Google will launch its own branded Android smartphone, named the Nexus One, in early 2010 without a mobile carrier partner, according to reports. First announced in a blog post this weekend on the Google Mobile blog, the phone has been undergoing testing by company employees, Google said. We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it. In the hours following publication of that blog post, the Wall Street Journal confirmed the device and its name, Nexus One, and that it will be available in early 2010. The phone will be made by Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, manufacturer of the T-Mobile G1, HTC Hero and T-Mobile myTouch 3G. Various reports around the web indicate that Google is entirely responsible for the design of the phone and is exploring new ways to get handsets into the hands of consumers - potentially challenging mobile carrier partners in the process and shaking up the business model of the mobile industry. From the Journal: Google designed virtually the entire software experience behind the phone, from the applications that run on it to the look and feel of each screen. The device will run Android version 2.1 and will run special software not available to current Android devices, reports say. TechCrunch reports that the phone will indeed be called "the Google Phone" and will be sold directly by Google, independent of wireless carriers. The site also speculated that the GSM device, which is likely to be the rumored HTC Passion/Dragon detailed on this blog last month, offers a speedy Snapdragon chip, high-resolution OLED touchscreen, scroll wheel, ultrathin profile, no keyboard, two mics for noise cancellation, large 5-megapixel camera and voice-to-text dictation feature. UPDATE, 10:50pm: Peter Kafka at AllThingsDigital reports that GSM-using T-Mobile is on board after CDMA-using Verizon declined. That makes some sense, since T-Mobile's been pushing its contract-less "Even More Plus" plans. What doesn't make sense: what a high-end smartphone has to do with the low-end, prepaid customers T-Mobile is trying to attract with such plans. Nevertheless, that may lend a bit more understanding to the reports of Google selling a device without a carrier - perhaps more like without an exclusive contract and subsidy. The device is expected to launch with much fanfare in January. No further details have been confirmed at this time. Comparison with other phones Nexus One has hardware and software multi-touch capability but is not enabled in the U.S. version by default, unlike an iPhone. Total cost of ownership can be lower when compared to other smartphones. If use of the product is limited to free WiFi networks, the cost would be $529 for the lifetime of the phone.On the offered T-Mobile network, an unlimited usage plan is $2,579 for the first two years, whereas an unlimited use plan for two years on iPhone is $3,799. (Both prices are tax-excluded.) Hacking and modifications Users are able to root the device by unlocking its bootloader using the fastboot command "fastboot oem unlock". Unlocking the bootloader allows the user to install other firmware images that give the user root access, and even other bootloaders. Obtaining root privileges enables a user to override protected operating system features, install arbitrary software and enable internet tethering to share the phone's 3G network connection over Wifi among other things. Upon running the fastboot command, the user is presented with a Google-created screen stating that unlocking the bootloader will void the warranty.