Want to know what the Googlephone fuss is about? WhatsOpen.com, the first app to be built for Googlephones, has just launched in beta. The site looks much like the screenshots leaked to Valleywag last month: It's a local search engine which mashes up Google Maps with a directory of store's operating hours. Want a late-night coffee, or beer at 3 a.m.? WhatsOpen tells you which stores to go to. Here's a screenshot of the search results.
If you sign up for WhatsOpen's beta, you can get access to the software it built with Google's Android OS, the software brains behind your Googlephone. Oh, what's that? You don't have a Googlephone, you say? Pity.
Which raises the question: How did WhatsOpen build this app in the first place? It started with a chance encounter in October with Google cofounder Sergey Brin at the Web 2.0 Summit. Brin was overheard to tell WhatsOpen's founders to keep plans for the site quiet.
Why the secrecy? Because Google was getting ready to launch Android, and WhatsOpen seems to have been a perfect test for the software. A lucky break for a young startup.
Here's what's disturbing about WhatsOpen's preferential access: It says that Google plays favorites. While other developers complain about the buggy software development kit Google has provided, WhatsOpen has experienced smooth sailing. Could that be because it's getting a little help from powerful friends at Google?
Even so, Jason Aaron and the other team members at WhatsOpen aren't betting everything on Sergey's favor. The app is also available for Apple's iPhone — a device which, unlike the Googlephone, can actually be found in consumers' hands today.