Google phone rumored to be in the wild

A few tweets from Google employees have sent tech blogs and re-tweeters into a speculation loop about the whens and whats of the Google phone. (Googlephone?)

Apparently, they're in the wild. One of the more popular re-tweetable rumors started with a Google employee who simply said:

Stuck in mass of traffic leaving work post last all hands of 2009. ZOMG we had fireworks and we all got the new Google phone. It's beautiful
Fireworks and Google phones? At my last work Christmas function we got lukewarm Chicken Parm and a gift bag of lens cleaning cloths. User Great White Snark originated the other widely-quoted tweet about the Google phone, saying first:
A friend from Google showed me the new Android 2.1 phone from HTC coming out in Jan. A sexy beast. Like an iPhone on beautifying steroids.
And then:
I might have made out with it a little bit. Maybe.
It's interesting that the stickiest soundbites about the Google phone are related to aesthetics. The one area Apple products have the clearest advantage is looks, and that would be a big hurdle in luring loyal iPhone users. So we hear it's performance enhanced pretty. Anything else? A Computer World post has description of a CNet writer's brief encounter with the Google phone:
I was given the phone for a very limited time from a Google employee. It resembled an HTC Hero to my eyes, though a tiny bit smaller and DEFINITELY thinner. I kept looking over at the guy using it, thinking to myself that it WAS a Hero, but when I asked, he spilled the beans. Google employees were handed the phones today. He reiterated that there would probably be a decent amount of information hitting the tubes this weekend. With my limited time with the device, I saw it running Android 2.1. The home screen had this animated background image that looked nifty with red and blue lasers shooting across it. The gray bar at the bottom of the home screen was replaced with the “house” line art used on the face of most Android phones that takes you to the home screen. Looked sleeker. Super light phone too.
So what we know might be true is that they're sexy, they shoot lasers, they might be hitting in January and more speculation should be coming down the pike soon. If they were handed out en masse at Google HQ, it's surprising that more info hasn't been leaked yet. One last bit of speculation from the CW post:
The real killer feature of these phones would be that they are sold open, without a carrier. And, if they have Wifi and VoIP you might be able to *gulp* skip the carrier part of the equation. Or just get a Mifi.
We'll post more information when and if it becomes available.