Google testing its own mobile phone

Google's employees are testing a new mobile device that runs on the company's Android operating system.

Google's employees are testing a new mobile device that runs on the company's Android operating system, as the search giant continues its push into the wireless market and toward more direct competition with Apple's iPhone.

In a blog post Saturday, Google said the new device combines hardware built by an unnamed partner with its Android software. The free software is crucial in Google's efforts to make its search engine and other services as accessible on cellphones as they already are on personal computers.

Google handed the device out to employees across the globe so they could "experiment with new mobile features and capabilities" and give quick feedback on the new technology, said Mario Queiroz, vice-president of product management, on the company's blog.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported Sunday that Google plans to sell the phone directly to consumers instead of through a wireless carrier. Such a move means Google would go head-to-head with Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's Blackberry, as well as current makers of Android phones.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google launched its first Android phone in September 2008, the G1 sold by T-Mobile USA. Verizon Wireless last month released the Droid in the U.S., the first smartphone to run Android 2.0, and expects to launch another Android phone this year.

Canadian wireless carriers offer Android phones, but so far none that run Android 2.0.