Google opens new front in smartphone battle with Nexus One launch

Latest Android powers route into retail business for search giant
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Latest Android powers route into retail business for search giant

Google has put an end to weeks of speculation with the launch of its Nexus One mobile phone.

The device, unveiled last night, doesn't mark a great departure for the company in terms of software: like several other handsets before it, it runs version 2.1 of Android operating system, known as Eclair, released last year.

The hardware strategy too is familiar: the device itself is built by HTC, the manufacturer behind the first Android phone.

But the unveiling of the device could mark a new phase in the smartphone wars: Android-based phones are still yet to make much of a dent in the overall smartphone market dominated by Nokia, RIM's BlackBerrys and Apple's iPhone.

The Nexus One comes with a five-megapixel camera, a 1Ghz Snapdragon chipset and 512MB Flash and 512MB RAM of onboard memory.

google nexus one mobile phone

Google's Nexus One handset
(Photo credit: Google)

It also packs a range of Google apps such as Gmail and Google Maps, and comes with customisable homescreen panels.

Alongside the announcement of the Nexus One handset, Google also revealed it will be getting into the mobile sales business. The company unveiled a mobile web store where customers can buy the device either with a contract with an operator, or unlocked - the first time the search giant has sold phones directly to the public.

The store will initially sell the Nexus One to US customers either as a standalone device for $529 or with a two-year T-Mobile USA contract for $179. Google also expects to make the phone available through US operator Verizon Wireless in spring of this year.

UK customers will also have to wait for some months to get their hands on the Nexus One - it has a European release date of spring 2010, when it can be purchased unlocked or with a Vodafone contract.

The device won't be sold through Vodafone shops and will only be available through the Google web store, a spokesperson for the mobile operator told silicon.com.

Google also revealed yesterday the Nexus One won't be the only device it sells direct: the device will be "the first in what we expect to be a series of products which we will bring to market with our operator and hardware partners and sell through our online store", a blog post by Google's VP of product management Mario Queiroz said.

Gartner analyst Nick Jones speculated that Google won't just stick to selling phones through the online store.

"Maybe Google won't stop at phones, perhaps we'll see Chrome OS netbooks and Google voice services on the shelves in the future as well," he wrote in a blog post.

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