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Google begins selling unlocked Galaxy Nexus

Google gets back in the business of offering Android smartphones with the direct-to-consumer model. The GSM Galaxy Nexus is now on sale in the Google Play store.

Will Google have success in selling directly to consumers the second time around?

Google today announced that it is now offering unlocked Galaxy Nexus handsets directly to consumers.

On the company's mobile blog, Android chief Andy Rubin wrote that the company has added a new Devices section to its Google Play store. Initially available only to U.S. consumers, the GSM Galaxy Nexus carries an attractive $399 price tag.

"We've worked with developers and content partners to launch Google Play, offering more than 500,000 apps, millions of songs and books, and thousands of movies. And we've implemented new customer support services to improve the purchasing experience on Google Play," Rubin wrote. "We've taken all of this into consideration in designing Devices on Google Play."

The feature list is unchanged from the device that CNET reviewed late last year. It's compatible with both T-Mobile and AT&T and supports each carrier's HSPA+ network.

We'll have to see whether Google will add more models to Google Play, but it appears that it is leaving the door wide open. I'll be eager to see whether it decides to offer handsets or tablets that aren't considered "Pure Google" experience or tied to service agreements.

It makes me wonder whether this will be a complete return to a storefront that gives consumers access to nearly all Android products. Assuming for a moment that Google offers only its own branded devices, it would be a perfect place to promote that rumored tablet.

As Android continues to grow the Google Play rebranding lends itself to plenty of opportunity. No longer tied directly to Android applications only, the store has become a hub for multiple types of media.

As new visitors stumble onto the Web site and discover the wealth of available content, Google is making it a little bit easier to pick a device that delivers on all fronts.