Wal-Mart to sell Google’s Android phone

October 29, 2008

android1 Wal-Mart is to stock the T-Mobile smartphone, the first on the market that runs Google’s open-source operating system Android. Keeping with the chain’s pricing policy, it will undercut T-Mobile stores by more than $30.

The G1 phone will be available in Wal-Mart for $148.88 compared to the T-Mobile price of $179.99. Buyers will still need to sign up for a two-year service plan (at a minimum of $55 a month), which could well lessen the number of sales to impulse bargain-grabbers.

Some sites have compared the deal with Wal-Mart becoming the exclusive stockist of albums including AC/DC’s recent release. However, there doesn’t appear to be any confirmation that this is an exclusive deal of any kind.

There are also no details yet on how the purchase price will be split between Wal-Mart and T-Mobile. While it may appear on the surface to be a price war, it may well work out that T-Mobile makes as much or even more money overall simply because Wal-Mart exposure attracts new subscribers. Remember that each new subscriber is worth at least $1,320 to T-Mobile (a figure you almost certainly won’t see listed on Wal-Mart shelves.)

As you’d expect, some people who’ve already paid the full $179.99 are a little miffed, including The Channel Wire’s Andrew Hickey. He explains that it’s the quick timescale of the discount (just a week after the official release) that stings more than the price cut itself. While he’s understandably bitter, he does make a valid point in wondering whether Wal-Mart staff will have the technical knowledge to give a good customer service to potential buyers.

However, the distribution deal may well have advantages beyond the increased revenue. As much as Wal-Mart may be known for cheaper brands, it’s certainly a mainstream outlet and adds much-needed credibility to the idea that an open-source device can thrive in the mass consumer market.

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