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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Phones

Nexus 6 smartphone marks first carrier release

Sprint becomes the first of the major US carriers to kick off sales of Google's newest and largest flagship smartphone. But its rivals aren't far behind.

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Consumers seeking a carrier version of the new Google Nexus 6 can now order one via Sprint.

As of Friday, the Nexus 6 is available through Sprint for $300 with the usual two-year contract, or for $696 with 24 monthly payments of $29 but a lower-cost service plan than offered under contract.

Why is the phone's debut at Sprint of interest? It's because Sprint is now the first and only major US carrier to sell the Nexus 6 , the latest and largest of Google's flagship smartphones.

AT&T is selling the phone but only as a preorder with a promised ship date of next Tuesday. T-Mobile's page for the Nexus 6 says only that it's "coming soon," though earlier this week T-Mobile tweeted that "we're moving our #Nexus6 launch out one week to 11/19." Verizon Wireless will also carry the phone but has not announced a launch date or price yet, a carrier rep said.

You can now buy the Nexus 6 through Sprint. Sprint

The Nexus 6 has, or rather had, been available directly through Google Play in carrier-free editions selling for $649 for the 32GB edition and $699 for the 64GB edition. But the Google Play store currently lists both models as out of stock.

So far, Sprint is showing only the 32GB edition of the Nexus 6 in Midnight Blue. The 64GB variant is nowhere in sight, nor is the white version listed.

With competition heating up from Apple's new iPhone 6 lineup, Google needs to get the Nexus 6 in the hands of as many carriers as possible as soon as possible, especially as the holiday-shopping season starts to kick in. Android phones, such as the Nexus, once held a key advantage over the iPhone by offering larger screen sizes. But that advantage has lost traction as the iPhone 6 sports a 4.7-inch screen and the iPhone 6 Plus a 5.5-inch screen.

One key question, though. Is the Nexus 6 too big?

The phone sports a 5.9-inch screen, essentially skimming the border with smartphone/tablet hybrids and potentially turning off consumers who want a phone that's not too big to hold and can fit in a pocket.

Built for Google by Motorola, the Nexus 6 features the latest Android OS -- 5.0 Lollipop -- as well as a quad-core 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805 processor, a screen with 2,560x1,440 pixels, and a 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization.