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Google to flog unlocked phones in January

And will tie-up with T-Mobile

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T-Mobile has been fingered as the preferred US operator for the Google phone when it launches in January, while the search giant will also punt an unlocked version to run on any network.

The phone could be available through the operator as early as January 5, Reuters reports. Google clearly thinks it is now powerful enough to ignore the traditional Christmas phone giving period and drop a premium device on the market when most people are skint.

News of the Google branded Googlephone broke over the weekend, with Google confirming on its own blog that it handed out prototypes to employees on Friday. The Android-powered handset is built by HTC - so, really not that different from the current T-Mobile/Android/HTC set-up for the first Google-powered handset.

But this will be a Google branded device - though for now it appears to have multiple codenames, including Nexus One, Dream and Passion.

According to Reuters, as well as pushing the device through T-Mobile, Google will also sell an unlocked version, meaning the Googleplex could sprawl on to other phone networks.

Reuters quoted a source "familiar with the matter", who claimed that "Apple had a phone so hot it changed the business model and got operators to agree to revenue sharing. This is going to change the business too."

But the business may be changing either way - in the US anyway.

The expected launch comes as the FCC reviews the mobile industry in the US, with the exclusive tie-ups beloved of Apple for its iPhone reportedly under the microscope.

So, once again, it seems Google is setting itself at odds with its Silicon Valley neighbour. This time, the battleground is in your pocket.

Google's handing out of the Dream/Nexus One/Passion comes just weeks after it denied it planned to punt a phone directly to consumers. Not that that should stop anyone believing what the search giant says. ®

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