Rogers to offer Google-run phones

Rogers Wireless said Thursday it would be offering two cellphones using Google's Android operating system.

Rogers Wireless said Thursday it would be offering two cellphones using Google's Android operating system.

Rogers said it would be launching the HTC Dream smartphone on June 2 and the HTC Magic smartphone sometime in June.

The two phones would be the first in Canada to run on Google Inc.'s Android operating system, a platform based on open-source software that Google has made available for free to cellphone makers.

Phones running Android are expected to be slightly cheaper than equivalent phones for consumers because manufacturers don't have to pay the licensing fees for the handset.

Rogers, however, has yet to release pricing details on the phones.

Rogers spokesperson Liz Hamilton said the handsets would both be available with or without a contract with the carrier.

Google created Android to help spur non-voice data use of cellphones such as web surfing, email and geo-location in the hope of generating more search revenue through mobile-delivered advertisements.

And like Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's BlackBerry phones, Android-powered phones can also access an application store to download new software to the phones.

Technology consultant Kaan Yigit of Solutions Research Group said Rogers' move to add Android phones and Bell's recent move to acquire all of Virgin Mobile are just part of the ongoing "tennis match" between rival wireless carriers.

"None of these moves are game changers," he said.

But he said the changes could help blunt the impact of new entrants to the wireless market.

The Android phones give Rogers another group of smartphones in the higher-scale mobile handset market, while Bell could position Virgin as another discount carrier to counter new entrants, he said.

Neither Rogers nor the other two main national carriers, Bell and Telus, were thought to be likely to offer Android, as none of the companies had joined Google's Open Handset Alliance.

The Open Handset Alliance is a group of technology companies, cellphone carriers and manufacturers with a shared vision of more open mobile devices, and includes carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel in the United States, China Mobile, Japan's KDDI and NTT DoCoMo, Telecom Italia and Spain's Telefonica.

Hamilton said Rogers is not a member of the alliance, and that its decision to offer the Android phones is unconnected.