Google’s new smartphone will need all its brand power

Google must make its newly unveiled Nexus One smartphone stand out from the crowd if it is to replicate the must-have-accessory sentiments associated with the Apple iPhone and iPod range, mobile experts have warned.

The phone, which is wider but slimmer than Apple’s market-leading iPhone and faster than Motorola’s Fortune 500, is the first handset to be designed, marketed and sold solely by Google, built in partnership with HTC. It will run on Android, its open-source mobile platform, developed as part of theOpen Handset Alliance, which also has manufacturers HTC, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Motorola as members. Android has a 27% market share, while Apple has a 55% share.

Google has launched a web store to sell the Nexus One and further phone products it is developing.The phone can be used on any network and is retailing in the US for the equivalent of £330. or starting at £112 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile USA. Vodafone will be the first European operator to offer services for the Nexus One in Europe on a non-exclusive basis.

Strategy Analytics executive director Chris Ambrosio says: “Google has the brand power to make a big impact when it launches Nexus One. It should be able to compete with other competitors in the market such as Microsoft and Symbian, as long as it shows real worth to users. This is Google’s real challenge – it has to show it is as memorable for phones as it is for search.”

Direct from Google it will cost $529 (£331) and on contract with T-Mobile $179 (£112). Google said the phone would ship from launch day.Mario Queiroz, Google vice president for product management, described the unveiling as “the next stage in the evolution of Android”.

But the Nexus will fall short of the iPhone in the applications arena, with about 16,000 avaIlable for Android phones compared with 100,000 at the Apple App Store, which could stop it from being a market-leading smartphone. It will also not offer a connection to Apple’s iTunes online music library.

Apple has bolstered its position and appeal to advertisers with its acquisition of mobile ad network Quattro. Google also owns a network called AdMob.

AKQA Mobile managing director Daniel Rosen says: “The Android platform presents a mixed opportunity. The cost and time to deploy applications is greatly reduced, which helps to justify platform development, but ‘reach’ is a key barometer if it is to compete with the likes of Apple and Symbian.”

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