All hail the unlocked phone

Google brings the unlocked phone into the mainstream.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
2 min read
With the Nexus One unlocked phones go mainstream Josh Lowensohn/CNET

So now we know the full story of the Nexus One. After the newest Google Android device was sightedlast month, Google formally released the handset to the world Tuesday morning.

Though the Nexus One's specs are promising--particularly the Snapdragon processor and the enhanced voice control capabilities--it's not necessarily the best Android phone yet. Indeed, the real story of the Nexus One is not its design or features, but how it is being sold.

As my colleague Tom Krazit points out, Google is changing the way cell phones are sold in the United States. Google alone will sell the Nexus One, even if you're buying it with T-Mobile service and a two-year contract. That marks quite a shift in how the control freak carriers sell phones now.

But just as important, both Nexus Ones will be unlocked. Even if you buy a handset at the subsidized price that requires a T-Mobile contract, that handset will not be locked to T-Mobile service. That's customer friendly, convenient and pretty cool.

Sure, you'll be shelling out money to T-Mobile for two years, but you'll be able you use the Nexus One with any GSM carrier you like. That's great news when your T-Mobile contract ends, you ditch your contract early, or if you want to use a prepaid SIM card while traveling internationally. You won't need to pay for an unlock code or beg T-Mobile to unlock the phone for you.

The promise of unlocked phones is nothing new, but up until now we haven't been able to purchase them with a carrier subsidy (remember that even the contract-free iPhone still comes locked to AT&T). Now you can do both, and I like that.