MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - Google unveiled its entry into the mobile phone marketplace Tuesday with a smartphone dubbed the "Nexus One."
The phone will initially cost $529, without a cell phone carrier's contract, or $179 with a two-year contract with T-Mobile. The search engine company said it expects other carriers, such as Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, to offer the phone soon. It will be on sale at google.com/phone.
As always in the consumer electronics world, the latest much-anticipated gadget has technical specs that appear to edge out the previous must-have item. The Nexus One comes equipped with a 5-megapixel camera and a flash for taking shots in dark environments. Apple's latest iPhone, the 3GS, comes with a 3-megapixel camera and no flash.
Other flashy new features include a light sensor, designed to detect how bright an environment is; the device adjusts its screen brightness accordingly, in an effort to save battery life.
The device also features noise-canceling technology to make the phone easier to use in noisy areas.
With the new phone, every application will be accessible to voice commands, said Erick Tseng, a product manager at the search engine company. He spoke a sample e-mail message into his Nexus during an onstage demonstration.
"Check out this new voice keyboard," he said, composing a message in Gmail, his company's e-mail service. "I just hope this demo works." It did.
The question for many is whether the Google device will turn out to be an "iPhone killer." Early looks at the Google device have already drawn mixed reviews.
The AOL-owned tech blog Engadget tried out the gadget and gave it a generally unimpressed write-up Saturday.
"Is this the be-all-end-all Android phone/iPhone eviscerator? In two words: not really," wrote the site's reviewer.
Reuters reported yesterday that Google plans to use what it calls a "superphone" - the first of many types of smartphones that it will make - to expand its reach from the PC to the mobile world and ensure its online products and ads get prominent placement on a new breed of wireless Internet devices.
It is entering a hot field: Though electronics sales have been flat, smartphones have shown steady growth. Research firm Forrester reported Monday that 17 percent of U.S. cell phone subscribers use a smartphone. That's up from 11 percent at the end of 2008 and 7 percent the previous year.