MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (Reuters) – Google Inc took the wraps off a new Web-enabled smartphone on Tuesday it called a “superphone,” a device bristling with features from speech recognition to a 3D interface that the Internet giant will sell directly to consumers.
The phone, dubbed the Nexus One, marks the first time the 11-year-old company has designed and sold its own consumer hardware device, and could provide Google with a viable challenge to Apple Inc’s popular iPhone.
The new phone pits Google against a variety of players in the increasingly crowded smartphone market, including Research in Motion, Palm Inc, Nokia and Apple. It will ship immediately from Google’s online store for $179 with the purchase of a two-year contract from Deutsche Telecom’s T-Mobile USA, or $529 without a service plan.
Executives said the phone will “soon” be carried on Verizon Wireless’s network in the United States, and eventually on Vodafone’s in Europe.
The Nexus One phone comes a little more than two years after Google jumped into the mobile market with the announcement it was developing a free, smartphone operating system. Google’s Android software is currently available on more than a 20 phones from vendors including Motorola Inc and Samsung Electronics.
Google worked closely with HTC to develop its own phone, which uses a 1 gigahertz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm Inc. The Nexus One is 11.5 millimeters thick and weighs 130 grams — which executives said was lighter than a Swiss Army knife and no thicker than a No. 2 pencil.
The phone will feature a 3.7-inch (9.4 centimeter) touchscreen display. It will run the 2.1 version of the Android operating system and feature OLED display technology, a trackball for user interface control, an accelerometer chip, and a 5 megapixel camera.
Google is the world’s No. 1 Internet search engine, with annual revenue of about $22 billion in 2008. Its shares were down $1.97 at $624.78 on the Nasdaq.