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android It’s looking all-but-official that Google is developing a smartphone of its own using its Android operating system, as reported in TechCrunch last month.

All Google has said officially is that it has developed a “mobile lab” device that “combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android,” and that employees are “dogfood” testing the phone. But both TechCrunch and the Wall Street Journal say the device is, in fact, the fabled Google phone. (Subscription required for the second link.) The phone will reportedly be called the Nexus One, and Google will sell the device itself, online. Users will then buy cellular plans on their own, from a carrier of their choice.

Until now, Google has only been responsible for Android’s software. The phones themselves are built and sold by manufacturing and carrier partners. (In fact, the only hardware that Google sells directly is its enterprise Search Appliance, so this will be the first time Google sells a device to consumers.) Why the shift in strategy? Well, the first generation of Android devices hasn’t really gotten the same attention from either consumers or application developers as Apple’s iPhone (though there’s been a bit more buzz about the Droid). This will give Google complete control over the process, though its partners probably won’t be too happy that the search giant is selling phones that compete with their own Android devices.

The Nexus One will go on sale in 2010, the Journal said — that’s also when Google says its partners will start selling netbooks with its Chrome operating system.

Update: And here’s a photo of one of the test devices taken by blogger Cory O’Brien, as spotted by TechCrunch.

google phone

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