Google's Nexus One: The story so far

Step down Droid, there's a new king of the Android hill. Maybe.

Last Friday night, at a company party, Google gave out phones to all attendees, and in doing so started a whirlwind of publicity and speculation that ran through the weekend and into Monday. It didn't take long before the leaks (Can you even call it a leak when you hand the things out to a bunche of people?) started springing. Google's only official word on these phones came in a blog post where it acknowledged that employees were given "mobile labs" for the purpose of dogfooding (as they call it).

We quickly went from this being some kind of "experimental phone" to it being an HTC-built unit called Nexus One running Android 2.1 on a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon chip (this much seems certain) with an OLED screen (less certain). Was Google planning on selling this phone, and if so how? First we heard that Google was going to sell ite directly, unlocked, for an unspecified but subsidized (by Google) price. That caused a stir. Both Ars Technica and VentureBeat ran articles on how having such a major player as Google selling subsidized, unlocked phones could shake up the cell phone industry.

Then we got a date: January 5th, 2010 from Reuters. But Reuters says there are two versions of the phone. One unlocked and sold by Google, and another that comes with a two year T-Mobile contract. Android & Me says the price will be $199, but that's through an anonymous tipster and no one else seems to have any word on pricing. And that tipster seemed to indicate $199 for the unlocked version; that sounds too good to be true, honestly.

The FCC has pretty much confirmed the existence of the phone, as outlined at Phandroid. But that doesn't mean Google is set to sell millions of the things; it could still be a small run device designed for developers.

So what does this all mean? Chaos, confusion, and most of all, excitement. January 5th is just three weeks away. CNET's Tom Krazit wrote a great article (Google ponders risky Android solo act) on the sticky situation that Google has gotten itself into. Krazit suggests this situation could go one of two ways. First, the rumors are true, and Google is about to start competing with its partners in the Open Handset Alliance. This won't win any fans in the Alliance. Krazit points that this is a terrible time (right before Christmas) for Google to be sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of soon-to-be Droid owners, for instance. Some new Droid owners still within their 30-day grace period (and this includes all but the earliest adopters) might even return their Droids in order to wait and see if the Nexus One is real. On the other hand, if the rumors are false and there's no Nexus One launching on January 5th, then Google ends up disappointing eager Android fans.

At this point, I'm not sure what I find more interesting: the Nexus One itself, or the enormous (and enormously positive) reaction to the idea of a fast, slick Google Phone. If the Nexus One is really intended to be a widely available end-user phone, then Motorola's Droid is already obsolete, just five weeks after hitting the market and while Verizon's marketing blitz is still in full swing. If you were planning on upgrading to a Droid (or any other Android phone), I'd consider waiting a few weeks to see how this shakes out. Sorry, Verizon.

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