If Apple and Prada can design a mobile phone, why not Google?

Rumours have been circulating for some time about Google studying the possibility of designing its own phone. A recent job ad on Google's website suggests the company may be tinkering with some real hardware in its engineering labs.

"Google is experimenting with a few wireless communications systems including some completely novel concepts," according to the advert. "We are building a small team of top-notch Logic Designers and Analog Designers aimed at nothing less than making the entire world's information accessible from anywhere for free."

Additional qualifications include "extensive circuit modelling and analysis experience, excellent programming skills, experience with switch power supply design" and a ham-radio licence.

With the mobile phone soon to become the most popular device to access the internet, it wouldn't be unthinkable for the world's largest search-engine company to want to grab a bigger piece of the action, according to some analysts.

"In the wake of Apple and some other big-name brands moving into the handset business, why not Google?" said Phil Taylor, senior analyst with Strategy Analytics.

Google and its arch rival Yahoo have been striking deals with both operators keen to offer search-engine services to their mobile phone customers and manufacturers interested in embedding search functions directly in their handsets, according to Taylor.

Late last year, rumours emerged about Google and French mobile phone operator Orange holding discussions about a possible partnership to design a co-branded, Google-enabled handset, he said.

"If Google were to enter the market, it would likely work with an operator, as Apple has done with Cingular in the US," Taylor said. "And like Apple, Google would focus on designing the product and work with a contract manufacturer to produce it."

But for Google to make a splash in the crowded mobile phone market, the company would need to design a product that sticks out among the rest — as Apple is doing with its large-size touch display, according to Taylor.

"It will be a challenge to come up with a really new design," he said.

A Google spokesman declined to comment, saying the company doesn't comment on rumours or speculation.

(Juan Carlos Perez in Miami contributed to this report.)