Is Motorola readying a 'social networking' Android phone?

About three weeks ago, Motorola disclosed intentions to BetaNews around building Android devices. Details have yet to be announced -- but now, some of the specifics might be indirectly emerging.

A report released this morning predicts that Motorola will release an Android phone with "social network friendly" features in early 2009. Although specifics around Motorola's first Android device have yet to be confirmed, the report could make sense in light of T-Mobile's stated intentions for a series of Android devices geared to different "user experiences."

Motorola is "excited about the innovation possibilities on Android," and "looks forward to delivering great products in partnership with Google and the Open Handset [Alliance] community," a spokesperson said in an e-mail to BetaNews on September 30.

However, a story published in BusinessWeek.com this morning cites unnamed sources as stating that Motorola's phone will feature "social-network-friendly features," an iPhone-like touch screen, and a slide-out qwerty keyboard. The time of publication for the article -- 12:01 am -- suggests the information may have been under embargo until this morning, which could lend credibility.

Set for delivery in the US market in second quarter of 2009, the device will be part of a new category of Motorola smartphones aimed at easing connectivity to mobile social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, according to the report, which also references spec sheets and images shown to wireless carriers around the world.

The account in BusinessWeek does not spell out whether the prospective phone will be delivered by T-Mobile or Sprint, the two US carriers currently belonging to the Google-spearheaded OHA. T-Mobile has been a carrier of choice for Motorola's more stylish feature phones, while Sprint has seen support from Motorola on its Xohm WiMAX platform.

T-Mobile confirmed last week to BetaNews that the company is on track to ship the first Android device -- the G1 smartphone built by HTC -- on Wednesday of this week. However, a T-Mobile spokesperson would not confirm widely published reports that T-Mobile has received 1.5 million pre-orders for the G1 -- reports which many analysts now estimate to have been overstated.

Motorola spokespersons were temporarily unavailable for further comment this morning. But an Android phone with a "social networking" personality could make sense in light of comments made to BetaNews by a T-Mobile official at a G1 launch event in New York City in September.

While the G1 is aimed at providing a "Google-focused experience" to users, future Android phones for T-Mobile's 3G network will be tailored to other kinds of "user experiences," said Mitch Lustig, T-Mobile USA's senior manager of product development, speaking with BetaNews in September.

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