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Google's Not-At-All-Secret-Top-Secret Phone Now Has A Price Tag

As has been previously stated, Google either unwittingly stumbled onto the most effective low-cost advertising campaign in the history of telecom (sorry Apple), or is stupid like a fox. The tech blogs and press follow every slow hiss of leaked info about the forthcoming Nexus One phone from Google as if it were a miraculously discovered stone tablet that Moses neglected to bring down from the mountain.

OK, so it is an excruciatingly slow news week; but imagine if, say, Motorola tried to place a press release about the price of a new phone? Mark that same press release "Google Confidential and Propriety" (such as this top-secret, "leaked" screenshot at Gizmodo) and send it anonymously, and whoa be the man who gets in the way of stampeding tech geeks.

So, we now have a price: $530 for the unsubsidized phone and $180 if you go through T-Mobile with a 2-year contract, reports Gizmodo. The T-Mobile option only comes with one phone plan which amounts to $79.99 a month for phone, text and Web service. There had been conjecture Google might subsidize the Nexus One itself, shaking up the U.S. market where the major carriers dominate by heavily discounting the purchase price of phones in exchange for two-year contracts. "They're not going to save us from the "making money off of hardware" culture we've got right now, so this is basically just another Android handset, albeit a really good one," laments Gizmodo.

And if pricing weren't enough, Engadget pants that it's got the terms of sale. Of course, it first stops to mock Gizmodo's "scoop" of the pricing plan: "Sound familiar? It should, because it's exactly the same story as every other phone available on the market right now." And while the blog speculates that Gizmodo's screenshots might be fake, it is more than convinced that its own tipster is legit ("We've just been hit with a few photos of our own, apparently straight from HTC training materials, according to a tipster.") and directs readers to the PDF of the TOS. Among other details emerging from leaked screenshots, if you cancel the plan within 120 days of purchase, you'll have to pay the remaining total cost of the phone -- $350 -- or return the phone to Google.

And like some Talmudic scholar searching for answers in an ancient text, TechCrunch further speculates that the leaked screenshots provide clues to the existence of a previously unannounced feature of Android: automatic back-up of data. The description of the docking station accessory includes the line "Charge your phone while streaming music and backing up your data." Which TC concedes could mean, well, just about anything, writing, "Google could be referring to using one of the third party backup solutions available on Android Market, like the top rated MyBackup Pro. Or it might just be saying that you can manually back up your phone to your computer while it's charging. Or, it could be referring to a natively supported backup option. I'm guessing it's the latter."

Of course, if Android did include a cloud-based back-up that Google was experimenting with, it makes sense that it wouldn't publicize it. When these things fail companies tend to get sued, as happened with the Sidekick.

And, TechCrunch argues, the Nexus One, which is expected to be formally launched next week, still marks a milestone for the domestic mobile industry. "While unlocked phones are common abroad, they're almost unheard of here where the carriers rule with an iron fist," noted MG Siegler. "Google directly selling an unlocked phone, even if it's limited, is a big step in the right direction.

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Read the whole story at Gizmodo et al. »

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