Google Nexus One, the 'superphone', launched

Google has launched the Google Nexus One, its first official mobile phone in a move that will see the search giant directly challenge the dominance of Apple’s iPhone.

It is available for delivery from America for $529 (£324), plus $29.65 shipping (£18), from today, and will be available on a UK Vodafone contract “within weeks”. Until then, any imports will attract additional import duty.

Google unveiled the Nexus One at its Silicon Valley headquarters during a low-key event that was as hotly anticipated as any of Apple’s dramatic launches. Although the handset is not the first to use the Google operating system, called Android, it is the first device that the company has designed itself. High-speed web browsing and voice recognition for writing emails or controlling the device are the two key features the company hopes will distinguish its product in a crowded market. Google claims the device's high specifications make it the first of a new class of "superphone".

Like the iPhone, Android offers fully integrated web-browsing, music and video playing and a large library of applications that users can choose to install to add to their phone’s capabilities.

The Nexus One has been built by Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, and includes a larger screen and better camera than those featured on the iPhone. It also offers free satnav capabilities, which are available only for an additional charge on the iPhone.

The handset will cost American consumers $179 (£111) on a contract with T-Mobile, but will also be available for $529 (£324) without any contract tying users to a specific network.

Google’s announcement is timed to challenge the dominance of the world’s largest technology fair, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which takes place this week, and to overshadow Apple’s launch of a tablet computer, which is expected at the end of the month.

The name Nexus One is a reference to the film Blade Runner, which is reported to have led to the estate of author Philip K Dick threatening to sue Google.

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