Through a post on the Google Mobile Blog, Android boss Andy Rubin just announced that Google has brought its ill-fated device store back from the dead. Starting today, Google will sell an unlocked HSPA+ version of the Galaxy Nexus directly to customers, through its Play Store, for just $399. For comparison, the same unlocked device is available on Amazon for $452.
For now, the offer is only available to customers in the United States. Visitors from outside the US are greeted by a “We’re sorry, the document you requested is not available in your country” message. Rubin said that Google “hopes” to soon make the Devices section of the Play Store available in other countries, but he didn’t provide any specifics.
The Google Galaxy Nexus can be used on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s HSPA+ networks. Customers will get the device unlocked, free from any commitment to a carrier. You’ll be able to use the device on any GSM network in the world. If you are worried about customer support, Google promises that, this time, it will provide appropriate support services (both technical and sales questions). In an interview with AllThingsD, a Google official told Ina Freid that Big G now has a phone support team ready to answer the questions of Play Store customers, or to redirect buyers to Samsung if required. Google’s first attempt in the direct retail business flopped a couple of years ago, with one cause being the customers’ reluctance to buy their phone through a channel that doesn’t provide “proper” support.
The $399 price tag makes Google’s Galaxy Nexus one of the best options (probably the best) for those who want a high-end Android smartphone without a contract and unlocked.
Many have speculated that the transformation and extension of the Android Marketplace into the Play Store was done to provide a unified access point to Google’s content, but also to provide a direct retail channel for Google’s Nexus devices. This move seems to confirm these speculations, and, in a few weeks, we may even see the Play Store carrying the long-rumored Nexus tablet.