Google Nexus One: The Google phone cometh?

Rumours are flying that Google is planning its own handset, the Nexus One. We separate fact from the fiction

The Web was awash with Google phone rumours this weekend, as Google employees began showing off their new test phones via Twitter. Rumours suggest the Google-branded Nexus One will be available unlocked and could be launched by early 2010.

Our US colleague Jason Howell had a quick play with the Nexus One on Friday, complete with Android 2.1 operating system.

The Nexus One appears to be made by HTC. Until fairly recently all Android phones were made by HTC -- so the Nexus One may be branded as a Google phone, but it's still a third-party device running Google software, the same as every other Android phone. Google is unlikely to power the Nexus One with some kind of 'super-Android' operating system, as that would torpedo the other manufacturers in the Open Handset Alliance. Android boss Andy Rubin has already told CNET US that Google will not "compete with its customers".

No, if the Nexus One is to disrupt the market, it'll probably be in the way it's sold to consumers. The Guardian reports the "Gphone will be sold direct to consumers, not via a network contract," but PC Mag reckons that's nonsense because of the restrictions of the American mobile system. That said, Google has already produced two unlocked handsets, but for Android developers. The Android Dev Phone 1 is basically the T-Mobile G1 and the Google Ion, which is essentially the HTC Magic. For consumer sale however, without network subsidies the Nexus One could be seen as prohibitively expensive by consumers used to loss-leading handset prices.

This looks like a re-run of the first wave of Google phone rumours which swept the Web nearly three years ago, before Google made what was in hindsight an obvious move and introduced the Android software.

The kerfuffle seems to stem from the growing frustration with US phone networks. iPhone users in particular seem to hate on AT&T, and a Google phone untied from any network seems like a shining beacon of liberation. If we thought we had it bad with O2, at least the iPhone is now available on other networks here in the UK.

Photo credit: coryobrien