Before we jump into today’s juicy rumor, I felt I owed my loyal readers a little explanation about where I get my info and how I choose to share it. In the past I have done a poor job with separating the actual rumors from my commentary and I realize this has caused some confusion and led some to believe I just make a lot of stuff up.
For starters, if it wasn’t already obvious – I am not a trained journalist so I don’t follow their rules. Some companies may refer to me as a journalist or member of the press, but I’m really just a blogger who has been covering the mobile space since the introduction of the first Android phone.
I’m a pretty modest guy, but this past year I have traveled the world and been fortunate enough to make lots of new friends including people at every U.S. carrier, several chipset makers, and all the big handset makers. I’m not going to bore you with every trade show that I’ve been to, but if a company was holding an Android related event this past year, then I probably attended it.
On the scale of Android Insiders I would probably rank myself a 6 (with 10 being the top), but I have regular contact with a few 7s and 8s. I travel quite a bit looking for the next big story so every now and then I find myself in a room with some 9s and 10s. These are the people that provide me with info along with a tight-knit group of fellow Android bloggers.
Leaked information is shared with me on a frequent basis by three types of sources. There are those people that leak info to create buzz for a particular company or product, those that leak info to hurt the competition, and those that leak just for the fun of it.
Most of the info I receive is always “off the record” and if I went public with it someone would lose their job or I could have my door kicked in like Gizmodo’s Jason Chen. Some people just hate info that comes from an anonymous source, but if I have a piece of information that I believe to be true and I am able to share it then you can bet I’m going to write a post about it.
I have broke a lot of big stories over the last year, but I will be the first to admit that I sometimes get parts of the story wrong. The benefit of writing for a high-traffic site is that a lot of people read your work and many are quick to point out when you get off-target.
My two misses this year were the all U.S. phones getting Android 2.1 and the Motorola Gingerbread exclusive. For the Android 2.1 story I got my info from several sources at different carriers which told me all their phones would be upgraded and they believed other carriers would follow suit. The said carriers did upgrade their phones to Android 2.1, but as you know by now several decided not to spend the money on software updates and many phones were left behind.
For the Motorola Gingerbread story I got my info from one source at a hardware partner involved with the project, but I now believe it was outdated (more on that tomorrow). There are normally up to 5 major companies involved in most flagship phone launches, so the info that one partner has could be outdated and often subject to change.
In order to provide you with the most accurate information, I will now clearly label any posts that contain a rumor and make sure to separate the rumor from my commentary.
Back to your regularly scheduled programming…
The rumor: Samsung and Google are working together on a Google-experience phone that will be one of the first to ship with Gingerbread. The device will be ready late this year, but it will only be for testers. Features include an AMOLED display and support for MasterCard PayPass. No carrier partners have been revealed.
The sources: My first source wishes to remain anonymous, but we go way back and I trust them. They have provided me with several pieces of info over the years that have always turned out to be true and they have yet to let me down.
After posting this story a second Android Insider from one of the U.S. carriers has confirmed this rumor. This source also goes way back with me and has no relation to the first. Based on the information I have from both sources, I have no doubt this phone is real.
One Android Insider’s take on the rumor: When I first heard this rumor I was a little shocked because Samsung has not shipped a Google-experience phone in awhile, but the more I thought about my travels over the last several months, I started to piece together the puzzle.
This week I have been MIA because I went to visit with TI to talk about their new OMAP4 processor. They cancelled on me at the last minute so I used the downtime to chat with some old friends and dig up some new info on this secret Samsung phone.
The first thing that popped in my head was an article that said Samsung had a Q4 hole when it came to new smartphones this holiday season. I heard some Samsung executives were pretty unhappy with the story and I got the general feeling that the story would be proven wrong by Christmas.
We hoped to get a glimpse of what Samsung was working on at their CTIA press conference earlier this month, but it was unexpectedly cancelled just a day before it was scheduled to take place. I tried to get some details out of Samsung about what they had planned to announce, but all I got was “wait and see”.
Since that time I have heard nothing related to new Samsung phones (minus the Verizon Continuum) until this rumor popped up that claimed they were working on a Google-experience phone specifically for Gingerbread.
This would be a change in strategy for Samsung to go away from the custom TouchWiz UI, but we have often heard that Google’s Gingerbread would make custom skins pointless. We haven’t exactly seen rave reviews about the TouchWiz brand, so I think it is quite believable for Samsung to ditch it in exchange for early access to Gingerbread.
I was lead to believe that the Motorola Olympus (Terminator) would be the first phone with Gingerbread, but I think that is no longer the case. Motorola doesn’t exactly place the highest importance on shipping with the latest firmware, but Samsung has increased their efforts to use Google’s latest offering on their new devices and was the first company to admit they were working on a Honeycomb tablet.
Next I thought of my conversation with W.P. Wong, head of Samsung Mobile’s product planning team, at IFA last month in Berlin. When I got to ask my questions the two things I focused on were Samsung’s willingness to ship a Google-experience phone and the possibility of them using a non-Samsung processor like NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 in future products.
When it came to a Google-experience phone, W.P. Wong said they were not ready to talk about any future products but I got the feeling that something was coming soon from his body language. On the topic of Samsung processors in Samsung phones, I was told they would use whatever is the best technology available and they were open to working with new hardware partners.
It turns out I was on the right trail when asking about Samsung using Tegra 2, because a month later NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang confirmed that Samsung was very important to their long term business and represented one of their biggest customers.
I have absolutely no idea what processor is inside this Samsung Google-experience phone, but based on the timing it I believe it will be Samsung’s 1 GHz Hummingbird SoC or maybe a refreshed part that has been clocked up to 1.2 GHz. We have heard of a new Samsung processor codenamed Garnett (from the leaked Verizon roadmap) so that leads me to believe it could be a refresh part.
Samsung also announced their dual-core Orion processor and said it would be available to “select customers” in the fourth quarter and mass production will occur in 2011. There is a small chance this could be a dual-core phone, but based on the overall timing I do not believe that Orion will be used yet. I have been hearing that Gingerbread is not fully optimized for dual-core processors quite yet, but it is actively being worked on.
Finally we have the MasterCard Paypass support in this new Samsung phone, which is just too random for someone to make up. This technology has been used in phone since I believe 2006, but it has yet to really catch on in the United States. We know that Google wants people to use their phones to purchase goods and services, so it makes sense that someone reached out to MasterCard to implement this new feature.
The final take: I believe this Samsung phone will be one of the first to ship with Gingerbread since it is a Google-experience device. Unlike previous versions of Android, I do not think there is a lead platform for Gingerbread. I expect we will see Gingerbread appear on a number of phones including the Nexus One (Qualcomm CPU), Motorola Droid (TI CPU), and even the myTouch 3G (also Qualcomm).
Look for more details to appear about this phone once it hits the hands of the testers late this year. If Google or Samsung does not officially announce the phone this year, I expect we will see it in some form at CES in January.
And the people say: What do you think about Samsung producing a Google-experience phone with a stock version of Gingerbread? Is anyone going to miss the TouchWiz UI? Which processor do you think Samsung has chosen for their latest phone? Will they use their Hummingbird, the rumored Garnett, the dual-core Orion, or maybe even NVIDIA’s Tegra 2?