Google's 2006 phone prototype looked like a Blackberry

By on April 26, 2012, 5:30 PM

In documents produced by Oracle and Google's squabble over Java, The Verge has managed to spot a particularly interesting find -- a prototype Google phone from 2006. Perhaps the progenitor of all Android phones which would follow, the design is reminiscent of a Blackberry. It sports a physical QWERTY keyboard (remember those?) and a small LCD screen relegated to the upper half of the handset. 

Google's foray into smartphones was fueled by its collective frustration with unintuitive phone UIs and difficulties integrating third-party software. When Google pitched the idea to T-Mobile, the company referred to pairing its own engineering expertise with T-Mobile's unlimited data plan as a "win-win". Of course, truly unlimited data plans quickly went out of style afterward.

The T-Mobile G1 would follow about 2 years later as the first Android phone. The G1 would have a touch screen and sliding keyboard but as The Verge points out, touchscreens didn't seem to be in Google's game plan. Instead, soft menu keys were prerequisites according to Google's baseline specs.

Speaking of specs, the unearthed documents also spell out guidelines Google had set for future Android handsets. The company required GSM (sorry Verizon), at least 64MB of RAM, a mini-SD slot, a 2MP camera (or better) with a shutter button and at least a 200MHz ARM processor. Additionally, Google wanted to see its handsets feature at least QVGA displays (320x240), 16-bit color, USB support and Bluetooth 1.2.

In 2006, the Android prototype was slated to include phone, messaging and contacts apps alongside a home screen and Webkit browser. Google also intended to add Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar and possibly a threaded messaging app later that year, following its release.

The company had expected to have Android locked and loaded before September 2007; however, the G1 didn't debut until more than a year later. Meanwhile, the iPhone had launched in June 2007 and had already begun shaking up the mobile industry with its big touch screen and slim, keyboardless design.

User Comments: 4

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princeton princeton said:

Well it's been documented before that Android was to be more of a Blackberry OS style operating system until the iPhone launched in 2008 and created a completely different form of competition.

psycros psycros said:

<i>It sports a physical QWERTY keyboard (remember those?) and a small LCD screen relegated to the upper half of the handset.</i>

Yeah, we "remember" does most of the developing world - you know, all those places where they actually <i>make</i> all the technology? Funny thing about phones: you can type a lot faster when you don't need one hand just to hold the thing while you hunt n' peck with the other. Physical keys are also nice for those who don't have flawless motor control. In summary, QWERTY = tool, touchscreen = toy. But you knew that already.

How I wish Google would go ahead and make a portrait QWERTY with Android. RIM still has a ton of users around the world - why not steal them all away? Some people simply <b>cannot<b> use a touchscreen for typing, and many others simply want the rapid messaging that only a real keyboard can provide. Up the specs on the Droid Pro and include a cursor controller (touchpad, trackball, even arrow keys). BOOM, millions of new Googlites overnite, and we can finally give RIM a proper burial. Nobody outside government and a few big corporations actually uses BES and nobody really <i>wants</i> to, so that's <b>not</b> an issue. I'm talking about the masses sporting Curves, just praying for a superior QWERTY device. They won't be able to get their hands on true Android RIM clone fast enough, and they <b>won't</b> demand it be free on contract, either! And, just like with the iPhone and Android handsets, these phones will move into the public and enterprise sectors in short order. Do it, Samsung, HTC, Google - SOMEBODY. JUST FRIGGIN' DO IT!!

dotVezz said:

How I wish Google would go ahead and make a portrait QWERTY with Android.

HTC Status? [link]

There are one or two others that I think I've seen, but can't remember what they're called.

m4a4 m4a4 said:

psycros, they do have them. But the thing is that it will take more than that to "finally give RIM a proper burial". Don't just blindly assume that consumers want the great qwerty keyboard that BB's offer...

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