Sleek and Fast, Google's Nexus One Raises the Stakes in the Smartphone Game

Nexus One from Google offers sleek styling, 'impressive' functionality.

January 5, 2010, 8:21 PM

Jan. 6, 2010— -- Internet search giant Google is now in the business of selling phones.

At its Mountain View California headquarters Tuesday, Google announced the release of the Nexus One.

It is the first phone to be sold directly by Google or any Internet company, and it signifies the importance of the emerging mobile computing market, analysts said.

"Google getting into the mobile phone space is a big deal," Gizmodo's John Herrman said. "This is Google's chance to make 'the' definitive Google phone. It's faster than anything else out there right now. It's got a better screen than anything out there right now. The software is a newer version. It's all around an impressive piece of hardware."

The Nexus One is being manufactured by phone company, HTC. It has a fast 1-gigahertz processor and more memory than the iPhone. While internal memory is limited, Google's phone has a memory card slot expandable to 32 gigabytes of storage.

The Nexus One has voice command capabilities, can run multiple applications at one time and is as slim as a pencil. It has a 5-megapixel camera, and a noticeable difference from the iPhone it has an LED flash for the camera.

Lacking the multi-touch controls that allow iPhone users to pinch and pull maps to alter their screen views, the Nexus has been criticized as lacking some of the gaming potential that the iPhone and iPod touch have capitalized on.

Google's new phone runs on the company's own Android operating system. The software debuted in 2008 on a phone also manufactured by HTC, was later found on the T-Mobile G1 phone and has most recently garnered positive reviews with the Verizon Droid. But this is the first phone running the software that is marketed under the Google brand.

Much of Google's corporate philosophy revolves around open standards.

In that spirit, the Nexus One phone will be sold either with a contract from T-Mobile for $179 or unlocked for $529. An unlocked phone allows consumers to use their existing cell phone carrier without signing up for a new long-term contract, but costs more because the cost of the phone is not amortized over the life of the contract.

Unlocked Phone Sale is Twist on Tradition

The idea of marketing a phone out of the gates in the unlocked or unsubsidized form is a twist on the traditional pairing of a phone with a specific carrier. But the actual implementation of this open or unlocked marketing plan is a little murky.

Currently, the Nexus One only runs on GSM networks in the United States: namely T-Mobile and AT&T. But on AT&T, the Nexus One won't have access to the network's fast 3G data network, it will be limited to AT&T's slower EDGE network.

Google says the phone will be available on Verizon later in the year.

One thing that is clear, the debut of the Nexus One is a sure sign that Apple and Google will square off for mobile dominance in this coming decade. More Americans than ever are using wireless devices for email, news and videos.

According to the Pew Internet Life Study on any given day, 20 percent of Americans access email or the Web on a mobile phone. Another study by BIA Kelsey says a third of American adults already own Smartphones, and this number is expected to continue growing rapidly.

Furthering the mobile hype, Apple is rumored to be unveiling a tablet computer later this month that is a hybrid news reader, e-book, Internet and email device. Some predict this tablet and Apple's ability to organize and sell content could revolutionize journalism the way the iPod forever altered the way we listen to music.

While the winner of this mobile arms race is yet to be decided, tech enthusiasts everywhere are cheering about the evolving technologies.

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