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Google's Nexus 5: a radical move in smartphone ecosystem

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 4, 2013
New Google device runs KitKat and boasts a low $349 unlocked price, to be sold only on aggressive service plans from Sprint and T-Mobile

Google has long been known as a mobile tech innovator with its Gigabit Fiber and Google Glass projects, among others. Now it's emerging as a radical strategist in the wireless ecosystem.

The latest example of Google's development prowess is the Android 4.4 KitKat-based Nexus 5 smartphone that was unveiled on Thursday. The LTE-ready Nexus 5 has a 4.95-in. display, weighs 4.6 ounces and runs a powerful Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.3 GHz.

In a blog post entitled "Android for all and the new Nexus 5," Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president for Android, said: "Building a platform that makes mobile phones accessible for everyone has always been at the heart of Android." That philosophy, Pichai said, ties well to the Nexus 5 and KitKat, which dramatically reduces the memory needed in an Android phone.

A little-noticed piece in Google's strategy to help get mobile devices to the "next 1 billion users" is that the only US. carriers that will sell the Nexus 5 are Sprint and T-Mobile, the nation's third and fourth-largest carriers, respectively.

The far bigger AT&T network will be able to run the Nexus 5 over LTE with the purchase of a SIM and wireless service, but the carrier wil not be a retail seller of the device, Google confirmed. AT&T wouldn't comment.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless, which is nearly tied with AT&T as the largest U.S. carrier, doesn't have the correct wireless bands to run the Nexus 5, Google confirmed.

Google's Google Play store is already offering an unlocked Nexus 5 starting at just $349, about $150 to $200 less less than many comparable unlocked smartphones.

Best Buy, Amazon and RadioShack will also sell the new Google phone.

T-Mobile, which is building a reputation as a rabble-rouser in the wireless world with its "un-carrier" initiatives, would only say it will sell the Nexus 5 "at an affordable price" on its Simple Choice plan "in the coming weeks."

Meanwhile, Sprint, which has championed unlimited data plans for several years, said it will sell the Nexus 5 starting Nov. 8 for $149.99, after rebate and with a two-year service agreement, or for $18.75 a month with its One Up service plan, which starts at $65 a month.

At Sprint, the Nexus 5 will operate over three wireless bands that work with Sprint's Spark wireless technology to support an active handoff of an LTE signal between the 800 Mhz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz bands to increase speeds to more than 50 Mbps, up from the average of about 10 Mbps in conventional LTE networks.

Sprint now has five cities on its Spark network, which should expand to 100 cities in the next three years.


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