I'm not the kind of person that finds some subtle jab at Apple around every corner, but today Google and Boingo announced a free Wi-Fi partnership that makes drawing such a conclusion hard to avoid.

Google has sponsored Boingo Wi-Fi a number of times in the past, offering the company's wireless internet in hotels, shopping malls, subways, and airports around the world. Today's deal extends to 4,000 hotspots across the US, including 15 major airports, numerous Manhattan subways, and thousands of other locations. It is also specifically branded as being sponsored by Google Play, not simply Google.

The catch is that, this time, only some devices can use the free service. Google has limited access to laptops (running Windows or OS X) and Android devices. It's almost like they forgot one other important mobile ecosystem. The deal extends through the end of September, so it's a short one, but the "zing!" value is still high.

While the logical argument here is "Well, iOS devices can't utilize Play Store content, so why give them free Wi-Fi sponsored by Google Play?" we're guessing that's kind of the point Google wants to get across: Android comes with benefits. Talk about marketing to the correct demographic all you want, but Google still made the choice to say "Yeah, we don't feel like including iOS on this one." Considering Google-sponsored Boingo access has never been restricted by OS before, that makes it all the more notable a precedent.

Business Wire

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

    Ok, no Linux laptops? How are Chromebooks supposed to work? #fail

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      It's not stated if Linux laptops are supported. So it's not a no, they very well may. But we can't say they do, because we don't know.

      • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

        Well, while they do not say Linux is not supported, they don't say it is either, and when they talk about laptops they say "Google has limited access to laptops (running Windows or OS X)".

        • deandre mylove

          just go try it and stop complaining

          • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

            I would if I could =) I don't live in the US.

          • oopscaughtyou

            @peterson_espacoporto:disqus So in other words, you've labeled this as #fail despite (1) not having confirmed the facts and (2) being completely unaffected by the whole thing because you don't even live there? #YOUfail

          • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

            (1) I didn't check because I can't; (2) If you think people worldwide are unaffected by what happens with technology in the US, you must be playing dumb. They might be ignoring linux, and this happens countless times here too. Plus, if at first the message sent concerned me, at second thought it was just weird that Chrome OS might not be supported.

            ... Also, why are you telling me (behind a pseudonym...) not to comment on a valid point? Geez...

  • Derail Doax

    Reminds me of the old Clear Wireless iSpot deal where you couldn't use the device unless you had an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad MAC address on your network card. I always wanted to buy one of those and spoof my MAC address just to silently stick it to Clear for shafting Android phones and tablets...

    • Asphyx

      I think Google may have finally figured out the chink in the cloud based media armour!
      Sure it's great to be able to buy content to view wherever you are but to pay for content and then be forced to pay the data associated with seeing or hearing it puts the content out of anyone's price range!
      Buy a movie on Google play for $10 and you still have to pay the price of the bandwidth used on top of it.
      The only way to see that content for the price it is in the store is to watch it on WiFi where carrier data rates don't apply. Great for locations where your near a free WiFi but for most people that free WiFi only exists at home and why do you need it from the cloud when you can probably get it cheaper from your cable company and watch it on a big screen!

  • Logan B.

    Where can one find a list of these spots? I'm in the Seattle area for a few months (before heading back to no-man's land Iowa) and would like to try this out while I'm here.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I think they're kind of intentionally vague about it. There's no list that I could find specifically for this promotion.

    • JPB

      The article cited states at least the following:

      Sponsored Wi-Fi locations include 15 airports, such as New York’s John F. Kennedy, Chicago O’Hare and Seattle-Tacoma, Boingo-enabled Manhattan subway stations, and thousands of hotels, shopping malls, cafés and recreational areas.

      I'm hoping it's there by this Saturday since I'll have an O'Hare layover on my way to Beijing.

  • http://digg.com/users/OmegaWolf Silver Fang

    Stupid question: How can they tell what OS each computer or device is running? Some kind of hardware signature?

    • http://twitter.com/jheyneman James Heyneman

      I'm not sure how they could check the computers, but iOS devices could simply be excluded by checking MAC addresses.

    • http://twitter.com/jheyneman James Heyneman

      I'm not sure about how they'd check computers, but they could exclude iOS devices with MAC address filtering.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001144455023 Michael J Carroll

      The OS or sometimes the browser itself reports what the device is to the routers whenever asked. If you own a website, it will also tell you the same information about your users. Of course, this can always be spoofed- generally it is only a small easily changeable file that reports the OS.

      • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

        This, although its harder to spoof than most people would think. Jailbroken IOS apps and the newest versions of the Android browser and chrome can do it easily but otherwise its a bit of a hack, that most wont use.

    • mgamerz

      Boingo requires an app if I recall correctly. To use Boingo on my Nokia N810 tablet I had to use the app. It auto authenticates for you.

  • McLean Riley

    I like to think that this is Google saying Hey! Android is better, but it might have to do with the fact that everyone on an iphone is always looking to download off of wifi. I signed so many people up on the 200mb plan it was ridiculous. More iphones cost more money and there really isn't a reason to support them.

  • Asphyx

    If Google really wanted to change the game here they should consider buying Sprint up!
    Sprint has a ton of patents to protect them for one but Google has the cash reserves to expand and make Sprint a big time player. If they do it right they would gain the ability to expand the capabilities of Android as they would have some control over both sides of the wireless coin.
    Not sure if the FTC would allow it but they did allow Time Warner to buy up cable distribution networks despite being a content producer so there is a precedent for allowing the purchase to happen.
    Perhaps merging it with T-Mobile and unifying both under a pure LTE (as the written standard suggests with call packet switching) they would have a powerful tool to expand services in a way that Apple could never match!
    And if they don't do it Apple just might as they have the same massive cash reserves to buy those companies and upgrading them without any noticable affect on their cash reserves.
    Their Carrier partners might object but I think the power all lay with Google at this point. Without Android the carriers will be forced to pay those high unit prices they can't make back on everyone who has a iPhone.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1312291338 Tim Miller

      Eh, I'd MUCH rather them buy T-Mobile - GSM/LTE is the way to go. Sprint's network is in utter disrepair. CDMA needs to die.

      • Asphyx

        Well Tim it should be both! Both networks would be transformed via upgrade.
        The real value of those companies is not the infrastructure used to provide services it is the Tower space and distribution of those towers that they would be coveting.
        Just like a TV network on cable, it's value is not based on the content it provides but the contracts with MSOs to carry thier channel no matter what content they broadcast. You can change the infrastructure of both companies to whatever standard you decided was future proof (maybe even beyond LTE) but what makes the deal work is how many towers you have and how much area they cover!
        Cause as verizon proves it's the coverage that sells the service not the standard used. All users care about is if they get signal where they are or not!
        GSM and LTE are great but if you don't get a signal no one will like it.
        Buying Both to get the tower space is key and then it's just a matter of money to convert all that area into whatever system they decide to implement.

        • Freak4Dell

          They both definitely do need a lot of cash pumped into them so they can
          upgrade, but I don't think the FCC would allow Google to purchase 2
          carriers. I think they'd be able to get one through after a battle, but 2
          is nearly impossible. With that in mind, I'd rather that they purchase
          T-Mobile if they were to purchase anyone. GSM is more open by nature,
          and more widely used, so even though T-Mobile has fewer customers than
          Sprint, I think it would be really easy for them to get customers if
          they had the cash available to really upgrade their network fast. People
          could bring their own phones, import them from other countries, etc.,
          which is not as easy to do with a CDMA network. Once everything is LTE,
          it won't matter, but that's at least a decade away, if not more. The
          advantage of Sprint would be their spectrum holdings, though, but
          T-Mobile should be able to catch up depending on what they get from the
          Verizon deal.

          • Asphyx

            Your right 2 would be a bit too much to get the FTC to swallow.
            But we shouldn't get too hung up on the Standard being used. They would upgrade to a full data network (no voice circuits) and switch to a VoIP (VoLTE or thier own GVoice system). So who they buy and what system they currently use is not important since they would change it all anyway.
            The future of Mobile (IMO) isn't in GSM or CDMA standard at all. It's going to become a just data network and all voice calls will be treated as just more data making the standards being used kind of irrelevant.
            I agree T-Mobile has the much better system but the key to the purchase for Google will be the coverage not the standard since they would be changing that standard once they own it. And they can change to any system to want at that point.

        • SamsaraGuru

          I think Google would be very unwise to wade into the morass that is the cellphone carrier swamp.

          In my opinion - from having been on the sales rep/store front - NONE of them has a viable business model that is based on providing the true key element that could distinguish them from the other and consequently all of them find it virtually impossible to garner true customer loyalty.

          Each of them, like Apple, are doing their damnedest to get people locked into their respective fiefdoms and using every trick and spin imaginable to make it impossible (albeit as pleasant as possible on the surface) to escape their clutches! LOL

          Witness the exit of contract customers from T-Mobile in the first quarter of this year - yes, some may have gone to other carriers for whatever reasons, but what do you want to bet a big chunk of them have decided to voice the mantra "Take your contract and shove it."

          Personally, I would not even for a second consider a contract that locks me into a carrier. It is far better to buy an unlocked phone - GSM - at full price and hook it up wither thou wilt, than be held hostage/captive by a one sided company contract that holds over your head the penalty of having to pay hundreds of dollars for your "get out of jail" card.

          And Google, anyone at Google who seriously suggests this should be fired as incompetent or on the payroll of the other side!

      • ssj4Gogeta

        +1 for the potential unlimited data-only plans it might bring. All communications over VOIP/Google Voice. Your email can become your phone number. SMS, emails, voice messages, voice calls, video and text chat all integrated together.

        In fact we'll just have 3 types of messages: voice, video and text. All 3 can be "live" with realtime two-way communication, or "stored", like email or voice mail.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001144455023 Michael J Carroll

      It would just depend on how far they take it. Rockefeller was in trouble with the FTC or whatever the FTC equivalent was at the beginning of the century because he owned all the factors to make steel- the mines, the railroads, the refineries, the warehouses, the distribution, and even made employees sign long term contracts by giving them houses.

      • Asphyx

        Well the way around it is to characterize the purchase as a conversion to a data only network. Then it's not so much a buy to get into the Cell Phone business but just a way of entering the wireless Data business. yes it would still be in competition with cell carriers but because it could be used for more than just thier phones they can claim it won't hurt competition as it's limited to just data.

        • Sorian

          They could buy it and run it like they are running Motorola.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001144455023 Michael J Carroll

          I don't think it will end up being a big deal; Rockefeller was able to lower steel prices by more than a factor of 3.

  • JPB

    There's another mobile ecosystem? Who knew?

    • Zomby2D

      Yes, it's called Windows Phone. But it's not very big yet, so you might not have heard of them much.

  • JPB

    Um, here's the fine print: "The Wi-Fi hotspots are part of Boingo’s Cloud Nine Media platform, a global advertising network that enables brand advertisers to reach a captive audience through Wi-Fi sponsorships." Great.....ads. Thanks Google!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001144455023 Michael J Carroll

      It's probably just a small notice when you first log on telling you who is sponsoring the wireless service and having you agree to the terms of service.

      • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

        That is the way its been anytime I have used it. When Google was sponsoring it in airports you got two windows. One saying: "Happy Holidays from Google!" and then one saying that the airport wasn't responsible if someone hacked into your computer and stole your porn. Once you clicked through those two is was the old fashioned interwebs.

    • Ravengenocide

      Well yes, it's Google, what did you expect?

    • oopscaughtyou

      @854a28b3287efd39c630ef32b858cd7a:disqus Have you seen what that fine print actually translates to in the service? Have you logged in and found ads plastered all over your browsing experience? Have you actually seen ANY ads and/or annoying/obstructive placements whatsoever, in fact, that support your condemning verdict of " Great.....ads. Thanks Google!"?


      ... yeah, I thought not.

      Where would the rest of us common mortals be without your eagle-eyed observation?

  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

    I wish they sponsor one month free of cellular data for all Android users. That will be a huge deal :-)

  • Kojiro Kamex

    I don't see a problem with this, why should Google sponsor the internet acces for the opponents devices?

    It's a gift, everyone can decide for them self whom they want give gifts.

    If Google would block all iOS-Devices from the search, that would be a problem (a big one)

  • Jonathan Wong

    I'm insulted by the lack of Linux laptop support.

    • spydie

      ha ha... you are in the 1/1,000,000th of 1 percent

      • Jonathan Wong

        Yes I am part of the 1 percent of desktop Linux users. But it is also reassuring to me to know that Linux powers many of the worlds most powerful supercomputers and servers. There is a massive chance that if you are connected to the internet with any device, you are relying on Linux. Linux may not be as successful as Windows on the desktop side of things but it does the heavy lifting in the back. It does the serious computing that everyone relies on in the end in this modern day and age.

    • ovi282

      But Android is based on Linux.So it has some Linux support.

    • ovi282

      But Android is based on Linux.So it has some Linux support.

  • Amrish

    +1 for excluding ios, but -1 for excluding linux laptops....

  • http://pandu.poluan.info pepoluan

    "subtle jab at Apple around every *rounded* corner."

    T;FTFY :D