Google unveils ‘chic and capable’ Nexus One smartphone

Though no iPhone slayer, Nexus One – the Android OS-powered handset unveiled by Google Tuesday – will be a much sought after smartphone, say Canadian mobile market analysts.

“I’ll want one when it gets here,” said Mark Tauschek, lead analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

Designed by Google and made by hardware partner HTC – the Nexus One handset runs Android OS 2.1

It’s the search engine company’s best shot yet at penetrating the white hot smartphone phone market, Tauschek said.

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He said Nexus One has the potential to raise Google’s profile in the smartphone market and elevate Android phones from geek to chic gear.   

The Info-Tech analyst, who has worked in the networking and telecommunications field for more than 10 years, dubbed Google’s new offering as a “very fast and capable” HTC handset running the Android mobile OS.  

But the iPhone has a coolness factor that Nexus One will not be able to eclipse, he added.

Another mobile market watcher, however, believes Apple and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) should start taking notes.

“Demand for the initial Android offerings did not pick-up as expected but Nexus One could generate a bit more interest within the consumer market,” said Dominique Jodoin, CEO and president of Bluestreak Technologies,

Montreal-based Bluestreak creates Flash-based apps and Web services for wired and wireless devices.

Jodoin predicts “Google’s Nexus One will differentiate itself from the iPhone, through use of interactive graphics and fluid animations that showcase the speed of the device.”  

There is no timetable for a Canadian release of the Nexus One just yet, according to Wendy Bairos Rozeluk, Google Canada spokesperson for global communications and public affairs.

The phone, however, was simultaneously made available Tuesday afternoon in the U.S. through T-Mobile and through Vodafone in the U.K. The device was also released through other carriers in Hong Kong and Singapore, Rozeluk added.

“Nexus One is being sold for US$529 without a plan and $179 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile,” she said.

Nexus One specs

Thinner than the iPhone and HTC’s current Droid Eris, the Nexus One has a 1-GHz Snapdragon CPU, making it the fastest smartphone in the market.

The GSM phone has a 3.7-inch 480×480 pixel display, 512 MB of RAM and an expandable 4GB microSD card.

Nexus One also has a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, WiFi connectivity, accelerometer, compass and proximity sensors.

The device will come with widgets for weather and news, power control and a redesigned media gallery. The phone will run Android 2.1, the latest version of Google’s mobile OS.

Google’s game

Despite the Nexus One’s impressive specs, Google’s plans go deeper than sales of the device, according to Info-Tech’s Tauschek.

Google’s goal, the analyst said, is to get its Android mobile OS on as many mobile devices as possible. “It’s got a very sound strategy. Let’s hope Google doesn’t shoot itself on the foot by coming out with its own phone.”

While RIM funneled millions of dollars into developing its BlackBerry OS and hardware over the years, and Apple made certain it held firm control over the iPhone’s design and app development, Google has adopted a more open approach, he said.

Android runs on the Linux kernel and Google has ties with the Open Handset Alliance, which makes Android an open and free mobile platform, potentially usable by any mobile phone, Tauschek said.

He said the end game for Google isn’t selling handsets. “Rather, the search company wants to push mobile advertising and Google apps and services through mobile phones.”  

Jodoin of Bluestreak says greater interoperability with Google Web apps will enhance Nexus One’s desirability. “Phone screens that respond to a user’s voice and touch will change the way people see embedded mobile software.”

Nexus One may not be the phone to dethrone the iPhone but it’s likely to get the Android greater respect in the consumer market, says Tauschek. “It’s sleek, pretty, fast and powerful.”

The Info-Tech analyst contrasted typical iPhone and Android phone user.

The typical iPhone user, he said, is a “non-nerdy, non tech-savvy” consumer for whom the device’s “cool factor” holds the greatest appeal.

By contrast,  many Android phone users are geeky and “tend to be attracted by the software behind the device.”   

Tauschek estimates there are about 20,000 Android apps available in the market for the current 14 Android phone models. (Contrast this with the 85,000 iPhone apps in the App Store, which recently broke the 2 billion download mark).

The Symbian OS, the Info-Tech analyst noted, is currently the world leader in mobile operating systems, followed by the BlackBerry in second place and the iPhone OS, a close third.

“Android will probably share fourth place with Windows Mobile, but Windows Mobile will be gone by the end of 2010.”  

If the price is right …

He said if Nexus One is to have a fighting chance against the iPhone, it will have to be priced lower than the reigning consumer smartphone champion.

Tauschek said Nexus One would probably sell for 450 Euros in Europe and anywhere from $500 to $600 in the U.S. and Canada.

He estimates that that the U.S. and Canada “sweet spot” subsidized pricing for the Nexus One would be around $180 to $199 with networks shouldering the rest of the cost in exchange for signing up to a multi-year plan.

Google would also need to open up the phone to as many carriers as possible.

To get the Nexus One really smokin’, Tauschek says, Google will have to turn up the notch on interoperability with the search company’s “cool” Web tools.

Google Goggles, voice-activated turn-by-turn GPS navigation, Google Voice and Gizmo5 are some of Googles’s coolest toys.

Rozeluk of Google says Google Maps is available on Nexus One and other Google e-mail and contacts list tools also enhance the phone.
“Google tools help sort out e-mail and aggregate social net contacts such as Facebook friends list on Nexus One”.

“Google Voice also enables Nexus One users control their phone through voice commands and carry out activities such as voice-to-text, Tweeting and e-mail,” she added.

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