Google sees a future where carriers have to compete on price and the quality of their networks, rather than exclusive deals with handset manufacturers like AT&T's lengthy exclusive deal with Apple for the iPhone and subsequent models. The Nexus One is its first baby step toward that future and it's currently available in unlocked form to consumers in the US, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong for US$529. If for some reason you want to be locked into a contract, the only option is T-Mobile, with the phone available for $179 with a two-year contract, with Verizon (US) and Vodafone (EU) options available in the not-too-distant future.
Andy Rubin, VP of Engineering at Google, refers to the Nexus One as a "superphone" due to the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU inside. To put this into some perspective, the Motorola Droid, iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre all use a 600MHz Arm Cortex A8 CPU. I say some perspective due to the lesson that Intel taught us with the Pentium 4 - clockspeed doesn't mean everything.
The Nexus One supports quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900) and tri-band 3G (2100/AWS/900). This means the phone will not support 3G on the AT&T (US), Rogers (Canada) or Telstra (Australia) networks, all of which use the 850MHz band. In terms of speed, there is support for 7.2Mbps HSPA, which T-Mobile have just launched across their entire US network. Those of you on Verizon and Sprint shouldn't feel left out, as Google is preparing a CDMA version of the Nexus One.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in the handset so far (at least, in the US) is the lack of multi-touch capability, despite the hardware being technically capable. This is obviously due to Apple being granted a US patent for multi-touch last January, but whether it's reluctance on Apple's part to license the patent to their biggest competitor, or reluctance on Google's part to license the patent, is not so obvious. Either way, when you're using a device that's designed to be operated with your fingers, and forced to use just one of them at a time, it's less than ideal. Having said that, it won't be long until multi-touch is hacked in to the Nexus One - Android hackers are a crafty bunch, and have recently managed to get multi-touch working on the Motorola Droid's browser.
For more information, or to purchase a Nexus One, head over to www.google.com/phone.
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