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The rumors were true -- Google once again is selling unlocked smartphones on its own, with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus going for $399 in the Google Play Store.

The phone Google's offering is an unlocked pentaband GSM device, same as what many of us had imported previously. The "pentaband" part means that it'll work on AT&T and T-Mobile 3G/4G networks. And because it's unlocked, you can take it out of the country and pop in another carrier's SIM card without needing an unlock code.

Google's tried selling phones before, starting with the original Nexus One in early 2010. That ended poorly, with customer support issues dogging Google, HTC and T-Mobile (which at launch was the only carrier to officially support the N1). Google finally shut down the phone store in May 2010 and said the Nexus One would come to retail stores. That didn't happen. Later, the remaining Nexus One stock was offered as a developer device.

So what happened? Google's Mario Queiroz told us at Google IO in May 2010 that "The web store as a direct distribution model is really a very small part of the overall Android strategy. With the Nexus One we had the objective of bringing to market a very technologically sophisticated phone, which we did, which really set a new bar for quality. And I think you've seen a lot of the phones in the market today, that have come to market in the past few months, have been influencing, in many ways ... by what the Nexus One was able to do."

Sweetening the deal is that Google Wallet -- which for some time has been official only on the Sprint Nexus S, and now on the Sprint Galaxy Nexus -- is preloaded on this GSM device.

For our part, this is the way Google should sell Nexus devices. Unlocked GSM versions, able to work on networks worldwide. And, of course, it's what some are calling the one "true" Nexus because you're able to build for it directly from the Android Open Source Project, with no pesky CDMA licensing restrictions  keeping that from happening. (We don't quite subscribe to that "True Nexus" theory ourselves, though.)

Devices in Google Play right now is open only in the U.S. But Andy Rubin, in a blog post this morning, says it'll be coming to more countries. The obvious follow-up question is this, though: Google won't be stopping at selling phones at Google Play, will it?

Buy now: Galaxy Nexus at Google Play
More: Google Mobile Blog

 

Reader comments

Google gets back into the phone sales business, offering Galaxy Nexus for $399

120 Comments

Buy now link works in the States. Maybe folks who say "Good Day Mate" are in those other countries Rubin mentioned as coming soon? ;-)

This lends more credence to the rumors of a Nexus Tablet sold directly via Google Market. (Another idea Phil poo-pooed in the podcast). I'm betting the Wall Street Journal had it right, and a Google Nexus Tab is the next device to be sold directly to end users.

If Google learned anything it was to NEVER AGAIN let themselves be held hostage to Verizon or any carrier.

And FTR: Google didn't shut down sales due to tech support issues, they shut them down due to poor penetration. The market has grown up a lot since the Nexus One was released.

Too bad it's not available in Europe too. It would sell "like hot bread", because in my country the lowest price for an unlocked Galaxy Nexus is well over 500$ at serious retailers.

Europe normally gets "new stuff" before US. The GS1 and GS2 were in Europe months before US. It might be the same thing with GS3 due to our wonderful carriers desire to change and re-name the devices.

Correct. The CDMA carriers are not open like the GSM carriers when it comes to phones on their networks. CDMA ESN's are linked to specific carriers. An EVO 4G though it has bands compatible with Verizon, can't be simply registered to a Verizon account just by punching in it's ESN number on the VZW site or with their systems, because that ESN is registered as a Sprint only device. It would be nice if it were that easy, or if CDMA used a SIM.

SIMs wouldn't save you. I'm on a CDMA carrier that uses SIM cards (AU by KDDI - in Japan), and I bought a second-hand phone to replace the phone I was using at that time.

Imagine my surprise when the guy at the second-hand store told me I would have to go to an AU shop to get the phone unlocked - because the phones are locked to specific SIM cards, not just to a carrier.

So, I had to go, pay a 2100¥ fee (that's about 25 USD), and get the phone to work with my SIM card....

If you go read the Google Nexus site under Buy options it shows a link to Verizon, Sprint, then the Play Store.

@dwd3885:
Sure, sure. That's why Nokia PureView 808 and Samsung Galaxy Nexus got TIPA (Technical Image Press Association) awards, 808 got the 'Best Imaging Innovation' award, and Galaxy Nexus the 'Best Mobile Imaging Device'.

CDMA Nexus phones aren't real "Nexus" phones in the way we were trained to believe despite what people keep pushing down our throats. This is just one more example in an increasingly long list. You want direct Google support and updates you go with GSM. I believe there is even a variant of GSM you want to avoid but it isn't as bad as the CDMA variants.

What does the Google drive/Cloud service have to do with having a true Nexus device? Unless I'm missing something, this doesn't assist in bringing whatever new operating system that Google puts out (i.e. ICS, Jellybean) to your device. It's just a service.

You high and mighty GSM people piss me off. GSM is not an option for me. The only network technology I can get 3G with where I live and work is with CDMA. I do not have options, so nexus or not by yours or who ever's definition. The Gnex on Verizon is the only option for a Nexus for me. That is unless I want to be stuck on Edge and Wifi forever.

My current phone is a Nexus S 4G on Sprint. I'm just saying it how I see it.

At least the bootloaders can be easily unlocked without voiding a warranty. I forgot about that part.

I am not high or mighty and I'm not on GSM either. I am on Verizon with a Pnex the same as you. We don't have a Nexus. We have a phone with the word "Nexus" in the tittle. That is all. Sorry if that hurts your feelings, but it is the truth.

If we had a real Nexus we wouldn't still be OS 4.0.2 officially, we wouldn't have carrier branding, we wouldn't have VZW apps, we would have Google Wallet and we would be able to purchase our phone on that website straight from Google.

We don't have a real Nexus device. The only real Nexus devices are on GSM. Stop believing the lies so many people keep repeating. CDMA Nexus is just a normal Android device with a name meant to fool unsuspecting people. They fooled me also.

Not sure how you were fooled since it was well known that Vzw would have its fists clenched tight on its version of the GNex. People just chose to ignore the warnings.

all yer own fault,stupid arrogant yanks,always think they know best.
wasted 20 years on cdma instead of just going straight to gsm.
i wonder if its anything to do with yank firms using it to bugger the market so they can make a few more bucks ?

The only thing a nexus phones means is that it's a clean AOSP build of the current google operating system and that google provides updates, since AT&T and T-mobile are provide inferior service imo, I'll wait a bit for updates.

It's not like the small amount of cdma code they can't release slows down custom rom development. It's a really minor difference.

Yep, I payed more for my Nexus One when it was new. This phone isn't really new anymore but I couldn't pass it up since my N1 isn't cutting it anymore.

So true! And I really needed to upgrade from my N1 too lol. I wish they would have released this to the US sooner but the price helps make up for it.

They are treated exactly like an HTC EVO or a EPIC Touch 4G. Updates go through the carrier and have to be tested, approved and released by the carrier. They are branded with the carrier names and even have carrier apps on them. They contain closed source radio files and ROMs cannot be built from AOSP, so not open source. The only difference is instead of Sense or Touchwiz they use Holo. Which is the same as Sprint using Sprint ID instead of Sense basically, it's just a different skin. Updates happen no more quickly on them as was proven by the Nexus S 4G vs some of the newest HTC phones.

While there are closed source issues with the radios and it cannot be fully built from AOSP, there are not any carrier apps on the Nexus S 4G. This is true on both Gingerbread and the ICS update.

The updates happened a bit slower than we all liked, but it was one of the first few phones to get the update. Sure, one or two other US phones got the updated around the same time, but the majority of phones that are about a year old like the Nexus S are not getting the updates for several months.

The OP was referring to the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, which came with two Verizon-branded account management and data backup apps.

This is true. I know that Phil is right to point out that this isn't a HUGE deal to most users...but still it doesn't fit the Nexus Developer phone branding anymore though the Android Fan Boy in us hates to admit that (Phil).

That's why I finally took the leap to root my phone and install CM7. The folk that are complaining about not getting this phone or "true" Nexus phones need to look behind them. Off in the distance are those of us that can only dream of a phone with the Nexus name on it as we made the choice for no contract phones. I got phone envy all the time with my Triumph running Froyo. It pretty much...well, it didn't quite suck, but could have been better. What made it worse was getting VM Canada email for some reason while I live in the USA with those emails being about the fantastic new phones they get just a 40 minute drive and a border crossing away.

Anyway, rejoice if you can buy this phone, or root and upgrade the software yourself. There are a lot of step by steps out there that make it rather simple and you may thank me. Or you could continue to complain about your carriers having to test this and that before pushing it to your phone if at all :)

That's not good when they give you too many options, Im on TMobile and Im going to buy the HTC ONE S tomorrow but now im gettin this...and next week maybe a Galaxy S3, is hard to choose what to buy nowadays. i always wanted a Nexus phone

Tempting... My upgrade is in 3 months so I was planning on waiting until then and get OneX or S3, but with this I don't know. What to do, what to do...

If you like the look of Sense and the hardware buttons, you might like the OneX. However, I dig the software buttons of the GNex, and HTC has made Sense look more like an updated version of the Gingerbread UI. I'm a bigger fan of the Holo interface myself. The S3 might be worth waiting for but how long will that wait be? I couldn't hold out any longer to replace my N1 but if your phone can get you by, it's a tougher choice.

Got 2 from Amazon mobile on 2 yr for Verizon for $99 each about 2 months ago... there was another deal for $89 around that time as well... not sure why anyone would pay 2 or 3 hundred for one...

This is a good deal. Expansys sells it for $469.

Too bad Google didnt get the 32gb version produced. That would have been a compelling choice. The nexus today, in light of the One X and the soon to be announced SG3 is yesterdays news. Unless you must have AOSP.

I still don't get why you would need a 32gb version.... Google music streams my 20gb music, netflix has all the movies/shows I watch. 32gb phones are just on the way out man.

Google Music doesn't help you much when you wind up somewhere that doesn't have 3G (happened all the time at the office, we were deep in the building surrounded by trees). Everything being in the cloud just isn't there yet for cell phones, I like having plenty of local storage for those times.

Pin (make available offline) your music on wifi (or 3G) and you can play it anywhere.

Anything you played recently will still be available because Google Music caches.

If your an average users maybe 16gb is enough, but not everyone wants to stream everything (data caps), some people live in more rural areas that don't have as good coverage and that causes problems for streaming. Even in the fairly populated area I live I've run into hiccups and issues streaming. Music on my smartphone can be way more convient, don't worry about data caps, don't worry about buffering, listen to high quality 320kbps tracks and don't worry about draining your battery as quickly.

Streaming is popular because it's easy, and I stream a lot of music myself but I keep a subset of my music about 20gb on a 32gb sd card along with other things roms, rom backups, titanium backups etc etc, you can never have enough storage.

1) Data caps
2) 4G/3G is not available everywhere
3) Google Music is a horrible music app
4) Customization takes up a lot of space (for me at least)

This is a damn good deal regardless, but a 32 gig version couldn't hurt!

From the warranty page: "Devices which have been remotely disabled by Google cannot be repaired by Samsung."

Huh? Devices which have been what? I can see a carrier shutting down your subsidized phone if you don't pay your bill, but under what conditions will google disable the phone?

@Dan29466:

Did you ever get a reply to your question? I've been wondering the same thing...So far I have found zero info on this cryptic stipulation! The manufacturer Sammy has ceded control to Google on this issue? Why does Google need this control?

Damn, it's so cheap compared to the price I got it. The initial price was US$695 in HK and I got it for around $628.

This is a no go for me as Verizon is the ONLY carrier with decent coverage where I live. Even so, I've read enough about this phone to know its radios leave a lot to be desired, not to mention some of the other issues. It's quite apparent Samsung has some quality control issues or inherent hardware design problems (remember the volume control bug in the European GSM version?). So buyer beware IMO.

"I've read enough about this phone to know its radios leave a lot to be desired"

I own one and have no issues.

You know what's just as bad as reading something on some forum and acting like it means all phones have issues?

Pretending that since you don't have issues there are no known problems.

this is why google are falling behind.
its time google bit the bullet and actualy become a true world company,rather than a us company with pretensions of power.
why have they not done a deal in europe so that 500 million new users get access to google voice/talk/G+ and loads of other products,whats stopping them ?
ask google direct and you get no answer.

what the hell is wrong with a company not wanting to expand?

are you mad at a Philadelphia pizza shop because they don't deliver to mexico?

whats stopping them is the fact that they are seeing it as a waste of money. are you going to pay for Google+/talk/voice? no? well then they are going to need advertisers to pay for it. If they don't have any companies that want to give you advertisements through those products, they have no incentive to bring them to you. they are not going to spend millions of dollars on expanding for nothing.

I think it's strange that this GSM phone has been available to other countries and carriers outside the US for months now through other stores, but people get all worked up when Google finally starts selling it to the US through their store. I don't care if Google sells it or Best Buy sells it but either way, I couldn't get it in the US until now without importing it with no support.

Figures this would happen a few weeks after I buy mine off of eBay for a bit more. I am with you guys and hoping this is something Google does not abandon.

I was all excited cause that's a lot better than $550 to replace my Samsung Skyrocket who's screen is cracked, till I realized no LTE.

well it sucks to be you, if u just bough VZ nexus for $299 and 2 year contract - honestly even for $400 i would not buy gnex - it just does not appeal to me - i'm waiting for note 2

Friggin sweet!

Maybe Verizon's crazy delays in the US prompted this? Except that too bad for those of us who are on CDMA networks (Verizon, Sprint).

$400 contract-free is not a bad deal at all.

All I can say is wow 100 more for a no contract nexus vs the 300 I paid. I might get my wife one for that price it's a steal.

I hope google will keep on selling unlocked phones like this. I would so buy my future phones like this, especially at such great prices. Help people free themselves from carrier contracts!

would'nt it be easier(better)if we could buy phone direct from google,choose to run it on gooles own network and use all their products,anywhere in the world,not just us.
are they even going to ever run own network in us ? try asking them.its a quick waste of time at least and if enough folk keep asking they may actualy answer,or better stull actauly di it.
google getting too good at wonderful ideas that get left hanging in limbo.
g-drive has been floating around for at least 6 + years,its still not available,and docs stinks,rather like too much google products and ideas.
classic case of right hand not knowing what left hand doing and brain left in neutral gear.
will soon loose faith with new google and start closeing accounts,only way they eill start to take notice is when folk start to hurt their users figs and advert income goes down badly.
if other tiny little firms can produce the goods why cant or wont google.
dropbox and box being good examples.

Will this phone work with T-Mobile's pre-paid phone plan? If so, would it be foolish to use this phone on a pre-paid plan?

Will this phone work with T-Mobile's pre-paid phone plan? If so, would it be foolish to use this phone on a pre-paid plan?

ur retarded its pentaband and it does work with tmo 4g hspa+. damn freaking people read the descriptions. its says so right there in BOLD letters

How about instead of acting like a 12 year old and insulting him, you act like an adult and answer his question. For example, you could have said "Yes, it works with their 21Mbps HSPA+ network, but it doesnt support their faster 42Mbps HSPA+ backhaul".

Instead, you just sound ignorant and disrespectful, which is not what the AC community wants or needs.

Go find a different tech blog and be an asshat there.

If this phone was hspa 42+ I would be all over this with $30 prepaid T-Mobile plan. Holding out for quad core and hspa 42+. As someone said above this phone will work on HSPA 21+. This would not be foolish to use on T-Mobile prepaid. It would be smart and very cost effective. Post paid is for Apple fan boi's and people who like to throw money away and locked in with an outdated phones and two-year contracts.

So there's no way for me to install google wallet on my gsm nexus galaxy that is not bought from google? This is bullshit.

This is certainly interesting news. Google should do this from now on: sell all forthcoming Nexuses this way, without carrier bloat (hey Verizon!), without carrier restrictions and AOSP as it is meant to be.

But they should add more devices to the list too. One thing is for sure: it is better to buy the Nexus directly from Google and then get the Straight Talk BYOD and pay $45 per month rather than around $100 or more on a "major carrier".

The reason to buy a device for $199-299 and then $100 x 24 begins to disappear and it is an important step towards working competition in the US cellular market since it this Nexus can use both T-Mobile and AT&T (opening up possibilities).

Does anyone know if they will be selling both the black and the white versions? I want the white one of course.

Dang... I was totally going to go buy the HTC One S tomorrow at T-mobile...but now I might get this. I have the Even More Plus plan, and I didn't want to have to switch over to a contracted plan... I don't know which to choose now.. One S or this Galaxy Nexus... Any help? I'm not really phone suave, but I do need more space (I have a nexus one), faster phone, but I have tiny hands. :) decisions decisions....

I already ordered this today to replace my N1. I like the software navigation buttons and the look of the Holo UI better. The One S has hardware buttons like the N1 I'm replacing and the new Sense UI looks like a minor update to the Gingerbread UI more than a re-imagining of Sense. That's my thoughts anyway.

According to the tech specs I've seen for it thus far, it uses the exact same bands as the international version, so it should be identical hardware-wise. As far as I know, the only difference is that while the international version ships with the "yakju" build of the software, this one ships with the newer "takju" build, which adds support for Google Wallet. I'm still pretty new to Android, so someone correct me if I'm wrong on this.

Letting others Californians know before they buy. You do have to pay sales tax on it so it is a bit more than $399. Showed after taxes ($32.92) and shipping ($10.50) a total of $442.42.

This is true, unfortunately. They must've already raised our taxes even more, 'cos my receipt showed $448.40 total: $10.50 S&H, + $38.90 California sales tax.
Still a good deal nonetheless, when you consider that most other unlocked phones are in the $600 to $800 range.

A little help here, is this device worth getting considering it's been out for so long at this point. Also isn't samsung supposedly unveiling a new Nexus device next week.

I've read a few a reviews and it seems like an amazing phone and not having to waste an upgrade would be great.

Thanks ahead of time

Samsung is unveiling a new Galaxy phone (Galaxy S, Galaxy S2, etc)

The Galaxy Nexus is a "stock" Google phone with no touchwiz and no need for software updates to go through the carrier, which means they get the latest updates from Google almost immediately.

Regardless of this I would still wait to see the Galaxy S3 unveiled considering the Galaxy Nexus isn't exactly on top of the hardware spectrum. I'd be more than willing to drop an extra $200 on the Galaxy S3 (no contract) if the hardware really blows the Nexus away.

Its to bad for all who stay in other country because, its a bonus for USA People, i real want this nexus prime because its have lots of feature right now i have xperia arc compare to the galaxy nexus prime its huge one try to buy this (nice product Hurry USA People)

Can someone help me here? I go to the Samsung galaxy nexus site, click on "buy" and mybrowser prompts me to open Google Play. There is no devices section in play, and a search only brings up apps. I live in Ohio, not overseas! Am i missing something? Thanks!

Hmm, that is weird... Maybe somewhere in your Google account settings (if you have one)? Have you tried going in there using a different browser?

I went ahead and pulled the trigger on getting a GNex; just ordered it on Saturday. I've been researching lots of different phones, and have been looking for a really good unlocked GSM device, but I didn't really want to spend like $600-$800 on it. Then suddenly I found that Google is now selling the unlocked GNex for $399... Sold! It's just too good a deal for me to pass up. This will be my first Nexus-series device, so I'm looking forward to it. I should be getting mine on Monday or Tuesday; I'm really hoping mine will work out all right for me and won't have any issues with the screen or radio or whatever (fingers crossed on that).

hey can u send me the link u used to buy the phone cuz i cannot find it anywhere at all what so ever please

can someone tell me how to buy phone from google play please. i would like to get a responce asap