The FPhone

When I was a high school senior, my parents were eager to see me go to West Point, where my Dad and many of my parents’ family members had gone. I applied but I satisfied all the requirements (physical, recommendations, interview, etc) on the last possible day. My heart wasn’t in it. One day my Dad came to me and said, "you don’t want to go to West Point, do you?". I said, "I don’t, but how do you know?". He said, "because the people in the admissions department tell me you aren’t acting like you want to go". Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

So the fact that my iPhone is still sitting unopened in my office tells me something. I don’t want it. I have absolutely no interest in it. I’ve held an iPhone before. I’ve taken a picture with it. I’ve typed on it. I’ve used the awesome browser and maps. It’s a work of art for sure. But it’s not what I want in a phone to be honest.

The rumors of the GPhone that are running in the blogs this morning make me optimistic. Could Google actually deliver what I want? I am sure they are headed in the right direction. Here is my dream phone:

1 – same form factor as the iPhone – 3" x 2" super crisp display
2 – pull out dual slider keyboard like the Helio Ocean
3 – no operating system – just a browser, everything happens in the browser
4 – gmail, gcal, gmaps, gsearch, and the web
5 – flash audio and video
6 – data plan only, no voice, and also wifi
7 – voice delivered via voip (gtalk and skype) integrated with gmail address book
8 – sold unlocked only, not through any carrier
9 – a GSM radio – thanks Craig

Now that’s a killer phone. Because it’s not a phone. It’s a mobile browser that supports voice. That’s what I want. Who is going to be the first to deliver a mobile device like that?

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Farhan Lalji

    Sounds like the ideal. Its a connection device, not just a voice device.By the way, someone’s just unlocked the IPhone:

  2. Laurent Kretz

    I’ve been restraining myself of buying the iPhone, just because I thought it was a geek/gadget whim.Bought the Curve instead, and this is a killer phone on the current market, but it lacks some of the features you listed (and to start, the UI).That iPhone (for “ideal phone”) you describe would be this killer phone, if you added media (in general, mp3 + codecs for every format) to it…

    1. obscurelyfamous

      I was following that earlier today. That’s just awesome.Then again, I’m locked in for two years with AT&T already so I’m not sure how awesome it is for me.

  3. jonathan peterson

    The biggest problem with what you are asking for (and the iPhone for that matter), that you are 100% dependent on having connectivity for your applications.Which pretty much means without ubiquitous in-cabin wifi, your phone is useless during air travel. The good news is that with some local storage and google gears, you have the potential to have apps that work when disconnected and sync upon reconnection.

  4. Shivering Timbers

    Maybe nobody, unless you’re willing to underwrite the cost of R&D yourself.As much as I appreciate the appeal of a mobile web gizmo (and I love my iPhone), I don’t think pure mobile browsing has mainstream appeal (yet). A smart phone still needs to be a phone first, and for most people voice is still the killer app.I learned to loathe my old Treo, mainly because as a phone it was often non-functional.

  5. Pranav Chavda

    “sold unlocked only, not through any carrier”In the country where the Gphone rumor first started today, that’s how all phones are sold!

  6. Bill Erickson

    The one feature I’m hoping for – and it would get me to leave my blackberry – is integration with my Gmail account. Voicemails could show up in there, just like my Gtalk chats do now. They’d also be transcribed (and searchable). Text messages would be there too, and look just like Gtalk chats. Who knows, maybe Gtalk would become the same thing as SMS, with one person using SMS and the other using a chat client.

  7. Craig Plunkett

    It needs to have a GSM radio in it also, otherwise it won’t sell in units large enough. You should be able to buy any prepaid SIM and stick it in the device. Voice is such a ubiquitous application that a voice device that doesn’t work everywhere is useless. You don’t like the iPhone, I don’t like the iPod, because I didn’t want to carry around another device, so I’ve been looking for a smartphone with a decent music player and synch software. I haven’t found it yet, but for my birthday, my wife and kids bought me an iPod. I like it, but its still another device to carry around. Music is not as big a part of my life as it is many other folks, so I never got myself one. The iPhone is my ideal device, who really cares if it’s not “open”? It is the first device of any significance to have a second radio in it ( wi-fi ) that is not crippled and makes it a phone that can do useful things over a non-carrier network. Apple has single handedly moved your vision of open handsets and open access along further than anybody else in recent memory.

  8. Frank San Miguel

    For me, an unlocked phone with a “pay as you go” sim is the way to go (a huge percentage of European phones are pre-paid). My wishlist: small, flat, no keyboard, GPS, browser, email, calendar, contacts, wifi, phone.

  9. BillSeitz

    How about a MID with a headset?Do you want only WiFi as the network transport, or telco data protocols like GPRS?

  10. Vijay Veerachandran

    Fred, Guess Google is not going to disappoint me. As long as they are not talking with any of these big telecom companies we are gonna be fine. Apple got sucked in to AT & T.People just started hating apple. Just for locking fans in. Its going to fire back slow but steady and sure. Any one who pays 600$ for an I Phone while curve is free is feeling the pinch for sure.

    1. Craig Plunkett

      Vijay and proales don’t seem to get it. The people who spend $600 on an iPhone do it because they love the device and the UI, it’s love-in not lock-in. The carrier the iPhone comes with is immaterial to them. Why do people by MacBooks for $1000 when you can get a laptop for $399, it’s love-in, not lock-in. A friend of mine has dropped his blackberry because of the iPhones superior integration with his Mac and browsing capability, he can now do something useful with attachments, instead of having to have a laptop with him. They have a superior product, and AT&T was the smart one for adopting the iPhone, although it allows you to get around the carrier’s walled garden, ultimately it may be a bargain with the devil.And I agree about billing distinction between VoIP and non-VoIP, but you need two radios in the device because wi-fi is not widespread enough nor reliable enough to completely use it as your only means to connect to the rest of the world. I say put in a GSM radio, because you can buy cheap SIMs and only use cell minutes when you are not connected to a wi-fi network. Unlike europeans, most americans carry one phone with them.Methinks the VC doth protest too much and is doing market research for an undisclosed portfolio company 🙂

      1. fredwilson

        no craig, i am with Vijay. i hate the AT&T iPhone. but not an unlocked iPhone. hooray for that.

        1. Craig Plunkett

          Ah, but you didn’t buy the phone for yourself, didja? I was talking about the willing purchasers, but the hacking makes it moot. Now you can use your birthday present guilt-free.

  11. gzino

    I think your post is spot on but the title is off. You don’t want a (any letter)Phone. You don’t want a phone at all – like you said at the end, you want what we will get eventually – an online computing platform with mobile phone type form factor, supporting voice as just one of many applications. I ranted about his too a few months ago:

  12. Sylvain Carle

    Almost the Nokia N800. + GSM data connectivity. It does Skype so I guess VOIP is covered. And lots more. Linux based and quite hackable too (that’s good).Demo from the Nokia guy at CES 2007 – http://www.afroginthevalley…The video sound is a bit “noisy” with background noise but it’s one of my key “wow moment” of CES 2007.

  13. jackson

    Ask and you will recieve……..

  14. Kevin

    Maybe you should keep that iPhone Fred – this was just posted over at Rimarkable.com…

  15. Jeffrey McManus

    To all that I would add: support for using the device as a modem from my laptop using Bluetooth or USB.

  16. Logan Bowers

    OpenMoko is almost what you want.

  17. Erik S.

    It’s funny that you have no interest in your iPhone, because my friends with iPhones, and I, are still surprised that we seem to be using the damn things to do things that could be done more easily and effectively using the computer that is usually only a foot or two away.

  18. Z

    I’ll take it off your hands Fred – no use cluttering up the office with the damn thing 😉

  19. Max Bleyleben

    Aren’t you being a bit ungrateful? That was a gift from the Gotham Gal and your kids!

    1. fredwilson

      one of them is going to get it once i get it unlocked so i am grateful and they wil be too

  20. Marc

    add callforwarding, to forward your skype/etc calls to whatever international phone you are carrying at the time (for times when you are in a country with limited wifi hotspots, you can leave the Gphone at home)p.s. and global GPS