T-Mobile is planning an aggressive push deep into the home with a variety of communications devices that will use Google’s new Android operating software that already runs one of its cellphones.
T-Mobile plans to sell a home phone early next year and soon after a tablet computer, both running Android, according to confidential documents obtained from one of the company’s partners. The phone will plug into a docking station and come with another device that handles data synchronization as it recharges the phone’s battery.
A T-Mobile spokesman, Peter Dobrow, declined to discuss the specifics of any future products but confirmed that T-Mobile had plans for several devices based on Android.
Last August, T-Mobile, the nation’s fourth-largest wireless carrier after AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, was the first carrier to sell a cellphone, the G1, based on the Android software, an operating system that handles the basic functions for mobile devices.
Google maintains some control over Android, even though the software is open source, meaning other companies can alter it to suit their needs. But so far, only the T-Mobile phone, made by the Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, uses the software.
Android competes with operating systems made by Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and others. The vision for the operating system, however, has stretched to cover a wide range of mobile devices, including computers.
T-Mobile’s use of Android to advance its ambitions also shows just how blurry the line has become between phones and computers. Its tablet-size phone device resembles a small laptop without a keyboard and has a seven-inch touch screen. It would handle basic computing jobs like checking the weather or managing data across a variety of devices in the home.
“All of the carriers are going to be supporting these mobile Internet devices that range from laptops to smartphones,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst with Opus Research, which monitors the mobile industry.
It started slowly, but Android has attracted more interest lately among handset manufacturers and carriers. For example, Samsung committed last week to ship a number of Android-based phones this year, with T-Mobile and Sprint likely to offer the devices in the United States.
In addition, Motorola is expected to sell a phone running Android by October, according to industry analysts. HTC has also said it planned to make other Google phones.
Smaller companies have seized on Android as well. For example, a start-up called Touch Revolution, based in San Francisco, uses the software to run a desk phone with a seven-inch screen. The device handles calls, voicemail and e-mail through its wireless access.
The chief executive of Touch Revolution, Mark Hamblin, worked on creating Apple’s touch-screen technology for the iPhone. He said that home phones with advanced software could offer people functions that go beyond what today’s cellphones do.
For example, the company’s phones will have many of the functions of computers. Some will have larger screens, which makes them handy for displaying recipes and a family calendar. “If you put this in a convenient location in the house, it will get a lot of use,” Mr. Hamblin said.
T-Mobile shares in this grand vision of more sophisticated devices in the home. For instance, its line of Cameo digital picture frames can receive new photos sent via e-mail or from cellphones. T-Mobile would like to link phones, photo frames, digital cameras, security systems, webcams and TVs through its software and networking services.
Verizon, with its new Hub phone, and AT&T, with its HomeManager, sell similar products that merge the delivery of information and phone calls on a computerlike appliance.
“This is their attempt to keep people interested in landline services,” Mr. Sterling, the analyst, said.
AT&T announced a trial program last week in which it will sell small, low-cost laptops known as netbooks for just $50 to people signing long-term contracts for its wireless data services.