Google's Nexus One event: What to expect

Speculation and an early peek at the strengths and omissions of Google's forthcoming smartphone.

We're less than 24 hours away from Google's special event on Tuesday morning, when the company is expected to launch a Google-branded superphone, the Nexus One. But according to recent reports, this GSM-based device is just another smartphone that can only boast a few slight improvements over other Android devices already out there such as Motorola's Droid. It's important to remember that nothing is official until Google makes its announcement, but here's what to expect on Tuesday based on reports from around the Web.

The Phone

Over the weekend, Engadget posted a brief overview of what it claims is the Nexus One. The gadget blog's initial verdict is that the Nexus One, while a nice phone, is not a game changer for the mobile industry. The device's most prominent feature is believed to be its speed, which is all about the device's rumored 1Ghz Snapdragon CPU. The next fastest phone, by comparison, is the Palm Pre with a 600Mhz chip. The Nexus One has a tweaked user interface for improved navigation, and other interesting display features like "live" wallpapers that animate in the background.

The Nexus One is also supposed to have a 3.7-inch display, microSD card slot expandable up to 32GB, a 5-megapixel camera with LED Flash, 512MB of ROM, and 512MB of RAM. Google's handset was built by HTC and is slightly thinner than the iPhone.

The Nexus One is Touchy, But Not Feely

Google has reportedly omitted multitouch capabilities from the Nexus One, even though the device's operating system, Android 2.1, can support it. This is not the first time an Android device has left off multitouch. Reports surfaced last February claiming that Google didn't support multitouch on the G1 after a request from Apple -- which, at the time, was believed to be vigorously protecting its patents on multitouch.

But the relationship between Google and Apple has changed dramatically since then, so it's a mystery as to why Google would leave out multitouch this time around.

Terms of Sale

Nexus One has two price tag options, according to recent document leaks, and you will buy the phone directly from Google. Your first option is to buy the phone under a two-year contract with T-Mobile for US$180, and you'll only have one phone plan option that will run you about $80 for talk, text, and data.

The second option is to buy an unlocked version of the phone for $530, and choose any phone plan you want. Some industry experts doubt a high-priced, no-contract phone will be a winner for Google, but it's worth noting that the most popular cell phone sold on Amazon over the holidays was an unlocked version of the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music handset. However, Nokia's phone sold for $270, well below the Nexus One's unlocked price tag of $530.

Engadget is reporting that the Nexus One will not work on AT&T's 3G network, the only other GSM carrier in the U.S. So unless you're happy with AT&T's more sluggish EDGE network for your mobile data connection, you're pretty much stuck with T-Mobile.

Questions Remain

The Nexus One sounds like it could be a very respectable smartphone, but why does Google feel the need to launch a device that is only a slight improvement over the Motorola Droid? If Google were doing something radical -- like offering a free, ad-supported device -- the Nexus One would make more sense. But offering a seemingly typical smartphone that can only boast speed as its best attribute? That doesn't sound to me like a good reason for the search giant to launch a Google-branded device. I guess we'll have to wait until Tuesday to see whether Google has any tricks up its sleeve to make the Nexus One more compelling.

Watch Engadget's first look at the Nexus One:

Connect with Ian Paul on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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