Google is now selling the Galaxy Nexus unlocked

The Galaxy Nexus is still the cream of the Android crop

In an unexpected turn, Google quietly unveiled their “devices” section of their website. They are offering the Galaxy Nexus (GSM) completely unlocked for $399. While the Galaxy Nexus might not be the most powerful Android phone right now, it is a Google Experience device, was the first to receive ICS and is still the first phone to receive updates (at least the GSM phone is). $399 is only $100 more than the phone subsidized when it first came out, and I (for one) am more than willing to pay $400 every 8 months for the latest and greatest Google Experience.

This is really turning the tides on the US carriers. Today, US carriers lock you into 2-year contracts, to knock a couple hundred off the top, you get pulled into ridiculous contracts. These contracts lock users to phones that at best will be supported for 12 months. Users are then stuck with handsets that are light years behind in both security and operations.

Not only are the contracts over the top, but so are the prices you pay. Users can expect to pay at least $30 for 2-3GB of data, $50 for minimal phone service and $20 for texting – all while prepaid plans run about $50 unlimited everything. Prepaid services offer no roaming, but for most users either the Verizon Wireless or the ATT plans are more than enough.

Google offering the top Android phone at a very amenable price is a step in the right direction – to both carrier and OEM independence. Whether or not you want to admit it, there are 3-tiers of cell service in the US:

  • premium that runs over $100/month (AT&T/VZW) – almost full service across the nation, LTE in many cities
  • middling at around $80/month (Sprint/T-Mobile) – some roaming, slower speeds, very minimal LTE
  • prepaid at around $50/month (various prepaid providers) – almost no roaming, but has characteristics of whatever network it uses

Because of these divisions users often find themselves paying a lot more a month than what they use. I switched to and kept a VZW plan, just because I could get unlimited data (for the same cost that they charge now for 2GB). I was tied to only phones VZW carried, which led me to pick up the abysmal Droid Charge (a phone that was still on Android 2.2 when Android 4.0 was released).

Carrier independence is where we need to be – allowing users to transition to the network and plan which best suits their needs. I understand that unsubsidized devices can be expensive – but if you save 30 (or more!) a month, you can quickly make that up. If you purchase a phone you hate, it is easy enough to return it for one that better suits you (see my post on the 5 styles every Android manufacturer should adopt).

At the end of the day, mobile devices define the way a large number of Americans interact with the interwebs. Mobile has redefined WHO is on the net, and how they consume. If Google keeps this up, they will change the paradigm of phone ownership and how Americans view mobile handsets (more similar to the European model).

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About Ryan Kamauff

Ryan Kamauff is a senior analyst with Crucial Point LLC. He produces technology focused content for CTOvision.com and reports on analytical megatrends at the new analysis focused Analyst One.