Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) said it will sell an unlocked, HSPA+ version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone via its Google Play store for $399, marking a return to direct Android smartphone sales for the mobile search giant.
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is now available in Google's online store.
In a company blog post, Andy Rubin, Google's senior vice president in charge of mobile, said the device will be available first in the United States, without a carrier commitment or contract, under the new "devices" section of Google Play. Rubin hinted the unlocked Galaxy Nexus might be sold in other countries in the future.
The device will work on the GSM networks of networks of AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA; currently Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) sell CDMA-LTE versions of the Galaxy Nexus for $199.99 with a two-year contract. The unlocked Galaxy Nexus will come pre-installed with Google Wallet and a $10 credit, which could be a way for Google to goose usage of its mobile payments service.
The strategy is similar to the one Google employed to sell its Nexus One smartphone. The HTC-made, Google-branded device went on sale online from Google in January 2010 and was intended to be a showcase of the latest Android software at the time, 2.1, or Eclair. However, Google, HTC and T-Mobile USA, the carrier Google partnered with for the device, faced criticism from customers who were unsatisfied with the level of customer service they received, and unsure of which company to approach for customer service. Google shuttered the Nexus One online store after five months.
"We want to showcase the phone and Google Play," Jamie Rosenberg, Google's director of digital content, told GigaOM. "Yes, it's another way for a consumer to buy a phone, but we see the Galaxy Nexus as a great endpoint for Google services." There are currently more than 300 million Android devices that have been activated globally.
Rosenberg told AllThingsD that Google has added a phone-support team for Google Play store and that the company will support both sales and technical questions on the unlocked Galaxy Nexus. Google will also be able to connect customers to Samsung. "Because of that, we think this will be a very different experience for consumers and has different motivations for us as well," Rosenberg said.
The new development comes after a Wall Street Journal report from last month which said, citing unnamed sources, that Google is going to sell co-branded Android tablets directly to consumers later this year via an online store. According to the report, Google will sell tablets through the online store from multiple manufacturers, and AsusTek and Samsung could be partners. Google is also finalizing its deal to acquire Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI), which some analysts think will lead Google to become more directly involved in selling Android hardware.
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