In our first look at the Google Nexus One, we loved its honking great 94mm (3.7-inch) AMOLED screen and speedy Android 2.1 user interface. Google will be bundling the phone with a Vodafone contract starting in the spring, but why wait? You can buy it right now without a contract -- and either way, the phone is sold unlocked so you can use any SIM card, from any network.
But you'll have to buy it sight-unseen from Google's Web site, and the phone is shipped all the way from the US of A. It's all very frightening and new, so we took the plunge to tell you all about it.
The Nexus One costs $529. Google automatically throws in a UK charger, which you can remove from your basket if you want, saving $19.99, and it charges $29.65 for shipping. The total price: $578.64 or about £360, depending on your credit or debit card's exchange rate.
Duty and tax
But wait! You'll also have to pay duty and tax when you receive your brand-new toy. We aren't impressed that Google doesn't bother calculating the tax and duty for you, or show the full cost in pounds -- Amazon manages to do all this at its US store, but Google is lazy and fobbed the task off on us. Google includes a page on its Web site that offers to estimate your costs, but it's pretty vague.
We prefer Duty Calculator, which knows that customs doesn't charge duty on mobile phones. You will have to pay VAT, though. There's duty on the charger, but it's so low that Her Majesty will waive the damage -- no wonder we adore her. The total duty and VAT at the current HMRC official exchange rate is £63.40.
But that's not all. Google says the phone will be shipped by DHL, which says it charges £1.25, or 2 per cent of the total duty and VAT incurred, whichever is greater. That means another £1.27 if you get the phone and the charger.
The grand total is £424.67 -- but note that the cost of the phone will fluctuate with the exchange rate.
Although it's a lot of money up-front, it's not that horrific considering the competition. A troll through eXpansys, which specialises in SIM-free, unlocked smart phones, reveals the HTC HD2 is selling for £499.99 plus £6.76 shipping, and an iPhone 3GS 32GB is a whopping £819.99 plus shipping. But if you're on a budget, our top-rated Android phone, the HTC Hero, will save you a hundred pounds over the Nexus One.
If you can stump up the cash, you'll probably end up saving money compared to being locked into a pricey contract. That's because you can pop the cheapest SIM card you can find inside, and you're not tied to a contract, so you're free to comparison-shop for the best deal.
Sealing the deal
Google uses its own version of PayPal, called Google Checkout, to process the purchase, so you'll need a Google account to use it. It's the same system you use to buy apps from the Android App Market, so it'll be handy to have set up once your Nexus One arrives.
We found the buying process so easy, your monkey helper could do it -- so make sure he doesn't have the password to your Google account. A few clicks and the deal was sealed.
Once we'd ordered our phone, Google kept us updated on shipping with a page in our Google Checkout account. This page gives you a DHL tracking number after the phone has shipped, but it doesn't have an estimated shipping date until then, so you're left without knowing when you're likely to get your phone.
Google tells us HTC deals with any hardware issues using local
telephone support, and Google handles software issues over email and through Google's phone support forums. Your network handles connection issues.
But the BBC points out that Google's lack of telephone support is leading to some unhappy customers. Nexus One and the iPhone have this drawback in common -- iPhone users have similarly struggled with email, forum and in-store support from Apple.
If you do want to return the phone, UK buyers are exempt from the $45 restocking fee that American buyers have to pay. It seems that as a US company, Google isn't obligated to follow our rules for consumer rights, but Google says its return policy is in accordance with the EU Distance Selling Directive. We're getting legal advice on this topic, so stay tuned for an update when we find out more.
Update: A previous version of this story said that Apple only offers email and forum support for the iPhone, but if you live near an Apple store you can also find help there.
Update 2: We put HMRC to the test, and it has come out swinging. After our test purchase of a Google Nexus One, we basked in the success when it arrived without any ding for duty or tax. Three weeks later, and we're staring at a bill from DHL for £60.15 in VAT and a £1.25 fee. Death and taxes, friends.