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Google's wireless service plans take shape in leaked app

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What if your mobile contract could be condensed into an app-based subscription service like Spotify or Netflix — one that you could put on pause when you don't need it, switch between phones without swapping SIM cards, and pay for by the gigabyte of data used? Those are the broad strokes of Google's planned wireless service in the US, according to a report from Android Police based on a leaked app. It's not possible to be certain that the leak originated from Google itself, however its level of detail and the way it meshes with earlier reports about Google's plans would suggest there's something to it.

The app in question is called Tycho, and it contains all the usual settings and options you might expect from a carrier app. You can pay bills, check your data usage, adjust plan details, and so on. But you can also activate your service with Google, request a new number, or switch numbers directly from within the app as well. This is also the spot where you'll be able to pause or suspend your wireless data service or even close your account entirely. So, in quite literal terms, wireless service turned into an app. Well, more than one app, actually, since there's also reference to a separate Project Fi app. Project Fi appears to be the codename for Google's wireless service, which this leaks suggests will offer free calls and texts within the United States while charging for data on a per-gigabyte basis.

T-Mobile and Sprint, the two carriers that were reported as Google's partners that would provide cellular connectivity, also make appearances in the leaked app. Verizon and AT&T are notable for their absence. Another interesting aspect of this leak is that it suggests Google will offer data-only options for at least some devices on a given plan. That could work out nicely if you don't care to make phone calls with your 4G tablet.

A month ago, Google's Sundar Pichai confirmed the rumors that the Mountain View company was planning a wireless service of its own, though he added an important caveat: "we don't intend to be a carrier at scale." As the chief in charge of Google's mobile products, Pichai is one of the key decision makers who'll shape the way the company's wireless service works, and his focus is on creating a seamless wireless service that exploits Wi-Fi as much as cellular networks. That's where Google can potentially disrupt the status quo, even if it doesn't have immediate plans to go to a large-scale deployment. In any case, Google I/O this summer looks like the time when Pichai and company will have more to disclose.

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