Google Jan. 5 formally unveiled the Nexus One smartphone, demonstrating many of its features during a press event and opening a Web store to sell the device unlocked to consumers who wish to purchase it online for $529, or $179 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile.
Today, consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Singapore can buy the Nexus One without service, which means any GSM network SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card can be inserted into the device, or purchase the phone with service from one of Google’s operator partners via Google’s new hosted Web store.
Verizon Wireless in the United States and Vodafone in Europe will join T-Mobile in selling the device in spring 2010, said Mario Queiroz, Google’s vice president of product management, during the Nexus One launch at the company’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. Google this year will add more wireless partners and in the future will sell additional smartphones through its store to tempt users, he said.
This is a significant development, broadening the reach of the smartphone many reviewers are claiming most closely approximates the satisfying experience of Apple’s popular iPhone.
Customers must get the iPhone from AT&T Wireless, but Google’s approach with the Nexus One emphasizes choice, specifically users’ ability to pick a wireless carrier, where and when Google and its partners can accommodate users.
While the device is unlocked, it has limitations; it won’t work with the frequency band used by the AT&T and Rogers networks for 3G data and is incompatible with CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks such as Verizon and Sprint.
While Google said it is working to bring Nexus One phones to the Verizon network, this will not include a GSM device, so it will not be compatible with T-Mobile, AT&T or other GSM networks.
Contrary to previous reports, Google Android Vice President of Engineering Andy Rubin said during the event that HTC built the phone entirely without every little software detail being dictated by Google.
In essence, this is another Google Android phone, just one that happens to be a little closer to Google’s ideal of what a Web-enabled phone should be than the Motorola Droid or other Android phones.
Google Nexus One Features
Google Android Senior Product Manager Erick Tseng told the media crowd during the event that the Nexus One is the first of an emerging class of devices it calls “superphones,” partially because it’s unusually fast, running the 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. This enables the smartphone to run several Web applications seamlessly at the same time.
“It’s just really fast, especially if you’ve got multiple apps running simultaneously. You’ve got your music running in the background, you’re syncing your e-mail, you’re broadcasting your location to your friends using Google Latitude and meanwhile you’re browsing the Web. If you’ve got all of those applications running in parallel on some other smartphones, you might start seeing some slowdown. With the Nexus One, you see a lot less of that and that’s because of that really fast processor under the hood.”
The Nexus One runs Android 2.1, which includes Google Maps Navigation turn-by-turn GPS; support for multiple Gmail accounts, universal inbox and Exchange support; and the ability to aggregate contacts from Facebook and send Twitter tweets.
Android 2.1 also enables the Nexus One to offer a voice-enabled keyboard that lets users speak into any text field, to conduct text messaging, e-mail writing or search querying without typing. There are also live wallpapers and a 3D photo gallery, among other features.
Also, the Nexus One supports Google Earth, a first among Android phones, as well as Google Voice and other standard Google Apps.
Tseng noted that the device also uses two microphones to employ dynamic noise suppression from Audience, which means the Nexus One filters out background noise when users make phone calls. There are also several sensors on the device, a compass, accelerometer, and light (adjust power use) and proximity sensors (prevents accidental touches on the screen).
The device also has a track ball with tricolor LED, alerting users to new e-mails, chats and text messages. Users may also opt to have Google etch personal laser engravings on the device.
Other features include the 3.7-inch display, which matches the Motorola Droid in size. However, the Nexus One display is a 480-by-800 AMOLED (active-matrix OLED) design, boasting greater contrast and brighter colors.
The phone is thin, only 11.5 millimeters, and weighs 130 grams, far lighter than the Droid’s 170 grams. Nexus One boasts a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera with flash and geotagging. Users can take high-resolution video in the MPEG4 file format and upload it to YouTube with a single click. There are 512MB of flash memory and 512 MB of RAM, expandable to 32GB.