Google unveils 'Nexus One' phone, world doesn't stop
Earlier Tuesday, Google introduced the latest in a growing number of phones running its Android operating system. This one, however, includes a new version of that software with a few extra features, runs on a faster processor, is for sale on the company's own site, and doesn't require signing up for service with a wireless carrier.
The combination of those changes, most incremental, somehow sent tech observers into a frenzy of anticipation over the past several weeks. But now that the Nexus One, as Google calls this HTC-built device, is on sale, you can see that it doesn't represent a major break with the mobile-phone business as we've known it.
Its pricing--$529 without a contract, $179 if you sign up for service with T-Mobile--fits right into traditional phone-industry math.
The Nexus One essentially ties you to one carrier by only offering 3G mobile-broadband speeds on T-Mobile's tiny network; you can use it on AT&T Wireless, which uses the same basic GSM wireless technology, but will experience speeds much closer to dialup Internet. Using it on Sprint or Verizon Wireless is out of the question, since those carriers use a different standard called CDMA. Verizon will apparently sell a CDMA version of the Nexus One, but that won't magically work on AT&T and T-Mobile's GSM networks either.
The Nexus One's hardware and software, as described by my colleague Mike Musgrove, look neat but can and most likely will show up on future Android phones from other companies. (Put me down as a skeptic of using voice-recognition software for entering text on Web pages, in e-mails and in text messages; there's a serious public-nuisance factor to that.)
In short, until all the carriers in the United States adopt the same wireless technology, or somebody gets around to building a phone with GSM and CDMA circuitry that's also completely unlocked, you're going to be looking at about the same smartphone business that we know today. Google's move to sell the phone on its own and without a contract may nudge carriers to sell more devices along those lines--as is the case in Europe--but that's not likely to happen in a hurry.
In the meantime, if you want to buy a Google phone, stop by any Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon store and see what Android models they have in stock. I'm sure the folks there will be glad to sell you one.
Can we get back to obsessing over the Apple tablet now?
January 5, 2010; 8:25 PM ET
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