The $179 T-Mobile version requires a two-year contract of $80 a month for 500 minutes of talk time and unlimited data, or $2,099 over the course of the contract. Theoretically, a $529 unlocked phone using a $60 monthly plan (as T-Mobile offers for some other phones) would cost $2,019 for two years.
The simplicity of purchasing a mobile phone is what caught the eye of some analysts attending Google's event today, even more than the 1 GHz Snapdragon processor and other features in the touchscreen Nexus One.
"Today was really less about the Nexus One phone and more about the retail model Google has for selling phones," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at research firm Gartner. While Dulaney said he liked the Nexus One's hardware and software design, he called the announcement "a gauntlet thrown down to Amazon," the leader in online retail.
Dulaney said Google is "trying to get control of Web-based retailing of phones, but if they get control of this, who knows what happens."
It's likely that Google will support the ad effort through third-party ads on the phone site, for devices such as Bluetooth headsets that work with the featured phones, or even downloadable content, Dulaney said. For now, he said advertising on the phones shouldn't be too prevalent, adding that "eventually Google will get to that."
If Google's phone store does well, it could affect phone sales at brick-and-mortar storefronts, possible leading to consolidation among the thousands of smaller stores operated by wireless carriers, Dulaney predicted.
But he also said it's too early to predict the impact of the business model, with only one Google phone for sale so far. He said Google hasn't named the third party vendor that will take orders and mail out the unlocked phones, since many of the details are still unclear.
Dulaney also predicted that sales of unlocked phones would be strong, although not necessarily in the U.S. "There's a huge demand for unlocked phones all over the world. Google will do well selling them, but the question over time is how well they will do."
Computerworld editor Mike Barton contributed to this story.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smart phones and other handhelds and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter @matthamblen , send e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .