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Google Turns Phone Store Into Android Gallery

The company's brief experiment in direct mobile phone sales has been revived as a showcase for Android devices sold by Google's partners

In January, Google launched an online storefront to sell its Nexus One mobile phone directly to consumers. By May, the company saw the writing on the wall and closed its phone store, citing poor sales and saying nothing about stepping on the toes of its Android partners.

On Wednesday, Google made amends by converting its challenge to mobile carriers into a showcase for its partners' Android wares. If the writing on the wall could be read, it would be something along the lines of "If you can't beat them, promote them."

"Since there are so many great phones, we wanted to make the selection process a little easier for people who are in the market for a new one," explained Google Android product manager Ben Serridge in a blog post.

Serridge notes that all of the phones in the gallery include Android Market, Google Search and other Google Mobile services, as if it weren't clear that the likes of the Samsung Fascinate -- which defaults to Microsoft's Bing search engine -- aren't welcome.

The Google phone gallery allows users to filter phones by country, manufacturer, and carrier. While the ability to view technical specifications and features side-by-side is helpful, Google has neglected -- at the behest of its partners? -- to include truly useful information: the cost of monthly subscription plans and the total cost of phone ownership over the life of the service contract.

In any event, Google's timing is good: interest in Android is at an all-time high, according to data released on Wednesday by ChangeWave. A survey of 4,000 people completed last week indicates that 37% of consumers planning to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days voiced a preference for an Android OS device. That's an increase of seven percentage points since a similar survey was fielded in June and a mere one percentage point behind the number of people who say they want their next smartphone to be an iPhone.

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