphones) are expected to be sold unlocked, meaning they would come without a wireless contract and can run on multiple wireless networks by inserting a SIM card," Wall Street Journal technology reporter Amir Efrati wrote Tuesday. "Selling an unlocked phone could cost $150 or $200 more than a contract phone, and consumers would have to buy a contract separately. ... For Google, circumventing wireless carriers has many benefits, including preventing them from blocking certain apps. … By avoiding carriers, Google and its hardware partners can get devices to market faster, often by several months."

Efrati reported that Google hopes to have this new strategy fully operational by Thanksgiving.

An open letter titled "Dear Google: Android Needs Your Help" that PCWorld magazine published Monday illustrates the problems Android users encounter because of all the influence and interference carriers like Verizon exert on which Android features actually reach consumers.

"Your neglect is starting to show for those of us who depend on Android. … App makers are feeling lost, with no one to guide them through the perils of making an app that works on multiple Android devices," Armando Rodriguez wrote for PCWorld. "And sometimes it feels as if the carriers and device makers have more control over Android than you do; they dictate how (Android) looks, what it can run, and whether a phone or tablet will receive an update to the (operating system)."

The strategy of selling unlocked phones directly to consumers and then allowing consumers to choose their wireless carrier is popular in Europe, where Android is absolutely dominating competing operating systems like Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone. Indeed, Reuters reported Tuesday, "Research from Kantar WorldPanel showed Android gaining share strongly in most of seven major markets in the 12 weeks to mid-April. In Spain and Italy, its market share more than doubled year-on-year to 72 percent and 49 percent respectively, while it almost doubled to 62 percent in Germany. Strong demand for the iPhone 4S helped Apple narrow the gap with Android in the United States and Britain, but its share slipped in continental Europe."

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