Google Phone, Google Store
Google's "Android Media Gathering" wrapped up a little while ago at the Google Campus in Silicon Valley. As expected, they officially launched the Nexus One as the first in "a series" of devices to be sold direct through Google's Web Store. N1 is available now unlocked for $529 and subsidized with a two-year T-Mobile US contract for $179 (you can also buy the phone with service from T-Mo if you prefer). Andy Rubin and Co. also talked Android 2.1, Open Handset Alliance, and mentioned a few more carriers who'll be getting Nexus One in the Spring.
Here's what you need to know:
- Nexus One is an unlocked GSM phone built by HTC and branded/sold by Google.
- Nexus One ships with Android 2.1 installed. It's currently the only Android 2.1 device on the market.
- The phone is available direct from google.com/phone and "ships today." You can choose an unlocked device for $529 or a device with two-year T-Mobile service plan for $179. Choose your options - including optional engraving - and order on the website. Price includes free shipping, but taxes apply in some states (like California).
- The phone supports Quad-Band GSM, EDGE, and T-Mobile US's 3G data frequency. You may use the phone on AT&T in the US, but you'll be limited to EDGE-only cellular data.
- The phone also supports WiFi. And Bluetooth, GPS, and the rest of what you'd expect from such a device (see specs below).
- This Spring, Google will sell a CDMA version of Nexus One that they confirmed will be locked to Verizon Wireless in the US. They will also, in the Spring, sell a GSM Version of the phone subsidized through Vodafone in Europe.
- Nexus One ships with Android 2.1, which adds a few things to version 2.0 as currently seen on the Motorola Droid and Milestone. Most notably, you'll get systemwide speech-to-text support, dynamic wallpapers and other 3D-enhanced visuals, a new media browser, and a new weather widget.
- Neither Nexus One nor the stock install of Android 2.1 will support multitouch. Andy Rubin was fairly vague and dodgy when asked about the specifics of why the European-release Motorola Milestone supports multitouch but no U.S. release Android devices do. Basically he said that it's something they'll consider going forward, at that's about that.
- Android 2.1 will be made open source in the coming days, but no specifics were given about upgrade paths for existing devices not named "Nexus One." HTC CEO Peter Chou was at the event and said that his company is working on 2.1 upgrades for certain of their other Android devices. Comments were also made about 2.1 being 3D-intensive, and how certain existing Android devices don't have the necessary juice to support all of that visual whiz-bangery. So we'll have to wait and see which phones make the cut and which die a slow 1.x/2.0 death.
And here's what I think:
The device itself looks pretty cool. I'll have more hands-on thoughts (and video) later today, but Android 2.1 does in fact look like the consumer-ready Android experience that folks have been calling "The real Android." Systemwide speech-to-text, live wallpaper, greatly enhanced eye candy and "fun" in the media browsers: it all looks great. So I'm psyched about 2.1 and a suitable high-spec'd piece of kit to run it on in Nexus One.
The thing I'm still really not sure about is, as another reporter put it during the press conference, "Why?" Why did Google decide to launch their own series of branded devices, and their own retail channel to sell them in? Why did they decide to sell an unlocked phone if it only supports 3G data on one carrier - which is really a subset of the larger question, why bother with Google branded phones and a Google store if they're more or less following the standard wireless industry retail model, at least for now?
The optimist in me says this is the first baby step in a lengthy plan for Google to make inroads in the consumer mobility hardware space (phones, netbooks, etc), and that while this first device will also be available on a US carrier, Google's looking well beyond the United States here, and so should we, as well. You have to start somewhere, and it makes sense for Google to launch on a US carrier (they're a US-based company, after all) and to throw a little love back to T-Mobile, who carried the first Android device in the G1. So while the Nexus One you can buy right now may not be all things to all people, Verizon and Vodafone versions will be coming in very short order, and that Vodafone device may well support AT&T 3G banding here in the States. And, as the Google folks said repeatedly today, this is just the first in a series of Google-branded Android devices to come from HTC, Motorola, and others.
But the cynic in me is just scratching his head, mumbling things like, "These guys really don't get retail. They're geeky and that's cool, but now they're in over their heads. They just don't get it." And, "One device that's essentially locked to one carrier unless you can live with EDGE? Isn't that what Nokia's been trying to push and what you can get from HTC already if you buy the unlocked European versions of their phones? What's the big deal?" And, "Wow, Motorola must be REAL happy about this. But at least they were repped today. What about Samsung? They've pushed out a few Android phones already, and joined the Open Handset Alliance, and they weren't even mentioned? What's Google trying to do, stab everyone in the back?"
There's much more to it than that, but I really need to gather my thoughts before attempting any sort of coherent analysis in a big-picture sort of way. What I can say for now is this: Nexus One is now the most advanced Android phone on the market, unless you really want a hard QWERTY board (Moto Droid) or HTC Sense (Hero/Droid Eris) or MotoBlur (Cliq). I'll be very curious to see how long it is before other Android phones start receiving 2.1 updates and/or shipping with 2.1 installed. It wouldn't surprise me at all, actually, to see 2.1 remain exclusive to Nexus One until the Verizon version ships, at which time we'd see an upgrade path made available to Droid owners (and perhaps other handsets) as well. But that's just speculation, I really have no idea.
What I'm more interested in is what Google does next with this Web store. For an industry that changes so quickly, we seem to be in the midst of a very gradual, long-haul plan when it comes to Android, Chrome and the rest of Google's mobility plans. Android, the OHA, and the G1 were the first steps. The second wave of Android devices, capped by Droid and Android 2.0 were the second steps. Today, Google-branded devices being sold through Google's own retail outlet mark the beginnings of the third steps. Thing is, I can see the footprints of those third steps in the sand, if you will, but the footprints themselves - let alone the path they mark - are very unclear to me, at best. For now, all I'm sure of is they're starting out on a path that aims to travel well beyond the U.S.
Beyond that, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
And, finally, here are some specs:
Size: 119 x 59.8 x 11.5 mm / Weight: 130g (with battery)
Display: 3.7" AMOLED Capacitive Touchscreen @ 800 x 480 pixels (WVGA)
Processor: Qualcomm "Snapdragon" QSD 8250 1GHz
Memory: 512 MB Flash, 512 MB RAM, microSD Card Slot (4GB card included, supports up to 32GB)
Camera: 5MP Autofocus, LED Flash, AGPS Geotagging, 720 x 480 pixelx video capture @ 20 fps (minimum)
Network: GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, UMTS 2100/AWS/900, HSDPA 7.2, HSUPA 2, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
Other: AGPS, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, A2DP Stereo Bluetooth
Full specs of the US Nexus One available via Google
You excited? Or not? Or kinda, but not just yet?