Google has launched its much-anticipated debut smartphone, the Nexus One, confirming speculation that it will sell the handsets both via carrier partners and independently via an online e-tailing strategy.
The GSM-based Nexus One is now available in Hong Kong, Singapore, the US and the UK. Google is selling an unlocked version from $529 (€368), and is also approaching carriers to stock the phone.
From today Google is selling the handset via this new direct online sales channel. The online sales channel will be the host for a range Android phones to be progressively added to its site. “The Nexus One is the first in a series of phones to be brought to market through this store,” Google said.
In the US, T-Mobile USA has agreed to sell the Nexus One for $179 on a two-year contract, and Verizon Wireless plans to follow suit in the future.
Vodafone will sell the handset to its customers in Europe, Google said but did not reveal how long that period of exclusivity will last.
Google product management VP Mario Querioz said “we expect to add more operators, more devices, including from Motorola and other handset manufacturers as well as more countries to this program - we will bring the web store to more countries.”
He also confirmed that Vodafone in Europe will also be added to the Google store site and to the new model from spring 2010. “We’re working as quickly and hard as we can to ensure the store is ready for business but also to make sure we offer the different flavors of the phone through these different operators later this spring.”
Just as the market rumors indicated, the handset has been developed by HTC to Google's specifications. It is powered by Google's own Android OS, and includes a 1-GHz Snapdragon chip.
"The Nexus One belongs in the emerging class of devices which we call ‘superphones,’ with the [onboard] chipset making it as powerful as your laptop computer of three to four years ago,” Google VP of engineering Andy Rubin said.
The GUI includes shortcuts to Google services such as Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube and Google Voice. The handset sports UMTS, HSPA, GSM/EDGE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Rumors of a Google phone have been circulating for years, but some observers had expressed doubt that Google would risk alienating handset makers at a time when the Android OS is just beginning to gain traction.
Selling the handsets unlocked, and therefore removing the element of handset exclusivity, might also discourage operators from subsidizing the phone. But these appear to be risks Google is willing to take.