Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) announced a major new partnership with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) that involves the carrier selling a WiMAX-capable version of the Samsung Nexus S as well as offering the Google Voice calling service at no extra charge. The news is particularly notable in the wake of the proposed merger of AT&T (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA, as T-Mobile has previously served as a close Google ally and was the first to launch phones running Google's Android platform.
Sprint's move to support Google Voice is a first in the wireless world and is remarkable because it cedes to Google the call-management functions that were once the sole domain of operators. Through the deal, Google will further strengthen its grip on the customer experience through the combination of its Android smartphone operating system and its Google Voice call management service.
Under the terms of the Google Voice partnership, Sprint said the service will first be available on its new Nexus S 4G smartphone, and will be available "soon" on all its CDMA phones. Sprint subscribers will be able to port their existing number to Google Voice for no charge, and can use Google Voice to direct incoming calls, among other features. To make use of the service, Sprint subscribers must visit Google's set-up page and link their Sprint number to the service.
Interestingly, Sprint will essentially forgo revenues from international calling via the deal: "International calls placed from your handset will be placed and billed through Google Voice at Google Voice's low rates. You will need Google Voice calling credit to place those calls," Sprint explained on its website.
The second half of Sprint's teaming with Google involves selling Samsung's Nexus S device, though Sprint's version of the previously announced gadget includes built-in support for Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) WiMAX network. Sprint will offer the device for $199 with a service contract.
Samsung and Google announced a GSM version of the Nexus S late last year; T-Mobile USA currently offers it for $199 with a service contract. The Nexus S is the follow-up to the Google Nexus phone, released early last year and built by HTC. Google's Nexus line of phones run the stock version of Android--unmodified by carriers or handset makers--and are often the first to receive Android software updates.
While likely unplanned, the timing of the newfound relationship between Sprint and Google is significant in light of yesterday's announcement of a proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. Many have argued Sprint will face increasing challenges if the deal goes through, as it will be left as the only remaining nationwide player behind heavyweights AT&T and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ). Indeed, many yesterday predicted the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would push Sprint toward a partner like Google.
- see this Google Voice release
- see this Nexus S 4G release
- see this Wired article
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