Mountain View, Calif. - Google has begun selling its own Android-based smartphone, the Nexus One, direct to consumers as both a locked an unlocked model only through a web store that it is hosting.
The long-awaited HTC-made device, dubbed a superphone because of its 1GHz Qualcomm-made Snapdragon processor, is available unlocked at $529 but costs only $179 when sold with two-year T-Mobile USA contract. Sometime in the future, however, Google promises to make the phone available for activation on the Verizon Wireless CDMA network in the U.S. and on Vodafone's European network.
Additional Google-brand phones will be available through the store at an unspecified time in the future.
Google said it launched the site "to provide an efficient way to connect Google's online users with selected Android phones." The online store "has been designed with a focus on simplicity," Google added.
The touchscreen phone, which runs on the new 2.1 version of the Android OS, features a 3.7-inch AMOLED 480x800 WVGA display and lacks hard dialing or QWERTY keypads. It operates in 3G mode in T-Mobile's 7.2Mbps HSPA (high speed packed access) network when purchased with T-Mobile service, but it slows to EDGE mode if purchased as an unlocked phone for use in AT&T's network. It's also designed to operate in 3G HSPA mode when roaming in foreign countries.
The phone features a so-called voice-enabled keyboard that lets users enter text without typing into all text fields. Users can speak a text message, speak an IM, speak a tweet or Facebook update, or speak an email. Voice commands also let users search Google, call contacts, or get driving directions by just speaking into the phone..
Like the Motorola Droid, it offer an embedded navigation application with spoken turn-by-turn driving instructions. Other features include five home screen panels, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, support for multiple Gmail accounts. Exchange support, universal in box, and phone book that aggregates contacts from multiple sources, including Facebook. It also features 5-megapixel camera/camcorder with geotagging , and it comes with 4GB removable SD Card expandable to 32GB.