Peter Kafka

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Google Pals Up With T-Mobile to Push Its “Nexus One” Phone


Google plans to sell its new phone on its own Web site, without getting a wireless carrier to subsidize the handset.

But that doesn’t mean Google (GOOG) won’t also work with a carrier: The search giant intends to launch its touchscreen phone next year with the help of T-Mobile say sources familiar with its plans.

Traditionally in the U.S., consumers buy phones directly from carriers, which eat some or all of the cost of the handsets–sometimes amounting to hundreds of dollars–in exchange for signing up customers to often controversial multiyear contracts.

Whether or not Google will subsidize the cost of the phone–via advertising, for example–is unclear.

But for sure, Google does not intend to sell its new “Nexus One” phone the typical way, sources familiar with the company’s plans say. Instead, it envisions a scenario where customers who buy the handset on a separate Web site are provided with a list of carriers from which they can make a selection menu-style.

Google¬†has approached multiple carriers about supporting its new phone, which it designed itself and will be produced by Taiwan’s HTC, offering this selling scenario, sources say.

HTC, by the way, built T-Mobile’s G1 phone, the first Android-powered handset.

But so far, only T-Mobile has agreed to consider this arrangement and actively help push the phone, via various distribution channels and support infrastructure, I’m told.

The Nexus One handset uses GSM technology, which means that in the U.S., only mobile customers who use AT&T (T) or T-Mobile’s networks could use the “unlocked” phone anyway.

But, sources say Google’s decision to use GSM came only because Verizon Wireless (VZ), which uses the rival CDMA technology, has so far declined to help the company push the new phone.

Sources added that Google, keen to change the way mobile devices are sold in the U.S. especially, would still prefer to cooperate with telecom giants in selling phones rather than fighting them.

A T-Mobile spokesman declined to comment, as did one from Google.

T-Mobile’s plan to work with Google shouldn’t be a huge surprise given that the U.S. subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom (DT) already sells four phones that use Google’s Android platform.

Then again, Verizon is currently spending lots of money promoting an Android phone of its own–the Droid–produced with Motorola (MOT).

AT&T (T), the exclusive seller of the Apple (APPL) iPhone, is another story, having no Android phone in the works and having tussled with Google in the past.