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Just how free will the Nexus One be?

The Nexus One may be a great device, but will it really offer more freedom to customers?

The Nexus One: just like any other phone? Cory O'Brien via Twitter

As we now know, the Consumer Electronics Show will not be the only thing going on in the gadget world next week. Google is getting a jump on CES with a January 5, 2010, press conference where the company should unveil its Nexus One phone. Details on the HTC-made device remain sketchy--though we have seen some leaked specs--but most signs point toward T-Mobile as the carrier for the newest Google Android phone.

According to leaked T-Mobile documents obtained by Gizmodo, the Nexus One will be available unlocked for $530 without a contract and $180 with a two-year service agreement. Also, while Android chief Andy Rubin said in October that Google wasn't interested in competing with customers, it now appears that Google will sell the device on its own. So what makes the Nexus One special?

Except for the unlocked part, that's not too different from how the iPhone is sold to customers, but a couple of important questions remain. Though we appreciate the opportunity to buy the handset unlocked and without a contract (even at the $530 price tag), we'll be curious to see what kind of billing options are available. Yes, you would be able to leave T-Mobile at any point, but data pricing still needs to be fair and affordable. Unlocked buyers shouldn't have to join subsidized buyers in choosing just one type of service plan.

Unlocked buyers could face an additional limitation. If it's true that the Nexus One will support only T-Mobile's 3G network, anyone hoping to use the device on AT&T will be stuck on EDGE (the two carriers use incompatible 3G technology). They will be able to make calls, but data speeds will be slower.

Since the first rumors of the "Google phone" first popped up earlier this year, we've heard that it will be free of traditional carrier restrictions and that it would be the best Android phone yet. The second promise may very well turn out to be true, but the Nexus One may not be as free as we were hoping.