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Google to Sell Android Phones Online Again After Flop

Google Inc., owner of the world’s largest search engine, will begin selling an Android handset made by Samsung Electronics Co. about two years after the company ended an earlier effort to sell phones online.

The Galaxy Nexus will be offered on the new-devices section of the “Play” service, which features Android applications, music, books and movies, Google said on a company blog today. The initiative should fare better than an effort to sell HTC Corp. devices in 2010, because Play service users are already looking for Android and Google services, said Jamie Rosenberg, the Mountain View, California-based company’s director of digital content.

“We’ve come a long way since then; this is a different world now,” he said. “We wanted to offer in Google Play a great instantiation of the Google Play experience and the experience with Google services generally on a mobile device. Nexus has always represented that.”

Google, which makes most of its money from advertising on computer searches, is stepping up its focus on mobile devices and services. Android smartphones accounted for 51 percent of all smartphone sales to end users in the fourth quarter, up from 31 percent a year earlier, according to researcher Gartner Inc.

While Google had offered HTC’s Nexus One online in early 2010, it closed that Web store after less than six months saying it remained a niche service for “early adopters” and failed to meet expectations.

The “unlocked” Galaxy Nexus handsets will cost $399 in the U.S. and run the latest Android software, Ice Cream Sandwich. They are designed to run on network technology that AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA employ, the company said. The device also comes pre-installed with Google Wallet, which lets users make purchases with the tap of a phone at some retail locations.

-- Editors: Niamh Ring, Cecile Daurat

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