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Galaxy Nexus is yours for $399 direct from Google, could be a trial run for the rumored Nexus tablet

Galaxy Nexus Google StoreWhen the Nexus One was launched back in January 2010, it was part of Google’s grand plan to offer hardware through its own web store, where anyone could lay down a wad of cash and get an unlocked phone in return, or select a tariff from a choice of networks.

This was common practice in Europe at the time, and still is, but in the USA, phones are traditionally bought with a lengthy and expensive contract direct through a carrier. Although the Nexus One was also offered at a subsidized price, Google really pushed the unlocked option.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out. For whatever reason — be it the $529 asking price, the hassle of finding ones own network and tariff or just poor sales– the store was eventually shuttered and the Nexus One sold as normal.

Fast forward to March 2012, and a new rumor began spreading that Google was once again about to open a web store, but this time it would stock the similarly rumored Google-branded tablet.

Trial run

It appears this is more than a rumor, as Google has just begun selling the Galaxy Nexus smartphone through its Google Play store.

The phone is only available unlocked, and rather than price it at the very top end of the scale, it’s yours for $399. You even get $10-worth of Google Wallet credit.

The phone averages at around $450 unlocked with other online retailers and until recently, the Galaxy Nexus has been $300 plus a two-year contract, but this week Verizon cut that price by $100.

It’s the GSM version of the phone with HSPA+ connectivity, and features include a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED screen, 1.2Ghz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM and a 5-megapixel camera. One of the Galaxy Nexus’ biggest selling points is its Android 4.0 operating system, presented here without a manufacturer skin over the top.

Little doubt remains that this marks the start of a new direct device sales era for Google, as the Galaxy Nexus appears in its own Devices section of Google Play, leaving plenty of room to expand in the future.

Second time lucky?

Has anything changed since 2010? Can Google take on the might of the networks with its own web store, and succeed this time? The answer is almost certainly still no, but then Google hasn’t come out and said it wants to change the way people in the US buy phones this time, either.

In a blog post announcing the move, Google’s Andy Rubin says “we want to give you a place to purchase Nexus devices that work really well with your digital entertainment,” and that you can “use it on a GSM network of your choice.” In other words, all the carriers are great and the phone is merely complementing our app, music, movie and book sales.

When, or if, the Nexus tablet does appear, it probably won’t have to deal with carriers at all. Initially available only in the USA, Google is hoping to expand its web store to other countries soon.